A CUT­TING EDGE DRIV­ING EX­PE­RI­ENCE

The latest ver­sion of Isuzu’s Blade pick-up of­fers all the ex­tras you could want in the one pack­age

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - JONATHAN CROUCH

ISUZU’S D-max has carved it­self a use­ful niche in the pick-up mar­ket, mainly thanks to the way its brand has lis­tened and re­sponded to the needs of likely buy­ers.

Take this ver­sion, the Blade. It was first in­tro­duced in early 2014 to demon­strate the lifestyle po­ten­tial of this pick-up, a whole host of ex­tras in­cluded at an at­trac­tive ask­ing price.

Cus­tomers liked the propo­si­tion, so Isuzu has fur­ther re­fined it into the form we look at here, which now de­liv­ers ar­guably the smartest cabin in the class, along with a few lit­tle ex­tra touches to make own­er­ship feel that lit­tle bit more spe­cial.

Will it all be enough to con­vert the un­de­cided? If not, it’s hard to see what more Isuzu could have done.

Driv­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence

This Blade model gets the same fuel ef­fi­cient 2.5-litre twin-turbo com­mon rail diesel en­gine as you’ll find fit­ted across the rest of the D-max range, of­fered with a choice of ei­ther six-speed man­ual or five-speed auto- matic trans­mis­sions. This ad­vanced Euro5-com­pli­ant unit gen­er­ates 163PS along with a lusty 400Nm of torque at just 1,400 rpm.

Get off the beaten track and, as usual with this model, you have the flex­i­bil­ity of a clever ‘shift-on-the-fly’ sys­tem, al­low­ing the driver to ad­just be­tween both two and four-wheel drive modes while trav­el­ling at speeds of up to 60mph.

The front sus­pen­sion ar­range­ment

is a proven in­de­pen­dent dou­ble wish­bone with coil-spring setup, while the rear sus­pen­sion is made up of leaf-springs in­stalled above a spe­cial long span rear axle. Tough and fit for pur­pose in other words, though Isuzu also claims this sys­tem to of­fer bet­ter driv­ing com­fort.

Un­der the skin, as with the brand’s pre­vi­ous pick-ups, the D-max is built on a rugged lad­der-framed chas­sis, but the sim­i­lar­i­ties end there. The i- GRIP (or ‘Isuzu Grav­ity Re­spon­sive In­tel­li­gent Plat­form’) un­der­pin­nings of the D-max are 42% stiffer than those of this model’s pre­de­ces­sor, the Rodeo, helped by im­proved cross brac­ing at the rear, which of­fers su­pe­rior sta­bil­ity un­der load and when tow­ing.

On that sub­ject, you get a 3.5-tonne (braked) tow­ing ca­pac­ity, to go with a pay­load ca­pac­ity of 1,000kg.

De­sign and Build

The D-max Blade cer­tainly looks the part, of­fer­ing those who want a leisure-ori­ented pick-up some­thing that has some gen­uine vis­ual im­pact. Those eigh­teen-inch six-spoke al­loy wheels help here, and they’re shod with some meaty-look­ing 255/60-18 Pirelli Scorpion Zero tyres.

The front grille is now smarter than be­fore, fin­ished in a sleek dark grey tone that matches those wheels, while the door han­dles and roof bars are painted in black, as are the fold­ing door mir­rors. Even the heavy-duty side steps haven’t gone too big in chrome. Two paint colour choices are of­fered. The new Pearl White fin­ish looks clean, but the Blade looks mean­est in mica Cos­mic black.

A pri­or­ity in up­dat­ing the Blade pack­age was to in­tro­duce a classier feel to the cabin and you cer­tainly get that with the up­graded Pi­ano Black in­te­rior with its smart roof lin­ing. The cab re­mains sturdy and prac­ti­cal, though, if far from ba­sic with its clever Pi­o­neer stereo, branded mats and smart scuff plates.

It also helps that the D-max de­sign is in many re­spects quite stylish in its own right, the cir­cle of mi­nor con­trols on the cen­tre stack for ex­am­ple, rem­i­nis­cent of a Mazda RX-8 sportscar, plus a cou­ple of ven­ti­la­tion ‘ears’ at the top of the fas­cia that aren’t a mil­lion miles away from con­tem­po­rary Ford de­sign. Ease of use has also been thor­oughly thought through, with wheel-mounted con­trols, big clear di­als, easy ac­cess to the most im­por­tant switches and a com­fort­able raised driv­ing po­si­tion. Move rear­wards and there’s even a de­cent amount of rear seat legroom, which isn’t al­ways the case with dou­ble­cabs.

Mar­ket and Model

The Blade slots in at the top of a D-max line-up that sees po­ten­tial buy­ers oth­er­wise choose be­tween stan­dard, Eiger, Yukon and Utah de­riv­a­tives. For a Blade model, you’re look­ing at an ask­ing price of around £26,000, around £3,000 more than its Utah sta­ble­mate, the next model down. That seems pretty rea­son­able given the ex­tra equip­ment de­liv­ered here. There’s a £1,000 pre­mium if you choose the op­tion of au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

In re­turn for that out­lay, you get an aw­ful lot. Eigh­teen-inch Shadow-de­sign al­loy wheels shod with Pirelli Scorpion ZERO tyres, black-trimmed co-or­di­na­tion for the tinted win­dows, the fold­ing door mir­rors and the door han­dles.

From a prac­ti­cal­ity per­spec­tive, there’s an un­der-rail bed liner, heavy-duty side steps, a tailgate damper, a spare wheel cra­dle, black roof bars and the choice of two hard tops: a lock­able colour-coded Aeroklas leisure canopy com­plete with in­ter­nal light. Or a lock­able black Moun­tain­top Black Roller with black rear style bar.

In­side, the Blade fea­tures a DAB dig­i­tal ra­dio in­te­grated into a Pi­o­neer AVIC-F960 6.1-inch touch­screen nav­i­ga­tion set-up, com­plete with in­te­grated rear safety cam­era and a rear speaker sys­tem. Plus there’s a pre­mium black leather in­te­rior, heated front seats, branded floor mats and scuff plates.

Bear in mind too that all of this builds upon the al­ready very com­plete spec­i­fi­ca­tion of the D-max Utah model. So you also get de­sir­able fea­tures like au­to­matic cli­mate con­trol. Op­tions in­clude a bon­net pro­tec­tor, a load­bay bed rug and a spare wheel bag.

Practicalities & Costs

On to the load­ing practicalities for this dou­ble cab bodystyle. At around 5.3m long, this is cer­tainly a pretty large ve­hi­cle, so you won’t be sur­prised to re­tract the sturdy drop-down tailgate (which can only re­tract to hor­i­zon­tal level be­cause of the chunky bumper) and find a sub­stan­tial cargo area.

You’ll find a space 1485mm long, 1530mm wide and 465mm in depth, big enough for a Euro pal­let to slide in the 1110mm-wide space be­tween the wheel arches.

On to run­ning costs. This D-max’s ef­fi­cient com­mon-rail Euro 5-com­pli­ant unit can re­turn a strong 38.7 mpg for the man­ual model on the com­bined fuel econ­omy cy­cle — 33.6mpg for the au­to­matic. The CO2 emis­sions fig­ure is a very re­spectable 192g/km for the man­ual model or 220g/km for the au­to­matic ver­sion. There’s a dual Ex­haust Gas Re­cir­cu­la­tion sys­tem to cut down on Ni­tro­gen Ox­ide emis­sions.

What else? Ser­vic­ing is ev­ery 12,000 miles or 24 months. There’s also three years of road­side re­cov­ery and as­sis­tance, a three-year paint war­ranty and six years of anti-cor­ro­sion cover. Plus you get a unique-in-class five-year/125,000-mile trans­fer­able war­ranty which helps beef up those resid­u­als and re­in­forces the rep­u­ta­tion for dura­bil­ity and rugged­ness for which Isuzu pick­ups have be­come renowned.

Sum­mary

This D-max Blade shows what a com­plete prod­uct Isuzu can now of­fer in the lifestyle end of the grow­ing pick-up seg­ment. It’s cer­tainly hard to think of any­thing else you could add to it. Eigh­teen-inch al­loy wheels, a DAB stereo, sat nav, cli­mate con­trol, heated leather seats, mica paint­work, a choice of a canopy or a roll-top to keep your gear safe — it’s all there in the ask­ing price.

Be­fore you go shop­ping else­where, start tot­ting up those sorts of ex­tras from the op­tions list and then you might start ap­pre­ci­at­ing what the D-max Blade of­fers. Who says you can’t have it all?

The new Isuzu packs plenty of ex­tras in for your money

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