George Barrows test drives the all-new Isuzu D-Max for The Landscaper Magazine
If I say Isuzu to you I’d wager the first thing that pops into your head is their range of small trucks – great big flat beds with dropside sections, ideal for mowers and maybe even a tipping function to help offload some materials.
But, that’s Isuzu Trucks which, oddly, is a different company to Isuzu the pick-up manufacturer – at least it is here in the UK. The Isuzu I’m talking about are the ones that make rough and tumble 4x4s that have been known to be no-nonsense, no-frills and for the older models also no good. But that has changed with the all-new Isuzu D-Max 2021.
In brief, it’s a brand-new model with a new 1.9-litre engine producing 162hp and 360Nm of torque, which means it’s pretty gutsy for a relatively small engine. It can tow 3.5-tonnes and has a maximum payload of 1,120kg and is of course available with a formidable four-wheel-drive system.
4 x 4 Isuzu D-Max
The range of the Isuzi D-Max begins with the basic Business models that are aimed at business users, who will probably run a fleet of these where the drivers might not be the most considerate owners. It offers both 4×2 (rear-wheel-drive only) and 4×4 versions with three different cab sizes – single, extended and double cab. They come in the Utility trim level which has vinyl floor coverings, steel wheels and hard black plastic bumpers, mirrors and handles. They’re the real workhorse models, but still get automatic headlights and automatic windscreen wipers, air con, DAB radio, stop/start and a range of safety systems that include intelligent speed limiters and lane departure warning systems.
Safety systems are at the heart of this new model with Autonomous Emergency Braking and Traffic Sign Recognition also standard as well as Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Monitor and Emergency Lane Keeping fitted on all double cab models. The D-Max goes above and beyond its rivals like the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger when it comes to safety and has more basic equipment at this lower end of the market than them too.
Isuzu, though, knows that pick-up trucks aren’t just about work these days – they know how to make an appealing cabin.
Isuzu D-Max interior
The All-Purpose and Adventure ranges begin to add the glamour and creature comforts that owner-drivers expect these days. There are more safety systems like adaptive cruise control and Lane Keep Assist, but they also look better too with body-coloured bumpers, silver trim and alloy wheels. The first model is the DL20 (with DL standing for diff-lock to underline its off-road ability) with the middle spec model being DL40. Completing the range is the V-Cross which aims to compete with the very best in the premium pick-up market like Toyota’s Hilux Invincible X and the Ford Ranger Wildtrak.
You’ll get heated front seats, parking sensors, keyless- entry and leather bits in the cab, not to mention a 7 inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the DL40 and a 9 inch version on the V-Cross models.
It’s a really convincing new line-up with a model for everyone, and while the range topping-V-Cross with its side steps, fancy sound system and leather seats might turn your head slightly more than the already well-equipped DL40, the real gem of the range has to be the more down to earth DL20.
Isuzu offers the D-Max with a six-speed automatic gearbox, which delivers smooth and fuss free changes, but a better match to the 1.9-litre engine is the six- speed manual. While the engine is well-refined and its noise well-shielded from the occupants, it still feels like a coarse and rugged diesel engine making the more physical manual shift a much more satisfying combination. A DL20 with manual gearbox would be my choice of D-Max anyday.
Here’s a neat fact for you – the Isuzu D-Max is the fastest pick-up truck on the road. Hard to imagine with that 1.9-litre engine, but its power is not the reason, it’s because all models weigh less than 2040kg which means they can abide by the car speed limits rather than the light commercial vehicle limits which the Hilux and Ranger have to. That makes it (legally speaking) 10mph quicker on dual carriageways and regular roads.
Not only is it the fastest pick-up on the road, it’s also the safest having officially been given a five star Euro NCAP safety rating under the new more stringent tests. Hardly surprising given all those safety systems.
The D-Max has always been a really solid off-roader, and the new one has built on those abilities. The chassis is now stronger and there’s better underbody protection for this new model. The low-range gearbox, as well as the rear differential on the DL and V-Cross models, means it can operate in even tougher conditions and to my eyes, it now looks the part too. Not bad for a truck costing just over £21,000 for the basic single cab and £26,759 for the DL20 double cab that I’d have.