The Isuzu D-Max, which has been in production since 2002, has had a complicated, meandering history. The pickup truck was first sold here as a rebadged, third-generation Holden Rodeo. At the same time, in other parts of the world, the same vehicle was known as the D-Max and the Chevrolet Colorado.
The first-generation D-Max had a typical hard-edged utility look about it, with strong lines, rounded corners, functional block shaped headlights, and a large, uneventful front grille. It was very much a commercial truck for carrying things. It was built in two- or four-wheel drive and available in various styles, such as single cab, crew cab, space cab, and a number of flat-bed designs.
In 2008, the Isuzu was sold alongside the nearly identical Holden Rodeo as an Isuzu ute, the only difference being the positioning of the A-Pillar. When Isuzu and GM separated in 2008, the Rodeo had to be renamed and so it became the Holden Colorado, while Isuzu retained the 4x4 as the D-Max.
The second generation brought out in 2012 was much more family friendly, and although still very much designed as a commercial vehicle, it should still appeal to 4x4 lovers. The new body style design gives the D-Max an aggressive front, a more carefully thought out grille and headlight cluster, along with an overall aesthetically appealing shape. The new design also came with improved technology, giving better performance, fuel economy, and off-road stability.
The Isuzu is no soft-roader; it’s built around a commercial, durable frame, and it uses the same sturdy engines and transmission as the D-Max. It is powered by either a 2.4L petrol or 3.0L 4-cylinder turbo diesel, which kicks out 130kW of power and has a torque rating of 380Nm. There is a choice of transmission between a 5-speed manual or automatic.
Fuel consumption is down on the previous generation, with the D-Max now capable of achieving 8.8L/100km while producing 220g/km of emissions.
The ute market has attracted a lot of recreational users over recent years and to tap into this, Isuzu has gone to great lengths to make the D-Max a more comfortable, quiet drive. It is also equally at home out in the bush or cruising up the main drag. A tight turning circle makes it easy to park up, and solid suspension absorbs the bumps of a rough drive.
The cab has a typical ute high position, giving plenty of vision, and it is also generous with leg and headroom. It does come well equipped for storage; the rear tray, depending on the body style you take, is spacious, and throughout the cab, there are lots of places to keep things safe.
There are three trim levels with the D-Max: the entry-level ES, followed by the mid-range SX range, and the top-level LS vehicles. They are available in either two-wheel or four-wheel drive and combinations of single or crew cab formats.
The entry-level SX comes with anti-lock braking system (ABS), brake assist, limited slip differential, electronic stability, and traction control. Inside the cab there is air-con, 6 airbags, a touchscreen system, CD player, Bluetooth, and USB ports. The mid-range SX, as standard, has ABS, cruise control, 4 extra speakers, roof console, and projector headlights. The LS with all the bells and whistles, comes with larger alloys, leather interior, satnav, and a parking camera.
Isuzu, with the new range of D-Max, has definitely put their ute firmly into the 4x4 class. It is not a class leader but most definitely a good mid-range vehicle. It falls short on things like internal finishing and only achieving a four-star ANCAP rating, where the likes of the Ford Ranger XLT and Mazda BT-50 are five-star rated.
The others it takes on include its cousin the Holden Colorado, Toyota HiLux SR, Volkswagen Amarok, and Mitsubishi Triton. It fares well on performance and good on fuel economy. The likes of the BT-50 and the Amarok have larger trays, and the Mazda had a more refined interior, but overall, the Isuzu is not a bad ute. It is more than capable of leaving the highway and tackling the rough stuff.
The first-generation models are more of a commercial ute, built for lifting and shifting, but the later model has more of a family off-road feel. Isuzu has taken note of the market and responded somewhat, although there is still some room for improvement.