Isuzu D-Max pickup
"It's tough and strong, but the Isuzu D-Max lags behind rivals in many areas"
- Good to drive
- Decent engine
- Plenty of model choice
- Lacks refinement
- Rivals have better interiors
- Only one engine available
Despite having sold several models in the UK in the past, Isuzu has now slimmed its range down to just one – the Isuzu D-Max pickup. The D-Max was facelifted in early 2017, with the main updates consisting of a new engine introduced to improve economy, two new gearboxes and some improvements to the interior.
Designers tweaked the D-Max again in 2018, improving some interior trim, adding more exterior colours and changing the suspension to improve ride comfort. In 2019, ahead of the D-Max' replacement, the rugged XTR trim was introduced to appeal to buyers looking for a tough mud-plugger.
Despite the fact there’s only one diesel engine to choose from, there’s still plenty of choice for the would-be D-Max buyer. You can pick from five different versions of the D-Max, with the entry-level Utility model intended as a no-frills workhorse.
If you want a single-cab D-Max, you’ll have to buy the Utility, while those wanting an extended-cab version can choose from the Yukon trim. The three other trims are called Eiger, Utah and well-equipped Blade, with an attention-grabbing Fury package also on offer from early 2019. Opting for a double-cab bodystyle means you have the full choice of trim levels.
Isuzu also offers the D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35. Developed in conjunction with the Scandinavian off-road specialists at Arctic Trucks, the AT35 is available as a double-cab. It features black wheels, tinted windows, a tailgate damper (for softer opening) and Arctic Trucks branding throughout. That’s in addition to the reversing camera, sat nav, keyless entry and Apple CarPlay of the Utah models.
As if to prove the D-Max’s countryside appeal, Isuzu also offers the Huntsman Accessory Pack for the Utah Double Cab. This includes dark green, grey or black paint, lockable firearm drawers, a towbar and an Aeroklas Commercial Canopy for the rear load bed, along with aluminium underbody protectors and other protective and aesthetic upgrades.
All D-Max models come with air-conditioning, LED daytime running lights, electric windows and Bluetooth connectivity. Spend a bit more and you can have your Isuzu D-Max with sat nav, a rear parking camera, climate control, roof-mounted speakers and a load-bed liner.
The one engine available is a 163bhp 1.9-litre diesel. It offers plenty of power – and enables the D-Max to carry up to 1,136kg and tow a 3,500kg braked trailer – but although it’s quieter than the previous 2.5-litre diesel engine, it’s still quite noisy compared to rivals. If you want a smoother drive, then the Nissan Navara or Mitsubishi L200 are better bets.
It’s not the last word in driving finesse either, with bumps in the road translating into thuds that you and your passengers will feel, although it deals with larger bumps better at speed. The D-Max XTR is fitted with taller and tougher suspension components that make it seriously capable off-road and offer 80% of the Ford Ranger's ability for less money. The driving positions is decent, though, offering good visibility and making the D-Max feel smaller on the road than it actually is.
Both the automatic and manual gearboxes have low and high ratio functions, which allow greater traction off-road, along with a locking central differential and impressive hill descent control.
While the amount of equipment fitted impresses, the Isuzu D-Max does little to hide its utilitarian roots. While Isuzu says that buyers like its no-nonsense attitude, those looking for a more refined working environment might want to consider the Volkswagen Amarok or Mercedes X-Class.