OFF-ROAD DRIV­ING TAKEN TO THE MAX

With a far bet­ter de­sign and en­gine, Isuzu’s new model is a dy­namic step for­ward for this brand

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

WITHIN the con­fines of the kind of ve­hi­cle a tough pick-up can be, Isuzu’s D-max is a huge dy­namic step for­ward for its brand — as it needs to be to match com­peti­tors of the cal­i­bre of Ford’s Ranger, the Volk­swa­gen Amarok, the Toy­ota Hilux and the Nis­san Navara.

Launched here in early 2012, it’s safer, more pow­er­ful, more spa­cious and much bet­ter look­ing than its Rodeo pre­de­ces­sor, with lower run­ning costs, ex­tra equip­ment and more of­froad ca­pa­bil­ity.

Ri­vals claim sim­i­lar virtues of course, but too of­ten, they’re tucked away in the cor­ner of a sales show­room re­ally ded­i­cated to sell­ing pas­sen­ger cars. Will such a place re­ally sup­port a ded­i­cated pick-up truck per­son when they re­ally need it? And will the ve­hi­cle in ques­tion re­ally be as ca­pa­ble in the Serengeti as it is in Sur­biton?

With this D-max, you know you’ve lit­tle to worry about on ei­ther score. With Isuzu, it was al­ways that way. It’s just that with this model, there’s a lit­tle more pol­ish with the prod­uct on of­fer. Let’s try it.

Driv­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence

Pulling power is the first thing you no­tice about this D-max once out on the road. Though there’s only a sin­gle four cylin­der 2.5-litre en­gine choice now on of­fer, it’s ex­actly the kind of power plant you’d want in a ve­hi­cle of this kind, with 163PS on tap and, more im­por­tantly, 400Nm of torque from just 1,400rpm, the kind of grunt that makes low speed ur­ban work easy and tough muddy in­clines straight­for­ward.

It’s also a ma­jor rea­son why this ve­hi­cle can tow a braked trailer of up to 3.5-tonnes — not quite as much as a com­pa­ra­ble Ford Ranger but use­fully more than an equiv­a­lent Hilux or Mit­subishi L200.

For wet or icy tar­mac or light off­piste work, you can take the op­por­tu­nity, at up to 60mph, to twist the cen­tre con­sole dial and se­lect high range all-wheel drive.

It takes a se­cond or so for the front wheels to en­gage but when they do, the D-max feels no­tably more sure-footed on the slip­pery stuff. Of course, once in a while, you’ll need to do more — oc­ca­sions on which you’ll be fur­ther twist­ing this dial to en­gage the full low-range four wheel drive mode, some­thing that can only hap­pen when the ve­hi­cle’s stopped.

In this mode, you re­ally do get an in­cred­i­bly ac­com­plished off-roader, aided by a well cho­sen first gear ra­tio that’s an ideal ‘crawler gear’ over rough ter­rain, on which you’ll ap­pre­ci­ate ground clear­ance that at 235mm — this is much higher than you get with most other ri­val pick-ups.

De­sign and Build

Styling hasn’t been a pri­or­ity for Isuzu pick-ups in the past that of­fered rugged, square shapes, big wheels, lots of chrome — and not a lot else. In a seg­ment now in­creas­ingly reach­ing out to the life­style mar­ket, a bit more ef­fort was re­quired this time round, hence this D-max’s adop­tion of a more rak­ish, wedge shape that’s sup­posed to look ‘ tough, poised and ready for work’.

So there’s a larger front grille on a front end dec­o­rated with day­time run­ning lights and flow­ing into an A-pil­lar that’s been moved for­ward by 100mm and set at a more acute an­gle lead­ing to the low­ered roofline. At the rear, you’ll find a set of largest-in-class tail lamps, which fea­ture LEDS on higher-spec­i­fi­ca­tion mod­els.

Climb in­side, eas­ier than you might ex­pect thanks to wide-open­ing doors, and you’re greeted by an in­te­rior that’s hard-wear­ing and cleanly styled. The back seat is a much more com­fort­able place to be than I’d ex­pected, thanks to ex­tra ve­hi­cle length and a longer wheel­base that fa­cil­i­tates ad­di­tional head, leg and shoul­der room.

Plus the seat back is less ver­ti­cally in­clined for greater com­fort on longer jour­neys. One nice touch is the way the 60/40 split-fold­ing rear seats en­able you to more flex­i­bly use this rear pas­sen­ger space for pack­ages, should you so wish. Ad­di­tional stor­age com­part­ments in the floor un­der the rear-seat base are also use­ful for keep­ing things out of harm’s way.

Prac­ti­cal­i­ties & Costs

In de­vel­op­ment, this de­sign un­der­went over four mil­lion kilo­me­tres of en­durance test­ing, the equiv­a­lent of 100 times round the world. There’s also three years of road­side re­cov­ery and as­sis­tance, a three-year paint war­ranty and six years of anti-cor­ro­sion cover.

What else? Ser­vic­ing is ev­ery 12,000 miles or 24 months. And in­sur­ance? Well it’s group 9A or 10A, de­pen­dent on trims, for the dou­ble cab mod­els. On the eco front, the CO2 emis­sions fig­ure is a very re­spectable 194g/km, with low ni­tro­gen ox­ide emis­sions. Plus this very ef­fi­cient com­mon-rail Euro 5-com­pli­ant unit can re­turn a class-lead­ing 38.2 mpg on the com­bined fuel econ­omy cy­cle.

Sum­mary

If you thought Isuzu pick-ups were a bit rough and ready, it’s about time you gave the D-max a try. Once this brand was re­ally one re­served for the re­quire­ments of pure com­mer­cial oper­a­tors. Th­ese days though, it’ll also suit pri­vate buy­ers look­ing for an all-ter­rain util­ity ve­hi­cle that can play the life­style card.

But how does it stack up in what’s be­com­ing quite a crowded mar­ket? Very well ac­tu­ally. In terms of price, it’s one of the best value choices in the class. It’s a stand­out per­former on the bal­ance sheet and now that the styling’s so much ti­dier than Isuzus of old and the equip­ment lev­els are a lot bet­ter, the brand’s ap­peal has been broad­ened to suit the sort of buyer who would pre­vi­ously have au­to­mat­i­cally looked to a Nis­san Navara or a Toy­ota Hilux. The sort of per­son who might not be con­sid­er­ing this D-max. But prob­a­bly should be.

See in­side for all the lat­est of­fers

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