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Isuzu D-Max upgrade: rugged pickup workhouse gets a superior revamp

Isuzu has updated its D-Max pickup truck. Paul Connolly checks it out

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Isuzu has updated its D-Max pickup truck, turning a tough and effective workhorse into a more refined beast.

What's new?

There has been a raft of updates to the Isuzu D-Max that have kept it to the forefront in the pickup truck wars.

The past 18 months saw the introduction of a new, more efficient and smoother engine; a 1.9-litre diesel powerplant that matched the output of the old 2.5-litre unit but costs less to run and pumps out fewer dirty emissions.

Technology and other comforts - so often an issue with utilitarian machines like pickup trucks (technically they're a light truck, by the way) - means they are becoming more luxurious and, if not exactly car-like to drive, at least not a million miles away from the experience you get in a proper car/SUV.

The D-Max was launched in 2012 as a successor to the Isuzu Rodeo, however the Rodeo was essentially the first generation of the D-Max and just a UK branding name.

It proved to be a big step forward for the Isuzu, with its mix of ability and sheer pulling power.

The cabin catered for the driver rather than being a utilitarian thing plonked between an engine and a loading platform.

It put Isuzu square into the competitive set of the genre, taking on the likes of the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger and Nissan Navara.

It wasn't just more comfortable than the Rodeo, though, it was safer, more powerful, roomier and much easier on the eye too. Plus, it stuffed it off-road.

Fast forward to 2017, and the next generation (third) D-Max was started to appear on our streets.

As before, the vehicle is marketed as a master of all trades and the "perfect blend" of rugged capability whether off-road or load-lugging; paired with performance and comfort.

Our review model, supplied by the folks at John Barr Cars in Crumlin, was a Utah spec (more of which later).

It's a significant step up in terms of refinement, comfort and efficiency over the previous generation and, with its extra technology, is a serious contender if you're looking at a D-Max model.

The drive is much better than the earlier generation car, and the Utah is vey well specced for the price, with many of the goodies you find in a family car.

What does it look like?

The look continues to be relatively refined. Rugged and tough on the one hand, but less harsh on the eye on the other.

It has a strong road presence but also a reasonable level of sophistication not always seen in this segment.

The key design changes for the latest generation include a new front bumper, bonnet, grille and headlights with LED daytime running lights.

The front end has a wedge-shape which delivers a more aerodynamic silhouette and the roof has been designed to reduce drag by 0.4% versus previous model by directing airflow over the tailgate. This, says Isuzu, improves fuel economy, performance and level of cabin noise.

The wedge-shape is enhanced by muscular front wings which flare at the wheel arches, giving the D-Max a fairly imposing front view.

What's under the bonnet?

Probably the biggest change for the new generation was the engine. A brand new 1.9-litre turbo diesel engine was introduced that produces 164 PS and 360 Nm of torque - figures that rival the old 2.5-litre diesel unit.

The engine retains the old model's 3.5-tonne towing and 1-tonne loading capacity. But it is quieter, more refined and more economical.

It's also Euro 6-compliant, which means that noxious emissions and the like are well under control.

As previously, Isuzu's Shift-On-The-Fly 4x4 rotary dial remains, allowing the driver to select four-wheel drive on the move.

It's also equipped with low-range gears. Both auto and manual transmission are on offer.

Tech, cabin and trim levels

The inside has had a good makeover, with the instrument panel redesigned with an updated central display and clearer font.

Additional USB ports have been added to the lower centre dash and rear of the centre console across the range, except for the entry-level model.

The D-Max comes in five trims: Utility, Eiger, Yukon, Utah and Blade. There's also a flagship Arctic AT35 D-Max, an all-conquering special edition made in conjunction with Arctic Trucks and featuring giant 35-inch wheels.

Even entry-level Utility comes well equipped with the likes of Hill Start Assist, Variable Hill Descent Control, Bluetooth connectivity, power windows and air con.

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Eiger double cab adds a reversing camera, 16-inch alloy wheels, body coloured bumpers, audio system with CD player and 6 speakers.

Yukon adds 18-inch alloy wheels, silver side steps, new 7-inch multi-function touchscreen, LED rear lights, Cruise Control, rear load liner and a leather steering wheel.

Utah takes comfort up a notch with keyless entry and push button start, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, DAB digital radio, roof bars, leather upholstery with heated front seats, rear parking sensors and automatic air conditioning.

Blade adds tinted windows, 9-inch multi-function touchscreen, remote locking lower tailgate, Blade puddle lamps, front and rear parking sensors, and a colour-coded Aeroklas canopy or sports bar with roller cover.

Extended and Double Cab variants are equipped with flexible rear seats that have a folding base, fold flat and also split 60/40. Extended Cab versions also have under seat base storage.

Verdict

Although its competitors might outdo the D-Max in individual areas, e.g. comfort, taken as the sum of its parts the D-Max is the king of the sector, has the broadest range of choices and is the one to beat.

Isuzu gives a very decent package of a five-year/125,000-mile warranty and 5 years roadside assistance.

The price ranges from £16,799 CVOTR (commercial vehicle on the road price) for a Utility single cab to £25,699 for Utah double cab model and on to £28,799 for the Blade version.

If you are in the market for a tough, comfortable and well-specced pickup truck, the D-Max is probably the vehicle for you.

The Isuzu D-Max is available from John Barr Cars of Crumlin (johnbarrcars.co.uk) and other Isuzu dealers.

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