Available as Single Cab (4x2/4x4), Extended Cab (4x4), Double Cab (4x4) | Engine options 2.5TD 163hp Payload (kg) 1,063 – 1,136 Verdict D-Max is a more than worthy successor to the workhorse Rodeo with one of the best diesel engines in the pick-up sector under the bonnet.
While other pick-up manufacturers have flirted with the lifestyle market over the years, Isuzu has no such pretensions. It targets the D-Max — VansA2Z's Pick-up of the Year 2013 — at buyers who want an honest-to-goodness workhorse that will handle a week's hard graft and happily come back for more.
That is not to imply that the solidly-built, no-nonsense D-Max launched in the UK at the 2012 Commercial Vehicle Show as a successor to the highly-regarded Rodeo is short on creature comforts. Even entry-level models come with air-conditioning and electric windows along with ABS, full ESP, Traction Control and front, side and curtain airbags. The range-topping Utah boasts an electrically adjustable driver's seat, automatic climate control, cruise control, leather upholstery and heated front seats among other refinements. Slotted in below Utah are three other specification levels: Utility for the budget-conscious, Eiger and Yukon.
Body Styles Three body styles are on offer. There’s the choice of a two-door single cab, a stretched single cab (extended) with small, half-width, back doors hinged to the rear or a four-door, five-seater double cab. The rear seat is fine for two but the accommodation provided is a little tight for three. The lack of a B-pillar means that the side of the stretched cab is unobstructed when the doors are open, maximising accessibility.
Worth noting is last year's receipt by D-Max of a four-star safety rating from independent assessor Euro NCAP. The double cab scored maximum points for the protection it provides in the side barrier crash test.
Drivetrain Whichever model is selected, there’s a 2.5-litre 163hp twin-turbo common-rail diesel with a cast-iron block and an aluminium head under the bonnet. Top power bites at 3,600rpm while maximum torque of 400Nm makes its presence felt across a 1,400rpm-to-2,000rpm plateau. Isuzu quotes combined cycle fuel consumption figures of 33.6 – 38.2mpg and CO2 emissions down to 194g/km.
The engine is combined with a six-speed manual gearbox although a five-speed automatic is up for grabs as an alternative on Eiger, Yukon and Utah. Available across the board with electronically selectable four-wheel drive, the single cab can also be had as a standard rear-wheel drive 4x2.
Four-wheel drive is simple to engage, with no need to wrestle with un-cooperative levers. All that’s necessary to switch from high range 4x2 to 4x4 is a turn of the knob between the front seats; turn it again and the transmission switches to a set of low-ratio gears.
Load Area Payload capacity is between roughly 1,000kg to around 1,100kg depending on variant and the towing capacity is impressive; all of the 4x4s can haul a braked trailer grossing at up to 3,500kg.
Sitting on a hefty-looking steel ladder-frame chassis, the cargo box can be accessed by dropping down the rear tailgate using the single, central catch and it's held at 90° by sturdy supports. The large rear bumper rules out it going any further. Load bed lengths are 2,305mm for the single cab, 1,795mm for the extended cab and 1,485mm for the double cab.
Behind the Wheel Having sampled D-Max in all three body configurations we can testify that it handles well for a big, heavy pick-up, with no lurching or rolling as you push it into a bend. Noise levels are well-suppressed too and the driving position is comfortable, even on long trips.
Fully laden D-Max could benefit from a little bit more power and torque, but in general use the diesel is little short of exceptional, with a seemingly endless supply of smoothly delivered torque across a wide rev range. Our only real gripe is with the gearchange; it’s a bit too long-throw and can be a bit awkward at times if rushing ’changes. Hopefully this is something Isuzu will sort in the near future.
As with all rear leaf-sprung pick-ups, putting some weight in the back has the benefit of calming down a lively back end. D-Max's suspension is pretty much up to par in handling uneven on-road surfaces — which the UK is over-supplied with at present — only bettered in this department by the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok.
Off-road D-Max is a surprisingly effective performer, romping up and down muddy farm tracks and across sodden paddocks with ease. Show it some really rough terrain and it doesn’t disappoint, with the ESP system taking care of business effortlessly.
A minor irritation, and perhaps a somewhat silly one, is the extreme sensitivity of the reversing sensors on the high spec models. Even a minuscule piece of grit will cause them to beep loudly, and while erring on the sensitive side is better than denting your new pride and joy, all that beeping can still be annoying.
Running costs should not be too onerous given the excellent five-year/125,000-mile warranty and assuming that Isuzu's claim that D-Max is 10 per cent more fuel-frugal than Rodeo can be validated. Service intervals are set at a sensible two years/12,000 miles: and while the mileage interval may seem a little on the short side these days, regular servicing and safety inspections make particular sense if a 4x4 is subjected to arduous off-road work.
Optional Extras Having unveiled D-Max at the 2012 CV Show, Isuzu chose 2013’s exhibition to pull the wraps off a host of new optional extras to go with it. The line-up now includes what the manufacturer refers to as a style bar; we call it a roll-over bar. Made from stainless steel, it brings the practical benefit of a number of additional tethering points.
Also on the list are ten-spoke 16in, 17in and 18in alloy wheels, a vinyl tonneau cover and an Armadillo roller-style cargo box cover made from aluminium. There’s also a rear bumper-mounted reversing camera with the video feed display on a touch screen in the cab.
Good to see too that models such as the Eiger double cab can be ordered with a Work Plus pack. It includes BF Goodrich All-Terrain tyres, a tow bar, a load bay liner and waterproof front seat covers among other items.
Hard tops are of course available too and Isuzu is also offering an accessory pack designed for hunters. It includes a storage system made up of two drawers and two compartments, all of which are lockable, and a non-slip rubber mat for the load bed.
So should D-Max be somewhere on your shopping list? We reckon so. OK, the Isuzu badge may not have the immediate familiarity of Ford's, Mitsubishi's, Toyota's or Nissan's, but don't forget that the company is a major global commercial vehicle manufacturer with particular expertise in diesel engines. Its undoubted credentials make D-Max well worth checking out. VansA2Z is a particular fan of the extended cab variant; a combination of flexible rear seating/secure storage area and a sensible load bed length.