What a great time to launch a new pick-up ! Isuzu’s new D-Max has landed in the UK at exactly the right time for the Japanese brand. As established players Mitsubishi, Fiat Professional & Mercedes-Benz leave the sector altogether, Nissan not bringing their latest Navara to the UK & Volkswagen on a sabbatical, the competition has shrunk. To be fair to Isuzu, they along with Toyota & Ford are one of the ‘Big Three’ pick-up manufacturers worldwide & as a commercial vehicle brand only, feel that they know a thing or two about pick-up’s. And, their off to a good start, as the new D-Max the first pick-up to achieve a five-star Euro NCAP rating under the latest testing regime.
Since the Isuzu D-Max launched in 2012, Isuzu has consistently grown their sales volume with a peak of over 6,000 units in 2015. Sales volumes have stabilised at 5,000 registrations a year since & with pre-sales of the All-New Isuzu D-Max so positive, that demand is currently outstripping supply, Isuzu fully expect to meet their target of 5,000 registrations in 2021 & are incredibly optimistic that an objective of 10,000 registrations will be achieved before the original target date that was set for 2025.
The latest D-Max comes in 3 Ranges; Business, All-Purpose & Adventure with 4 New Trim Levels, Utility, DL20, DL40 & V-Cross. Company Car & Van had the opportunity to drive a number of new models at the UK launch & first up was the range topping V-Cross from the Adventure range & the model which the brand believes, will help increase D-Max sales in the Adventure category by a third over the previous offerings.
The previous D-Max range topper the Blade, had a reputation for toughness, reliability & durability. What was slightly lacking though, was the more car-like interiors, on-trend-tech & safety features you’d find on some of the competition. The former are still there – this is a pick-up that will go almost anywhere – but it now features some clever new additions that take it from a mountain bike, to a gravel bike, which is a major improvement.
Engine & chassis
First & foremost, the 1.9 litre 162bhp engine carries over from the previous model. And the the ladder frame chassis, whilst similar to before, now comes with larger rails, additional bracing plus newer steels, all of which contribute to make it stronger. There’s a longer wheelbase, re-designed rear suspension, a shorter body, with increased load space both inside & out & a newly designed front & rear end.
What’s new ?
For a start, there’s electric power assisted steering, which makes a big difference to the truck both on & off road. The seats have also been redesigned & are now more comfortable, plus the dashboard is more upmarket with a new touchscreen infotainment system. All models now come with a height & reachable adjustable steering wheel, steering wheel mounted audio & cruise controls, DAB radio, Bluetooth, a front USB port & a 4.2″ multi-information display.
The D-Max load bed is 30mm deeper than it used to be, so Isuzu has put a step into the rear bumper to make reaching in easier. Every Double Cab model now get’s a tailgate damper. And, thanks to Euro 6D emission standard, the All-New Isuzu D-Max is fitted with a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system to reduce harmful Nitrogen Dioxide levels, so it has succumbed to AdBlue.
Every version has a payload rating of at least 1070kg, which is important for commercial vehicle tax purpose.There’s also a 3.5 tonnes towing capacity. Another interesting point is that, every variant of the All-New Isuzu D-Max weighs under 2,040kg. Therefore Extended & Double Cabs are subject to normal passenger car speed limits. Many double cab pick-up trucks – Ranger & Hilux included – exceed this weight limit so must comply with goods vehicle speed limits which are 10mph lower on single & dual carriageways. A fact that many pick-up customers are unaware of.
Will it get me through a forest ?
Don’t worry, the latest D-Max is still perfect for anyone who need’s to use their truck off road. The selectable shift-on-the-fly 4WD drive engages faster, rear axle articulation has increased & all models bar entry-level Utility models, come with a mechanical rear diff lock in addition to electronic aids that now include hill descent control & hill start assist. We tested it in a variety of situations. Water, it has a wading depth of 800mm, gravel & up & over some very steep hills & it performed admirably. The 4WD does engage faster than before & the locking diff, low-range gearing & electronic aids work perfectly.
All double-cabs get a radar system, with Isuzu choosing to use stereo-imaging via a pair of cameras at the top of the windscreen enabling the AEB, lane keeping, traffic sign recognition & intelligent speed limiter to work more accurately than offered elsewhere. Plus, the new system enables cross traffic alert, blindspot monitoring & emergency lane keeping, all new to the pick-up sector. And if that’s not enough, Double Cabs get eight airbags, Single & Extended Cabs seven.
Emissions & fuel economy
Pick-up emissions & fuel economy are not a selling point. V-Cross manual offers 33.6 mpg/auto 30.7 mpg with emissions of 220g/km & 241g/km respectively.
V-Cross certainly looks the part & features distinguishing ‘Gun Metal’ exterior styling on the radiator grille, side steps, door mirrors, door handles & 18″ alloy wheels. It’s also very well equipped with heated front seats, rear parking sensors, Bi-LED headlights, LED front fog & an 8-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat. The 9″ multifunction colour touchscreen is compatible with Apple CarPlay & Android Auto & comes with 8 speakers, plus front & rear USB ports. There’s also a dual-zone climate control system, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror & automatic headlight levelling. This is a pick-up tailored to the lifestyle sector.
What’s it like to drive ?
It’s light & day over the outgoing Blade. The V-Cross is so much better to drive than the old models. It handles the road much more like a large SUV than before. Thanks to the electronic steering it’s easier to manoeuvre. The bigger brakes means it stops faster. The seats are way more comfortable & coupled with the improved body structure, there’s far less body-roll. Rear passengers get more leg room & the rear seats are angled to make the rear more comfortable as well. The improvement is impressive.
Any negatives ?
The 1.9 engine works fine in almost every situation, but it’s lack of out & out pull could be an issue for some. The latest Hilux features a 2.8 litre engine with over 200bhp with 369 lb ft for example, whilst the D-Max only offers 164PS with 266 lb ft. It’s also a little sluggish compared to the Ford Ranger, taking 12.7 seconds to hit 62mph in the manual double cab & 13 seconds in the auto. In common with all pick-up’s, there’s still some noticeably cheap plastics adorning the lower part of the dashboard, centre armrest & door pockets, even on the V-Cross.
Whilst other pick-up manufacturers have shied away from the sector, Isuzu are to be congratulated on not only launching a new model, but a massively improved one to boot. The amount of choice across a range of single, extended & double cab model’s means that there’s a D-Max priced for everyone.
This D-Max not only looks & drives better than before, it now features class-leading safety, on trend tech, a far better passenger experience & does most of what a pick-up is supposed to do. Range topping V-Cross now looks the part & with a great choice of colours, alloy wheels & after market add ons, it’s definitely a contender for those currently driving an Amarok, X-Class or L200 Barbarian to consider next time around.
Job done 4/5
BUSINESS RANGE Price Excluding VAT
Utility 4×2 Single Cab £20,179
Utility 4×4 Single Cab £22,179
Utility 4×4 Extended Cab £22,929
Utility 4×4 Double Cab £23,679
DL20 Extended Cab £ 25,179
DL20 Double Cab £25,929
DL20 Double Cab Auto £27,429
DL40 Double Cab £ 28,929
DL40 Double Cab Auto £30,429
V-Cross Double Cab £30,429
V-Cross Double Cab Auto £31,929 as tested