Isuzu D-Max pickup review
"The Isuzu D-Max is tough, strong and now more closely matched with rivals than ever"
- 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. It’s had a few facelifts and updates in recent years, including the introduction of an XTR trim with upgraded suspension and heavy-duty tyres.
A more thorough update came in 2021, with angled headlights and a grille with ‘fangs’ that lend the D-Max an aggressive look. The interior has also been overhauled with a new nine-inch touchscreen, and there are leather seats for the range-topping model that’s called the V-Cross. With these tech and styling upgrades, the Isuzu D-Max V-Cross represents a decent and good-value alternative to the Toyota Hilux Invincible and Ford Ranger Wildtrak.
Also in Isuzu’s favour is the fact that the D-Max doesn’t currently have many rivals. The Volkswagen Amarok is about to be replaced and the Mitsubishi L200, Fiat Fullback and Mercedes X-Class have all been discontinued. You might want to consider the Nissan Navara and SsangYong Musso if you’re after a dependable work truck.
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 four 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, which is also available in extended-cab and double-cab body styles. DL20 models get a choice of the latter two, while DL40 and V-Cross are double-cab only.
Isuzu has previously offered the D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 and a new version of it may be sold at a later date. 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.
As if to prove the D-Max’s countryside appeal, Isuzu also offers the Huntsman Accessory Pack for double-cab models. 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, DAB radio, cruise control, 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.