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Truck review: the Isuzu D-Max

Ed Coles reviews the latest incarnation of the all-conquering Isuzu D-Max, a truck that's made a real name for itself in the shooting world

Isuzu D-Max

Isuzu D-Max

Manufacturer: Isuzu

Price as reviewed: £23,929

It’s been 10 years since Isuzu launched the D-Max, in which time it has gained a reputation as a capable 4×4 and its popularity and 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 spec.

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. We’re taking a look at the Business Utility 4×4 double cab, the no-frills, all-workhorse version.

As far as the limited shape of a pickup truck goes, Isuzu have done a pretty good job of making the D-Max look identifiable and interesting – it’s almost stylish. It looks suitably rugged, modern and I’m rather fond of the no-nonsense 18″ steel wheels. The front end looks quite beastie with its large bumper, grille and stylish automatic halogen lights. The side steps have been redesigned but it’s still a hop up if you’re vertically challenged like myself.

At the back end the rugged and modern theme continues. The reworked bumper incorporates a handy step to make loading easier – allegedly – and we have a fancy damped opening tailgate.

The load area is a decent size and has the added bonus of being able to hold over a tonne. It holds, to use the standard unit of measurement, 20-plus full upright bags of wheat, or in this afternoon’s case eight bales and all my tools. As far as loading goes, the sides are quite high and a normal sized person probably wouldn’t struggle.

Underneath, surprisingly, we can see pretty much all the running gear and interesting bits. The rear diff looks encouragingly robust and the ground clearance is also good at 225mm. There’s no diff lock on the Utility version but we do have Isuzu’s 4wd 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 to improve ride and comfort. 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. There are larger front discs and rear drums than its predecessor.

At the front we can see the steel skid plates and not much else. Checking the retro wheels, there’s a good view of the new upper suspension arms, which are meant to improve body roll, vibration and increase tyre contact.

Under the bonnet is where the biggest change has happened. The faithful old 2.5 diesel has made way for a leaner 1.9. The new engine produces 164bhp with 360Nm of torque. That’s 1bhp up but 40Nm of torque down on the old 2.5 version, but it’s still more than enough to haul the D-Max about. 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.

Climbing aboard, the first thing to note is the work-friendly vinyl carpet for easy cleaning. Nice. Although the Utility D-Max is a no-frills workhorse the interior is still modern, stylish and comes with a decent amount of kit to keep us entertained – although it’s lacking a fancy touchscreen to play with. It includes a CD player, DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and USB ports.

The D-Max also features a host of driver aids or, as Isuzu put it, Advanced Driver Assist System (ADADS), which includes automatic emergency braking, lane departure, forward collision warning and traffic sign recognition. We also have parking sensors, eight airbags, trailer sway and hill start/descent control. The cloth seats are fully adjustable and after a bit of seat height and column fettling I’m comfortably able to see over the bonnet and ready to hit the rutted track.

The first test is reversing out of my driveway, which is plain sailing for the D-Max, although you do feel the bumps at low speed. Onto the open road and putting your foot down 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 and up to cruising speed. The D-Max is comfortable cruising along the motorway and doesn’t get out of shape around the roundabouts.

Despite the redesigned suspension there still is the characteristic pickup shimmer, or vague wobble, from the front end – it’s not much but as with most pickups it’s noticeable. The D-Max handles country roads well, not overly boaty and no unpleasant body roll through the turns; all quite positive. You can feel the bumps through the front suspension at low speed and it could have marginally stiffer damping, but big bumps are smoothly dealt with.

With my essential tools, bales, feeders and four-legged assistant loaded up to finish some pheasant pens ready for delivery, I selected four-wheel drive mode for a spirited 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, even with a bit of speed. It negotiated the twisting woodland track with ease and went through 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 for the D-Max and I don’t think the hill controls cut in once. Driving around the woods and tracks is quite pleasing, although the long grass and nettles played havoc with the PDC sensors and some of the emergency aids.

The Utility D-Max does exactly what it says on the tin and its versatility ensures 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 it 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 yours for a reasonable £25,499, which is pretty fair price. For me this Izuzu is spot on for the rural worker.

No frills, but all the essentials in what is a real workhorse

Tech specs

  • Power 165bhp 360Nm of torque
  • Top speed 112mph
  • 0-62 mph 12.7 seconds
  • Emissions 220 g/km
  • Economy
  • Low 27.6mpg
  • Mid 36.4mpg
  • High 39.4mpg
  • Extra high 30.8mpg
  • Combined 33.6mpg
  • Ground clearance at rear axle 225mm
  • Towing weight
  • Braked 3500kg
  • Unbraked 750kg





This Izuzu is spot on for the rural worker.