Trad­ing places

Isuzu’s work­horse is pop­u­lar with tradies but a new model aims to broaden its ap­peal

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - First Drive - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING EDI­TOR joshua.dowl­

THE Toy­ota HiLux and Ford Ranger con­tinue to duke it out for top-sell­ing ute sta­tus, but com­pe­ti­tion in the af­ford­able seg­ment of the pick-up mar­ket just got tougher.

The Isuzu D-Max four-door 4WD range — priced from $39,990 to $50,990 drive-away — has been given a fresh look, and an over­hauled diesel en­gine that has more grunt yet uses less fuel.

The up­date cat­a­pults the DMax from be­ing the old­est main­stream pick-up on sale — this gen­er­a­tion ar­rived in 2011 — to the new­est.

The vis­ual changes may be sub­tle but the bon­net, grille, head­lights and front bumper are all new.

The big news is what’s un­der the new nose.

Isuzu has all but re­built the 3.0-litre turbo diesel to meet the lat­est emis­sions stan­dards, in the process bring­ing the D-Max closer in power and torque to its com­peti­tors.

Power is the same as be­fore (130kW) but torque has been given a boost from 380Nm to

430Nm on man­ual and au­to­matic vari­ants.

While these out­puts are still less than most ri­vals, they shadow the top sell­ing Toy­ota HiLux, which has 130kW of power and 420Nm (man­ual) and 450Nm (auto) from its 2.8litre turbo diesel.

To han­dle the ex­tra grunt there are new trans­mis­sions.

The five-speed man­ual has been up­graded to a six-speed, and the six-speed auto has been strength­ened to han­dle the ex­tra torque.

The diff ra­tio is the same as be­fore but the in­ter­nals have been matched to the new en­gine torque. How­ever there is still no me­chan­i­cal lim­ited-slip diff avail­able ex-fac­tory.

All Isuzu mod­els (4x2 and 4x4) now come with elec­tronic hill de­scent con­trol; the low ra­tio “crawl­ing” gearset for 4WD mod­els is un­changed.

In­side, Isuzu has fit­ted a new 7-inch touch­screen to the bot­tom two grades and an 8inch touch­screen to the high­est two grades but Ap­ple Car Play and An­droid Auto are not avail­able. All mod­els come with three USB ports (two up front and one in the rear) plus two 12V power sock­ets.

A rear view cam­era is now stan­dard on the three most ex­pen­sive mod­els (pre­vi­ously it was stan­dard only on the top two grades) but still an op­tional ex­tra ($430) on the base vari­ant.

De­spite be­ing the new­est ute on sale, this anom­aly puts the D-Max out of step with the Toy­ota HiLux, Ford Ranger, Mit­subishi Tri­ton and Holden Colorado, which now have a rear cam­era as stan­dard on all mod­els ex­cept the cab-chas­sis vari­ants.

No changes have been made to the six-airbag safety sys­tem in the D-Max since it re­ceived a five-star crash test score in 2013.

If the new D-Max were tested to to­day’s tougher ANCAP stan­dards it would likely score a lower rat­ing, as would its ute com­peti­tors.

The five-year/130,000km war­ranty Isuzu in­tro­duced in 2013 con­tin­ues with the new DMax but the capped price ser­vice deal has changed.

The new ser­vice in­ter­vals are 12 months or 10,000km, which­ever comes first.

How­ever, the na­tional av­er­age dis­tance trav­elled for all road users is 15,000km (mak­ing vis­its every 9 months more likely). Isuzu says the av­er­age dis­tance trav­elled for D-Max own­ers is at least 23,000km per an­num.

This means Isuzu own­ers will ex­haust their cheaper capped price ser­vice vis­its in a lit­tle over two years, three years short of the war­ranty ex­pir­ing.

The com­pany says it will re­view the pro­gram in the com­ing months based on customer feed­back.


The steer­ing and sus­pen­sion are un­changed from the most re­cent model, but Isuzu says en­gi­neers have been mak­ing im­prove­ments since the ve­hi­cle was launched in 2011. That said, it feels fa­mil­iar. The D-Max is still the most truck-like of the utes on sale, jig­gling over seem­ingly small bumps in the road. Isuzu says that’s the trade-off for heavy duty load-car­ry­ing, tow­ing and off-road abil­ity.

The steer­ing is on the heavy side at a time when other brands have switched to lighter elec­tric power steer­ing.

Most tradies won’t mind the bounci­ness of the sus­pen­sion — espe­cially if they’ve not ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing else — but it’s worth not­ing other brands have man­aged to de­liver a more com­fort­able ride from heavy duty sus­pen­sion.

Isuzu still has room to im­prove the D-Max if it wants to broaden its ap­peal.

The com­pany says ex­tra sound dead­en­ing has been added to all mod­els but it’s still a noisy beast com­pared to the Tri­ton and HiLux.

It has a no­tice­able swirling noise be­low 2500rpm be­fore the typ­i­cal diesel rat­tle starts to come into play.

The ex­tra grunt is most no­tice­able on the free­way, where the en­gine is tick­ing over closer to the peak torque range.

Points for im­prove­ment? A dig­i­tal speed dis­play would be welcome (stan­dard in the Amarok, Ranger and Colorado) while height and reach move­ment in the steer­ing col­umn, plus more seat ad­just­ment, would make the driv­ing po­si­tion more comfy.


Isuzu fans will love the new DMax, but it’s still more suited to tradies rather than fam­i­lies.

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