Isuzu D-Max: why this model is on a roll

Isuzu is on a roll. Another week, another top honour for a manufacturer which rarely hits the headlines.
The D-Max is picking up awards left, right and centreThe D-Max is picking up awards left, right and centre
The D-Max is picking up awards left, right and centre

While Toyota, Ford, Nissan and Volkswagen are household names, mention Isuzu to anyone who isn’t a petrolhead and you will be met with blank looks.

But Isuzu is no newcomer. It has been building commercial vehicles and diesel engines since 1934 and even built cars until 2002.

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Now the D-Max – tested here in its entry-level form - has once again received the title of ‘Best All-Terrain Workhorse’ from the Fleet News Awards 2023.

Defending the title from 2022, it excelled in the award category thanks to its exceptional reliability, as well as its jack-of-all-trades versatility and capability.

It is said to combine good on and off-road handling, as well as the impressive 1-tonne payload and 3.5-tonne towing capacity.

The pick-up received praise for being an excellent fleet option, particularly when considering the reasonable cost and notable warranty.

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No mention of style? That’s a shame for I love its simplicity. If you want a no-nonsense pick-up, this might be a good option.

It lacks of the charisma of a Toyota or the allure of a Ford. Rather the Isuzu looks like what it is: dependable.

It seems like the D-Max is popular too. At the close of 2022, in a sector where overall sales were down, Isuzu UK recorded a sales increase of 17.89 per cent over 2021.

Thanks to its critical acclaim, presales of D-Max were very positive throughout 2021 and 2022.

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D-Max is also such a popular fleet choice due to the range-standard ADAS technologies. Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) which are built into every model, with features including Autonomous Emergency Braking, Traffic Sign Recognition, Intelligent Speed Limiter and Lane Departure Warning & Prevention.

For most manufacturers that sell pick-up trucks, these vehicles are supplementary models designed to sit alongside a range of cars and vans. But it’s very different for Isuzu, as this is all the Japanese firm sells in the UK, and has done for some time with its Rodeo and more recently, D-Max, which launched in 2012.

It’s therefore never been more crucial for a new vehicle to nail its brief, and something Isuzu is pretty confident about doing as it aims to hit 10,000 sales by 2025 – around double what it sells at the moment. And with manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi and Nissan all pulling out of this segment in the UK, that might just be possible.

Isuzu has its core customers that buy the D-Max for its off-road and towing capability, so this new model aims to leave those aspects unchanged, instead focusing on giving its truck a more upmarket finish.

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That’s why you get a far more premium – but no less sturdy – interior, as well as the same level of technology you’d expect to find on a car, with the array of driver assistance features impressing in particular. There’s also a rather imposing new front end to make the D-Max stand out on the road.

One thing that hasn’t changed on this latest D-Max is its engine, with the model keeping the same 1.9-litre turbodiesel unit found on its predecessor, introduced in 2017.

Producing 162bhp and 360Nm of torque, it doesn’t lead the way for performance, though a 0-60mph time of 12.8 seconds and a top speed of 112mph aren’t too bad for a pick-up of this type.

Four-wheel-drive with a rear differential is also fitted as standard to higher-spec versions, while there’s the option of a six-speed manual gearbox or an automatic transmission – our test model using the latter. Higher running costs are to be expected, though, with Isuzu claiming just 30.7mpg for this automatic, with CO2 emissions of 220g/km.

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The D-Max has always been one of the more agricultural-driving options in the pick-up class, and though this model has improved, it still errs more on the rugged side of things. But I found it pleasant to drive – refined, stable and smooth.

The diesel engine sounds loud at idle and when you’re getting up to speed, though once up to speed it settles down to become quite a relaxed cruiser. Here it’s also helped by the various driver assistance technologies fitted – not least adaptive cruise control, which remains a rarity in the pick-up world.

Confident styling can be a big draw to a pick-up, and the latest D-Max gets a far bolder look than its predecessor.

From DL40 upwards, models also get a new seven-inch touchscreen, and though not at the cutting edge of multimedia systems, it does everything it needs to without fuss. If you’re looking at a double cab version, a longer wheelbase affords it more space in the rear seats than before, while wider opening back doors make it easier to get in and out of as well.

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Isuzu splits the D-Max range into three branches – the more rough-and-ready Business range, the All-Purpose line-up that can suit both those wanting a work truck or a lifestyle vehicle and the more consumer-focused ‘Adventure’ range.

So Utility kicks off the line-up as the more agricultural offering, with the stand-out highlight being just how much safety kit it gets – including autonomous emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. All this equipment has already helped the D-Max to earn a five-star Euro NCAP rating.

Upgrade to the DL20 (the ‘DL’ signifying its differential lock), and you get 18-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors and heated front seats, with the DL40 adding Bi-LED headlights, a seven-inch touchscreen, keyless entry and leather upholstery. This would be my pick of the line-up.

Isuzu D-Max DL40 Double Cab Auto

Price: £31,259 (excluding VAT)

Engine: 1.9-litre turbodiesel

Power: 162bhp

Torque: 360Nm

Max speed: 112mph

0-60mph: 12.8 seconds

MPG: 30.7mpg

Emissions: 220g/km