Mo­tor­ing: Isuzu D-max Hunts­man

At last, says Char­lie flindt, some­one has lis­tened to de­spair­ing own­ers of coun­try trans­port. The re­sult? A De­fender-sized hole in the mar­ket has been filled

The Field - - Country Estate -

Af­ter a minute or two strolling round Isuzu’s new Hunts­man spe­cial edi­tion, I went all Henry Hig­gins: “By Ge­orge, I think they’ve got it. I think they’ve re­ally got it.”

By “it”, I mean “what we re­ally want from our coun­try­side ve­hi­cles”. And good old Isuzu, niche maker of pick-ups and lor­ries (and the much-missed Trooper), has ob­vi­ously been lurk­ing in a ru­ral pub or two, eaves­drop­ping on the con­ver­sa­tions of dis­con­tented own­ers of “coun­try” trans­port. “We don’t want to drive a chrome-clad mon­stros­ity with ‘THROB’ writ­ten down the side in 8in let­ters,” they sob into their pints of Gribble’s Old Grunty­fusters.

The re­sult? The Hunts­man. Isuzu has taken the al­ready ex­cel­lent D-max Utah Dou­ble­cab and given it a ru­ral makeover. It comes in a lovely green (among other

ISUZU D-max Hunts­man

♦ En­gine: 1,898cc diesel

♦ Power: 164PS

♦ Max speed: 112mph

♦ Per­for­mance, 0 to 62: 12.7 sec­onds

♦ Com­bined fuel econ­omy: 40.4mpg

♦ In­sur­ance group: 40A

♦ Price: £37,125

colours), with black wheels and a com­plete lack of chrome; per­fect for stalking up on an­i­mals and skiv­ing trac­tor driv­ers. There’s the small mat­ter of the lurid day run­ning lights, but they’re noth­ing a bit of black tape, or a trip to the fuse box, or a club ham­mer, won’t sort out.

The in­side is spa­cious and com­fort­able with easy-to-clean leather seats (or were they qual­ity plas­tic? Some se­ri­ous seat sniff­ing pro­duced noth­ing but funny looks from the chil­dren). The view out is fan­tas­tic through the four-door win­dows but less than bril­liant through the pick-up cover.

The trans­mis­sion is proper old school, with 2wd high and 4wd drive high/low. first gear in high is low enough to cover the vast ma­jor­ity of off-road­ing sit­u­a­tions. There’s a bit of drive-line shunt and the six-speed box feels a bit sec­ond­hand. Third gear was par­tic­u­larly re­luc­tant to be found. You get (Lord be praised!) real off-road tyres and a full-sized spare.

On the road, the old-fash­ioned diesel gives lots of grunt at low revs and pushes the Isuzu to re­spectable speed. You know you’re in a pick-up, with a skit­tish rear end thanks to the leaf springs (even with the fancy red bits that come with the ex­tra ac­ces­sory pack) and a vast, un­wieldy turn­ing cir­cle, not helped by the sheer length of the Hunts­man. Avoid mul­ti­storey car parks at all costs.

Some se­ri­ous work has gone into the pick-up bit: there are gun draw­ers in a false bed, sturdy and easy to use. There’s room above for all but the largest of dogs (although some non-slip cov­er­ing would be wel­come on the nicely damped tail­gate). It’s a field sports con­ver­sion that re­ally works. (Bent­ley, take note.) To make up for the poor vis­i­bil­ity, a pick-up cover has to be good and do more than just pro­vide ex­tra se­cu­rity. The Hunts­man’s cer­tainly earns its keep.

In fact, it’s not just the tilt that works. The whole con­cept is right. Isuzu has in­deed “got it”. It has spot­ted the large De­fend­er­sized hole in the muddy-car mar­ket and the Hunts­man fills it very well; it will be hugely pop­u­lar, well be­yond the nar­row niche that its name sug­gests it’s aimed at. I pre­dict they will be fill­ing up ru­ral pub carparks in no time at all. Let’s hope there’s enough room to turn – es­pe­cially af­ter one­and-a-half pints of Grib­bles.

There are sturdy gun draw­ers in a false bed and room for all but the largest of dogs

Clock­wise from top: the test ve­hi­cle came in a lovely ru­ral green; it has black wheels – in­clud­ing a full-size spare – with not a hint of chrome to be seen; there’s an easy-to-use gun draw and a nicely damped tail­gate

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