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New Isuzu D-Max 2021 review

The all-new Isuzu D-Max pick-up truck gets a chance to shine as rivals fall by the wayside

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

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Verdict

The D-Max is a solid step forward when compared with its predecessor. It’s better equipped, smarter to look at, is a more capable work vehicle and is the safest truck in the class, too. However, there is still work to be done when it comes to the way it drives. Although cruising comfort is better, the engine is quite noisy, while the suspension is still geared towards load carrying and off-road ability rather than passenger refinement.

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It’s a relatively small player in the UK pick-up class, but 2021 could be a significant year for the Isuzu D-Max. With rivals such as the Mercedes X-Class and Fiat Fullback already gone, the Mitsubishi L200 on the way out and question marks over whether the Nissan Navara will continue in the UK, the time is right for the all-new D-Max to tap into what has turned into a seller’s market.

As before, there are work-focused variants of the new model, but the top-spec versions are packed with more kit to help them appeal to lifestyle buyers – a market that Isuzu is keen to make inroads into with the departure of so many rivals.

Go for a DL40 – one down from the top of the D-Max range – and you get luxuries such as front and rear parking sensors, automatic LED lights front and rear, heated leather seats, and touchscreen infotainment with Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay – a first for the pick-up class.

At the top of the D-Max tree is the V-Cross, which we’re driving here. It’s pitched as an alternative to high-spec rivals such as the Toyota Hilux Invincible and Ford Ranger Wildtrak, so it gets all of the same kit as the DL40, but adds a larger nine-inch colour touchscreen, an eight-speaker stereo, rear air vents and gunmetal-grey exterior detailing replacing the DL40’s chrome for a more stylish look.

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Whichever D-Max you choose, it’ll be powered by the 1.9-litre diesel that was first introduced with the previous-generation truck. Unlike some rival engines, it comes in just one output, 162bhp, but it’s available with six-speed manual or auto gearboxes, the latter of which was fitted to our car.

Fire up the motor (keyless start is fitted as standard), and it wakes with a bit of a rattle, but soon settles at idle. However, once you’re on the move, the engine
does make its presence felt when you accelerate. There’s plenty of noise from under the bonnet, but this isn’t really backed up by brisk acceleration; the truck’s 13-second 0-62mph time attests to that. The auto transmission shifts smoothly, but is quick to kick down if you ask for even a bit more acceleration, which again sends the revs soaring.

Once you’re up to speed, though, the D-Max settles in terms of noise, but the suspension is clearly geared towards load carrying rather than passenger comfort.
At urban speeds the truck fidgets and is unsettled, but the faster you go, the better the D-Max behaves. It’s at its best at motorway speeds, although it’s still nothing like an SUV in this regard, and its Ford and Toyota rivals are more accomplished.

Light steering means that the D-Max is easy to manoeuvre at low speeds, though, while a tight turning circle and those front and rear parking sensors all help.

One area where the D-Max remains strong is off road. Selectable four-wheel drive and low-range gears are standard, and Isuzu has shortened the time it takes for these systems to engage on the new truck. A mechanical rear diff lock is also fitted to higher-spec variants, while hill descent control and hill start assist also feature, and we can confirm that the D-Max feels largely unstoppable in the rough.

Another highlight is suite of safety systems. All versions come with forward collision warning and auto emergency braking, traffic-sign recognition and a speed limiter, which contributed to the pick-up’s five-star Euro NCAP rating. On top of that, auto models come with adaptive cruise and lane assist.

With rivals falling by the wayside, the time is right for Isuzu to make an impact in the pick-up class, and if you’re in need of a work vehicle that can double as family transport, it’s well worth considering.

Model:Isuzu D-Max 1.9D V-Cross
Price:£32,759 (exc. VAT)
Engine:1.9-litre 4cyl turbodiesel
Power/torque:162bhp/360Nm
Transmission:Six-speed automatic, selectable four-wheel drive
0-62mph:13.0 seconds
Top speed:112mph
Economy:30.7mpg
CO2:241g/km
On sale:Now
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Senior test editor

Dean has been part of the Auto Express team for more than 20 years, and has worked across nearly all departments, starting on magazine production, then moving to road tests and reviews. He's our resident van expert, but covers everything from scooters and motorbikes to supercars and consumer products.

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