Isuzu D-Max Utility double cab
Isuzu’s no-frills, all-workhorse version impresses Ed Coles with its stylish and modern interior and handy on-the-fly four-wheel drive
Isuzu D-Max Utility double cab
Price as reviewed: £25,499
It’s been 10 years since Isuzu launched the D-Max; in that time, it’s gained a reputation as a capable 4×4 and its appeal rivals that of the mighty Toyota Hilux. With the imminent arrival of birds and several pens to get ready, there was a touch of perfect timing for the arrival of the latest D-Max.
We’re taking a look at the Business Utility 4×4 double cab, the no-frills, all-workhorse version. The D-Max is available in three ranges — business, all-purpose and adventure — with a further four trim levels: Utility, DL20, DL40 and V-Cross.
As far as the limited shape of a pickup truck goes, Isuzu has done a good job of making the D-Max look interesting — it’s almost stylish. And I’m rather fond of the no-nonsense 18in steel wheels. The front end looks beastie with its large bumper, grille and automatic halogen lights. The side steps have been redesigned, but it’s still a hop up if you’re vertically challenged, like me.
At the back end, the rugged and modern theme continues. The bumper incorporates a handy step to make loading easier, allegedly, and there’s a fancy dampened opening tailgate. The load area is of a decent size, and with the added bonus of being able to hold over a tonne.
To use my standard measure, 20 plus full upright bags of wheat or, in this afternoon’s case, eight bales and all of my tools. The rifle sticks fit in at a jaunty angle but no worries on space. As far as loading goes, the sides are quite high, and a normal-sized person probably wouldn’t struggle. Underneath, we can see pretty much all of the running gear and interesting bits.
The rear diff looks encouragingly robust and agricultural and the ground clearance is decent at 225mm. There’s no diff lock on the Utility version but we do have Isuzu’s four-wheel drive on-the-fly gearbox settings, which is a fancy electric gizmo that enables quicker changes without having to stop to put into 4×4.
The rear suspension has been redesigned with different shock-absorber angle and using a new design of leaf springs. The inner skeleton of the D-Max has been beefed up with an extra crossmember and chassis rails that are 34% wider and 14% higher — so someone’s been on the protein shakes. At the front, we see the steel skid plates and not much else. Checking the retro wheels, there’s a good view of the upper suspension arms, meant to improve body roll, vibration and increase tyre contact.
Under the bonnet is where the biggest change has happened. The 2.5 diesel has made way for a leaner 1.9 diesel, which produces 164bhp with 360nm of torque. That’s 1bhp up and 40nm of torque down, but still more than enough. It offers an impressive 3.5 tonne towing weight. Hitting 0-62mph in 12.7 seconds and a top speed of 112mph, the D-Max is pretty spirited, even for a pickup.
Model: D-Max Utility double cab
Power: 165bhp 360nm of torque
Top speed: 112mph
0-62 mph: 12.7 seconds
Economy: Low: 27.6mpg, Mid: 36.4mpg, High: 39.4mpg, Ex High: 30.8mpg
Ground clearance (@rear axle): 225mm
Towing weight (kg): Braked: 3,500kg, Unbraked: 750kg
Climbing aboard, the first thing to note is the working-friendly vinyl carpet for easy cleaning — a nice touch. Although the Utility D-Max is a no-frills workhorse, the interior is modern, stylish and comes with a decent amount of kit to keep us entertained, though it is lacking a fancy touchscreen to play with.
The D-Max features a host of driver aids, including automatic emergency braking, lane departure, forward-collision warning and traffic sign recognition. There are parking sensors, eight airbags, trailer sway, hill start/descent control. The seats are adjustable and, after a bit of height and column fettling, I’m able to see over the bonnet.
The first test is reversing out of my driveway. Plain sailing, though you do feel the bumps at low speed. On to the open road, the acceleration isn’t blistering but once you get through the first couple of gears the 1.9 diesel is pretty responsive, and we’re soon working our way through the six-speed gearbox. The D-Max is comfortable cruising along the motorway and it doesn’t get out of shape around the roundabouts.
Despite the redesigned suspension, there is still the characteristic pickup shimmer, or vague wobble from the front end — not much, but noticeable. The D-Max handles the country roads well, not overly boaty and no unpleasant body roll through the turns. You can feel the bumps through the front suspension at low speed and it could have marginally stiffer damping but bumps are smoothly dealt with.
With my tools, bales, feeders and four-legged assistant loaded up, I selected four-wheel drive mode for a blast up the track. There was some dust and mild wheel spinning from the 4×4 en route but on softer ground the traction and suspension feels spot on. It negotiated the woodland track with ease and went through the rutted slippery sections like a hot knife through butter.
The ruts and potholes were no match for the D-Max. You can feel the 4×4 witchcraft work, pulling everything straight into line when things get slippery. The limited slopes around Edwardshire weren’t a problem and I don’t think the hill controls cut in once. Driving around the woods and tracks is pleasing, although the long grass and nettles played havoc with the parking sensors and some of the emergency aids.
The Utility D-Max does exactly what it says on the tin and is versatile enough that daily tasks and long distances don’t feel like a chore. It’s still up there with the best as far as a work wagon goes, and having the D-Max definitely made life around the shoot much easier. Other than the annoying lane departure system — my pet hate with modern vehicles — and first and second gear being a bit lacking, I can’t fault it. I do slightly miss the 2.5 engine, but the new 1.9 is just as capable.
The Utility D-Max is a reasonable £25,499, which is pretty good and a fair price. For me, this Isuzu is spot on for the rural worker.