Isuzu D-Max pick-up review
The D-Max is a strong and reliable workhorse, but is falling behind its rivals with age
The Isuzu D-Max is the only model that the Japanese brand sells in the UK, but when it was launched in 2012 it was a top choice in the competitive pick-up truck market.
However the big volume manufacturers are flexing their muscles in 2015 and 2016, launching new trucks with some big upgrades. The Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi’s L200, Ford Ranger and the Toyota HiLux are all shouting for customers' attention on forecourts in the UK, with the Fiat Fullback, Renault Alaskan and an upcoming Mercedes-Benz pick-up on the way too.
This means the D-Max is starting to fall behind, with newer models offering vastly improved interiors and SUV-like handling. This might be a dealbreaker for some, but Isuzu says its customers are more interested in a no-nonsense pick-up that's fit for purpose.
The Isuzu D-Max is available in single, extended and double cab bodystyles, with five main specifications to choose from: the basic utility model, Eiger, Yukon, Utah and Blade. There's also a special edition Fury model aimed at younger buyers, which gets a few sporty-looking upgrades.
The extended cab model gets a side-access panel on both sides to make it easier to get at the extra space inside the cab, while the double cab has the normal four-door layout with a rear bench seat.
Powered by a 2.5-litre twin-turbo diesel, the D-Max is a good choice for towing - the 4x4 models can tow up to 3,500kg and can carry a 1,058 - 1,136kg payload. It's available with either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic gearbox.
MPG and Running Costs
All models use the same 2.5-litre twin-turbo diesel engine, which develops 163bhp and 400Nm of torque.
With the six-speed manual gearbox the Isuzu D-Max returns 38.7mpg, with CO2 emissions of just 194g/km. This drops to 33.6mpg and 220g/km with the optional five-speed automatic transmission.
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The new Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi L200 are a better bet if running costs are a priority, with those trucks returning 44.9mpg and 44.1mpg respectively.
Isuzu offers an excellent warranty, however, at 5 years or 125,000 miles. That trumps both the Navara and L200, neither offering over 100,000 miles of cover.
Service intervals are at 12,000 miles or 24 months, which is comparable to the Mitsubishi L200's schedule: 12,500 miles or 12 months.
Load Space and Practicality
Isuzu offers every possible combination with the D-Max, from single cab to extended and double cab models. It's also available with 4x2 and 4x4 drivetrains, plus a low-range gearbox that's useful for off-roading.
The load bay in the single cab model measures at 2,305mm by 1,570mm, with a payload capacity of 1,128kg or 1,136 depending on the drivetrain. Head up to an extended cab for dimensions of 1,795mm by 1,530mm and a payload capacity of 1,085kg.
The double cab gets a load bay of 1,552mm by 1,530mm, but the payload capacity varies based on the model you choose - with the maximum being 1,096kg. The towing weight for 4x4 models is 3,500kg, dropping to 2.500kg otherwise.
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Although the new Nissan Navara has the Isuzu just beaten on payload capacity, the D-Max actually has a larger load bay in equivalent models to the Navara and the Mitsubishi L200.
Isuzu also offers a wide range of load covers and hardtop backs for the D-Max range, for both extended-cab and double-cab models.
A dealer-fit tow bar with electrics is available, plus roof bars and frames and cargo rails to hold loads in place in the bed.
There's even a bed extender available that fits in the rear of the load bed to allow longer loads to be carried. By offering a full range of cab options, Isuzu has covered every sector of the pick-up market, from single-cab workhorse to luxury dual-purpose double cab.
Reliability and Safety
All D-Max models come with ABS brakes, electronic stability control (ESC) and traction control as standard, which is par for the course in the pick-up market.
There have been no reported problems with the 2.5-litre engine and Isuzu offers a five-year/125,000-mile warranty on all models, which give you some idea of how confident the brand is about the D-Max.
In fact an unmodified D-Max competing in the BCCC was the only competitor for two years running to never have a mechanical failure.
In the cab, even the basic Utility trim models have dual front, side and curtain airbags, and height-adjustable seatbelts for maximum occupant protection. Four-wheel-drive models have the benefit of 4x4 selection on the move for added security in slippery conditions.
Driving and Performance
The Isuzu D-Max only has one engine, a 163bhp 2.5-litre twin-turbo diesel, but with 400Nm of torque it's a strong performer. It fills the cabin with rattly canal-boat noise when you accelerate, but once you're up to speed it settles down to a quiet rumble.
The manual gearbox has a long throw and low ratios, which means you have to change gear a lot at low speeds - but being a six-speed box it's much better on the motorway. The addition of a low-range gearbox on both manual and auto models means it's easy to drive off-road, too.
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Although it has plenty of space in the load bay, the D-Max feels fairly compact on the road. Combined with the high driving position this makes it easier to drive on city roads.
The D-Max can't match the new Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi L200 for handling, and the ride is a bit of a bone-shaker on a typical British road - but big potholes are absorbed surprisingly well at speed.
Cab and Interior
Not surprisingly, the Utility specification models are very basic inside the cab, with easy-clean trim and plenty of hard plastics to stand up to work use. However, even the most basic models have air-conditioning, front electric windows and height-adjustable headrests.
Opt for the Eiger trim, the lowest of the premium double-cab models, and you get a height-adjustable steering wheel, driver and passenger reading lights and manual air-conditioning, plus a stereo with Bluetooth connectivity and USB-iPod interface.
Move up to Yukon spec and you can add 17-inch alloys, a six-speaker stereo system, a leather steering wheel and daytime running lights. The Utah model also comes with electronic climate control, leather seats with electric adjustment, courtesy light delay, parking sensors and roof bars.
Top-spec Blade models get 18-inch wheels, sound-proofing, special mats, an upgraded audio system and a touch-screen sat-nav and infotainment system.
The interior is functional but way behind the Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi L200 - both of which feel more like a modern SUV than a traditional pick-up.
|Single Cab 4x2||1,685mm||1,820mm||5,315mm|
|Single Cab 4x4||1,780mm||1,820mm||5,315mm|
|Extended Cab 4x4||1,780mm||1,820mm||5,295mm|
|Double Cab 4x4||1,785mm||1,820mm||5,296mm|
(Overall width is without mirrors. Width including mirrors: 1,860mm)
Load area dimensions
|Single Cab 4x2||440mm||1,570mm||2,305mm||1.59m3|
|Single Cab 4x4||440mm||1,570mm||2,305mm||1.59m3|
|Extended Cab 4x4||465mm||1,530mm||1,795mm||1.27m3|
|Double Cab 4x4||465mm||1,530mm||1,485mm||1.05m3|
(Width is at widest point. Width between wheel arches: 1,115mm)
- Power: 163bhp
- Weight (GVW): 3,050kg
- Payload: 1,080kg – 1,136kg
- Loading height (approx, unladen) : 440mm – 830mm