Just like the company car market, the company pick-up market has become increasingly competitive. With the launch of improved models from the likes of Ford with the Ranger, Toyota & Nissan with new Hilux & Navara models, the pick-up sector has become hotter than ever. Mitsubishi have theL200 & Fiat Professional have a version of this called the Fullback. Volkswagen & Mercedes-Benz have pick-up’s that cost more as well. All offer off-road capability, but now come with improved on road drive-ability & are all fitted with the type of standard equipment found in most family SUV’s, such as Bluetooth, SatNav, DAB radio, MP3 with Aux in, heated leather seats & steering wheel controls.
Isuzu launched their contender the D-Max in 2012 & in the face of increased competition, in Spring 2017, updated & improved their already very successful range. Pick-up sales have grown considerably in recent years, from just 19,500 in 2010 to 50,000 in 2017, with Isuzu projected to sell almost 7000 this year.
A brand new 1.9 litre turbo diesel engine has been fitted, which produces 164 PS & 360 Nm of torque. The engine retains the 3.5 tonne towing capacity & over 1 tonne payload of the previous version, whilst providing a quieter, more refined & economical driving experience. Another key benefit is that the new engine meets Euro 6 standards without the need for the addition of AdBlue.
As per previous D-Max models, Shift-On-The-Fly 4×4 is a key feature of the 17MY truck. The rotary dial allows the driver to select four-wheel drive on the move & is also equipped with low range gears.
The range-line up from the much-loved D-Max is retained; Utility, Eiger, Yukon, Utah and Blade with a range of single, extended and double cab variants available.
The entry-level Utility D-Max, priced from £15,749 (CVOTR) comes equipped with LED daytime running lights, Hill Start Assist, Variable Hill Descent Control, Bluetooth® connectivity, power windows & air conditioning.
Eiger double cab (from £20,499 CVOTR) adds a reversing camera, 16-inch alloy wheels, body coloured bumpers, audio system with CD player & 6 speakers.
Yukon (from £20,499 CVOTR) adds 18-inch alloy wheels, silver side steps, new 7-inch multi-function touchscreen, LED rear lights, Cruise Control, rear load liner & a leather steering wheel.
Utah (from £24,149 CVOTR) takes comfort up a notch with keyless entry & push button start, Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™, satellite navigation, DAB digital radio, roof bars, leather upholstery with heated front seats, rear parking sensors & automatic air conditioning.
The range-topping Blade (from £26,999 CVOTR) adds tinted windows, 9-inch multi-function touchscreen, remote locking lower tailgate, Blade puddle lamps, front & rear parking sensors & a colour-coded Aeroklas canopy or sports bar with roller cover.
Finally, the D-Max comes with a five-year / 125,000-mile warranty & was the first pick-up in the UK to be offered with such a comprehensive peace-of-mind package. Running costs are kept down by 12,000-mile or 24-month service intervals, five years’ roadside rescue & recovery including European cover, a three-year paint warranty & a six-year anti-corrosion warranty.
The key design changes include a new front bumper, bonnet, grille & headlights with LED daytime running lights. The front of the pick-up has a wedge-shape which delivers a more aerodynamic silhouette & the roof has been designed to reduce drag by 0.4% versus 15MY D-Max by directing airflow over the tailgate, thereby improving fuel economy, performance & the level of cabin noise.
At the rear, the tailgate has been reshaped with a spoiler design moulded into the top section and features a newly designed handle. A full size spare wheel is now standard on all versions, previously optional on Double Cab models.Three body styles are offered: single, extended & double cab derivatives.
The interior of the new-generation D-Max has also been updated.The instrument panel has been redesigned with an updated central display & clearer font. Manual transmission models also come equipped with a gear shift indicator to assist drivers with achieving optimal fuel economy. Additional USB ports have been added to the lower centre dash & rear of the centre console across the range (except Utility). Extended and Double Cab variants are equipped with flexible rear seats that have a folding base, fold flat and also split 60/40. Extended Cab versions also have under seat base storage.
All of the cosmetic changes, especially those inside the cab have most definitely improved the D-Max range & have aligned it more with the lifestyle pick-ups already launched. However, it is the engine & transmission options which are the key changes on the new generation D-Max. The engine has been downsized to a new 1.9-litre turbo diesel engine which produces 164 PS and 360 Nm of torque. A choice of new 6-speed manual or automatic gearbox options are available, specifically developed for the new D-Max.
Another key benefit is that the new 1.9 engine meets Euro 6 standards without the need for the addition of AdBlue. Sceptics will look at the reduction of engine size from 2.5-litres to 1.9-litres as a hindrance to performance, but through a combination of on & off road driving, Isuzu were going to show us otherwise.
First & foremost the Blade looks great. I have to say that the D-Max Blade is still for me the best looking pick-up of any I have driven recently. Big bold wheel arches, wrap-around headlights & black roof rails make it stand out on the road. The piano black cabin of the D-Max was well laid out & I found all of the controls easy & comfortable to use. The quality inside is good & the new infotainment system with larger touchscreen is definitely an improvement over the last model. highlights include heated black leather seats. There’s plenty of room in the front for both driver & passenger. Storage is good too, with two water storage pop-outs in the dashboard, decent sized door pockets & a useful glove-box. On top of the dash there’s also a pop-up storage area & above your head drop-down storage to put your sunglasses as well. You can get 3 adults in the rear, but whoever sits in the centre seat may not want to be there for long, as with all pick-ups, especially when unladen, it’s bouncy in there.
The standard equipment list is very long. Utah & Blade models get Apple CarPlay™ & Android Auto™. Keyless entry with push button start, SatNav, DAB digital radio,front & rear USB, roof bars, leather upholstery with heated front seats, rear parking sensors, automatic air conditioning, with Blade adding 9″ multi-function touchscreen, remote locking lower tailgate, Blade puddle lamps, front parking sensors & a colour-coded Aeroklas canopy or sports bar with roller cover. There’s also a Shark Fin antenna, Hill Assist, Hill Descent Control, soft pad armrests & an all-new leather interior. Safety & security include ABS, ESC, TCS, remote central locking, front, side & curtain airbags, locking wheel nuts, front & rear electric windows, auto climate control, height adjustable steering wheel which is leather with audio & cruise control functions & an electrically adjustable drivers seat.
The 1.9 litre 164 ps turbo diesel engine offers maximum torque of 360 Nm @ 2,000 – 2,500 rpm & is Euro 6 compliant. Top speed is 112 mph. The turning circle is 12.2 metres on 17″tyres. The D-Max measures 5.295 m long by 1.860 m wide & is 1.795 m high. Ground clearance is 235 mm. Wheelbase is 3.095 m. The fuel tank holds 69 litres. The rear load bay is 1.552 m x 1.530 m x 46.5 cm with a maximum payload of 1101 kg.
Fuel economy in the Blade that I tested, which came with the 6-speed automatic gearbox, is a claimed 36.2 mpg, which is up 3mpg on the outgoing 2.5 unit. CO2 emissions of 205g/km are also lower than the old model’s 220g/km.
Some readers may not be as keen to know what goodies their pick-up comes with, but rather what can it do for me. A pick-up should be used as a pick-up. Isuzu took us around a tough off-road obstacle course at Duncombe Park & I was able to utilise the D-Max’s new technology such as Hill Descent Control, including driving along & across a fast flowing river. The D-Max also shone whilst towing a trailer & with 1000kg of hay in the back on-road & I can genuinely confirm that the smaller 1.9-litre engine does the job at least as well as the previous 2.5-litre version & with improved gear ratios, for first & second gear even better !
As luck would have it, I drove the latest Amarok Aventura just a couple of weeks prior to trying out the new Blade. Whilst both have their plus points, the D-Max wins hands down for it’s looks & it’s price, with the Amarok’s 3.0-litre engine the winner for sheer speed. The latest D-Max may not be quite as solid inside as the Amarok, but performance wise, it beats the Amarok’s 3 tonnes towing power offering 3.5 tonnes & at around £3000 cheaper, inclusive of the rear Aeroklas canopy or black roller cover or rear style bar, it’s cheaper as well.
The Blade has a CVOTR price of £27,999, an increase of £500 over it’s predecessor. This does puts it up against the likes of the Hilux Invincible, Ranger Wildtrak, Navara Tekna & the Amarok Highline, in what is becoming an increasingly crowded sector.
One of the real plus points with the Isuzu though, is that in the main, the Isuzu dealer network is not made up of giant car group locations, but contains some smaller commercial experts, which is great news for those who don’t want to be sold a car. Isuzu dealers are also located in some smaller urban & rural places, which again is refreshing for those not based in town. The range of pick-up’s that Isuzu offer is both more extensive & better value for money than it’s competitors, offering a pick-up for all budgets. Your pick-up is your livelihood & Isuzu’s reliability is second to none. These in my opinion, make Isuzu the pick-up of choice for those in the know & this new 1.9-litre version makes an even more compelling case than before
Overall a very Sexy Beast 4/5.