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Isuzu D-Max pick-up (2012 - ) expert review

By Dan Tye

“The D in D-Max stands for Diesel, Direct Injection and Drive – and giving the maximum in each.  And that’s certainly what you get because the new D-Max is a pick-up that delivers it all. While tradesmen have loved these for years, improved looks and performance will be attractive to leisure buyers too.”
Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5

Excellent price and muscular looks
Lots of model variants to choose from
Five-year warranty and four-star crash rating


Have to pay extra for metallic paint
Dealer fitted accessories vary so search around

1. Exterior
With many of us using pick-ups for leisure as well as work, the D-Max now comes in a number of variants to suit.  The pick-up continues its tradition of looking super-tough but this latest model has fresher, car-like detailing. Check out the flared wheel arches; these are made of metal not plastic.  The headlights now follow the lines of the bodywork while the Isuzu logo is bigger on the front grille, all measures that help the D-Max stand out against its rivals. Wind noise is often high in pick-ups, but the D-Max’s new exterior is aerodynamic with a drag coefficient of just 0.47. This was achieved by the bods at the Japan Railway Technical Research Institute, the very same organisation responsible for designing the Bullet Train. Yukon and Utah variants gain side steps and roof bars respectively while the entry level variants come with practical steel wheels (because that’s what tradesmen said they wanted). The Eiger, Yukon and Utah models have alloy wheels. No doubt then, that the new D-Max can now compete with the likes of the Mitsubishi L200 and the VW Amarok in the looks department.
Our rating: 4

2. Interior
Isuzu has asked its customers what they want from a pickup – and many replied saying that even though it’s a working vehicle they still want somewhere nice to sit. As such, the D-Max comes in either Utility or Premium variants and this dictates what kind of interior you get. The Utility variants have cleanable fabric seats and a wipeable vinyl floor so the mud oil and dirt can be easily washed away. The Premium models – called Eiger, Yukon and Utah take the comfort level up higher with the Utah 4x4 Double Cab variant being the plushest. Even the most standard model has a very pleasing interior though. All variants feel spacious inside with front shoulder room boosted to 1,460mm. The 24-degree recline for the rear seat rack in the Extended and Double Cab models - plus some extra footwell space – ensures your passengers are comfortable too. 
Our rating: 4

3. Practicality
The D-Max is extremely practical – especially the Extended Cab variant which has fold out ‘wing’ doors. Compared to the previous model (called the Isuzu Rodeo) the A-pillar is now 100mm further forwards and is more raked – this combines with larger, wider-opening doors to provide easier access. Once seated, driver and front passenger get seats with extra bolstering. Space in the front is ample, while the rear seats have lots of legroom, and unlike the upright squabs in other pick-ups, this has a reclined one at 24 degrees meaning it will keep those seated in the rear much happier than in rival models. A large load bay with fold down rear tailgate is eay to load up – and very easy to clean out too.
Our rating: 5

4. Ride and handling
Isuzu UK felt confident enough to let us drive the new D-Max over some pretty taxing terrain at the Yarwell Off-Road Centre.  There’s a rotary dial mounted behind the gearstick which you turn to engage the four wheel drive. But turn the same dial round some more to select the low-range gears, and you can lift the clutch pedal up without putting any power on – and then just put both hands on the wheels and let the engine automatically crawl you up and over whatever you put in front of it. Particularly impressive was the downhill descent control – taken care of by automatic engine braking. Overall, the refinement levels are impressive with the engine only sounding slightly gritty at idle. There’s little road or wind noise when out on the tarmac. The suspension is first class, and there’s very little body roll, particularly impressive in a pick-up.
Our rating: 4

5. Performance

Isuzu is renowned for its diesel engines and the twin turbo 2.5-litre diesel motor in this offers a lovely 163PS. Maximum torque arrives at 1,400rpm which gives the 4x4 variants of the D-Max the ability to tow 3 tonnes. The twin turbos make a lovely noise when you really give it some revs and it returns lovely performance between 1500rpm and 3500rpm. In third gear it accelerates beautifully on country roads and the 6th cruising gear means you can sit at 2000rpm at 70mph on the motorway and achieve 38mpg.
Our rating: 5

6. Running costs
The biggest selling variant in the UK is expected to be the Yukon Double Cab 4x4 (from £19,499 CVOTR). This returns 38.2mpg on the combined cycle and emits just 194g/km of CO2, making it less expensive to run than the Mitsubishi L200 2.5 DI-D 4WD Double Cab – which gives less mpg (35.8mpg) and more CO2 (208g/km). The D-Max also has the best residual values in the pick-up class; even more than a VW Amarok would you believe.
Our rating: 5

7. Cargo area
A rigid or fabric cover is available as a dealer fitted option for the D-Max’s load bay. The single cab’s load bay measures 2,305mm long, 1,570mm wide and 440mm deep, making it bigger than the Great Wall Steed but not as deep. Extended cab and Double Cab variants have slightly shorter load bays, as expected. The 4x2 single cab version can carry 1,128kg of payload (1136kg for the 4x4 one) and the Extended and Double Cab variants have slightly lower payloads but they’re still above a tonne.
Our rating: 4

8. Safety

The D-Max has outstanding safety measures for a pick-up. It has a four star Euro NCAP crash rating and received 83% in the adult occupant category. ESC is fitted as standard for the first time ever on an Isuzu – perfect for stopping an unladen rear end skipping out on a tight bend or roundabout. If this does happen, the ESC applies the brakes to one or more wheels and reduces the engine power to ensure the D-Max stays where the driver’s pointing it. There’s ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) which is needed when carrying differing load weights and a Traction Control System (TCS). The D-Max has six airbags and the second-row passengers benefit from adjustable headrests which led to praise from NCAP to protect against whiplash.
Our rating: 5

9. Equipment
Standard equipment includes daytime running lights, air-con, 12V power points, front door cup holders, RDS radio/single CD with two door mounted speakers. Choose the Eiger 4x4 Double Cab and you get iPod/USB/Bluetooth, four speakers, alloy wheels, central locking, carpet floor trim and remote central locking. The Yukon gives you leather seats and a leather steering wheel, plus side steps. Finally the top end Utah has everything in the Yukon but comes with roof rails. Buyers of the Yukon and Utah can also choose to spend £900 extra on a Vision pack which is a Pioneer sat nav head unit with a rear view parking camera – ideal for hitching up to trailers. A large selection of accessories are lined up for release in 2013 so that buyers can really customise their D-Max to suit different trades such a hunting, building and farming D-Max.
Our rating: 5

10. Why buy?
“Because this is a competent all-rounder that now has the looks compete with the L200, Hilux, Amarok and Ford Ranger. If you want your pick-up to be great to drive, great to look at yet still have an air of ruggedness about it, then the D-Max should be at the top of your shortlist.”
Our rating: 4

OVERALL RATING: 4.5 out of 5

Our recommendations:

Best on a budget
> 4x4 single cab manual £16,249 CVOTR

Best-seller > YUKON Double Cab 4x4 manual £19,499 CVOTR

Blow the budget > UTAH Double Cab 4x4 automatic £21,999 CVOTR

Search for D-Max pick-ups in our classifieds.