SOLID TO THE MAX
FOR advice on how to successfully sell cars to Australians, may we please invite Isuzu to the stage.
With just two models in its line-up – the D-Max ute and ute-based MU-X SUV – the brand sold nearly 26,000 vehicles last year, maintaining its year-on-year double digit growth. Fun fact: it’s a different buyer profile, of course, but Isuzu sold more cars here in 2017 than BMW or Audi.
Isuzu is on a good thing and is sticking to it. For its 2018 D-Max one-tonner, it adds improvements here and there and steers well clear of anything revolutionary.
The still-utilitarian cabin has been softened slightly, it can carry an extra 100kg, new suspension improves the ride and a rear camera is standard, putting it on par with most ute rivals on the safety front.
The D-Max’s key selling points remain, namely the proven reliability of the understressed 3.0-litre turbo diesel, decent towing performance, appealing drive-away prices and a long warranty.
The D-Max LS-T Crew Cab joins the range on a permanent basis. The $54,700 flagship 4WD sports 18-inch alloys with highway tyres, perforated leather seats, satnav and keyless entry.
Such premium features (for a ute) are typical on most range-topping one-tonner rivals, even though Isuzu has been reluctant to travel this path overtly and risk its core ‘tough and rugged’ image.
As not all Isuzu buyers take their utes off road, there is the prestige LS-T rear-driver with highway tyres for $46,900.
Isuzu’s message is clear: the D-Max is a scaled down truck, not a scaled up car.
Small improvements are key and a simple fix Isuzu has brought to the Crew Cabs is soft touch leatherette for the arm rests.
I’ve had plenty of off-road wheel time in the outgoing D-Max and needed a towel on the centre console to avoid my elbow rubbing itself raw on the hard plastic.
The lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto puts the audio a generation behind rivals.
Two USB charge points, leatherette for the glovebox and new cabin chrome and gloss black finishes are also welcome.
We’re sure to see most one-tonne utes sporting coil sprung rears in the near future. Meanwhile, Isuzu has a new threeleaf spring suspension set-up for its Crew Cabs. Using denser steel for the springs, Isuzu aims for greater on-road comfort without compromising the off-road, hauling and towing ability.
Verdict: Small but effective changes improve the strong-selling D-Max. Isuzu sticks to the core principles; same tough-asnails engine and transmission, the good warranty and sharp prices are quite rightly left alone. It does most things very well, now with a bit more comfort too.