From £15,7496
Isuzu treats its rough-and-ready D-Max pick-up truck to a new engine, revised looks, better hauling ability and more equipment

Our Verdict

Isuzu D-Max

The Isuzu D-Max is starting to show its age; after a drive in the range-topping Blade version, is it still competitive?

20 April 2017

What is it?

Is it surprising that we're seeing more pick-up trucks on our roads? Equally, is it that remarkable that behind their (usually tinted) windows often sit families? It isn't, because SUVs are popular (gasp), and if you can persuade your boss to provide a pick-up for work use, the monthly company car tax rates are very low.

That makes pick-ups like this Isuzu D-Max Blade extremely appealing. For instance, a 20% taxpayer will lose just £54 of their pay packet each month to have a pick-up on the drive, and not just the D-Max - that goes for any of them. Indeed, the Mitsubishi L200, Nissan Navara and Volkswagen Amarok all demand the same. And, because pick-ups are classed as light commercial vehicles (LCVs), the boss can claim back their VAT.

But to make sure it is a D-Max on your drive, Isuzu has revised the model for 2017. A four-cylinder 1.9-litre diesel engine replaces the old four-pot 2.5 of before, there's a refreshed design outside and improved interior trim and infotainment, while the Japanese firm has also been more generous with standard equipment and payload weights across the D-Max's five trim levels.

What's it like?

There are plenty of incentives to own a pick-up, then, but what's the catch? Ah, well, the catch is putting up with distinctly average ride and handling, which goes for pretty much all of them on sale today. The Navara has the most advanced rear suspension of its class, getting a five-link set-up (versus the usual leaf springs) and it is the best-riding pick-up going, but it still gets nowhere near a conventional large SUV for comfort or dynamics.

The D-Max does get leaf springs, and the range-topping Blade model we're driving here has 18in alloy wheels, too. As such, it feels constantly unsettled on the move without a load. Fill its loadbay, though, and it manages to keep much of the awkward verticle movements at bay, despite still being thrown off by ruts and potholes. However, these characteristics are much the same as any of its leaf-sprung rivals. 

It seems barely worth mentioning that a D-Max's handling is no more impressive: its steering is heavy and slow, it leans a long way and is easily disturbed by mid-corner road scars. But again, really only the Navara does a better job of it, and even then not a truly decent one. Where the D-Max does lag behind, though, is refinement. Its engine is raucous under load and road and wind noise are more prominent at motorway speeds than in the Navara or Amarok

In going from 2.5 to 1.9-litres, the D-Max's diesel engine loses none of its 163bhp, but does have slightly less torque. However, emissions are reduced by up to 37g/km, and fuel economy by up to 8.4mpg, while the new engine is also compliant with Euro 6 emissions regulations. It isn't however, any more engaging - and Isuzu doesn't provide a 0-62mph figure, which all but confirms how important straight-line performance is to buyers. The six-speed auto 'box's remarkably laid back nature further confirms that suspicion. 

Of much more consequence for most buyers are the carrying and towing figures a pick-up achieves, and in this sense, the D-Max holds its own. It'll tow up to 3500kg of braked trailer, which is equal to the Navara, Amarok and Ford Ranger, and this Blade automatic will haul an improved 1101kg in its loadbay, which is slightly more than a range-topping auto double cab Navara or Ranger will, if marginally behind the equivalent Amarok. All will fit a standard Eurpalopean pallet onboard. 

Inside, four adults will sit in good space in the Blade's double-cab body. The driver, however, will find their seat set too high and the rake-only steering adjustment unsatisfactory. Quality is enhanced over lesser models with leather seats and piano black trim touches, but there's absolutely no doubt that the Navara and Amarok's manufacturers do a better job on perceived quality.

Isuzu's new 9.0in colour touchscreen infotainment system is more recommendable, although restricted to Blade models. It's bright, responsive, easy to navigate and gets built-in sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring as standard, which is a pretty impressive set of attributes for this class. 

Should I buy one?

Compare the price of this range-topping double-cab Blade to similarly powerful, equally well-trimmed, double-cab Navara and the D-Max looks pricey, although it is usefully cheaper than the equivalent Amarok. With heated leather seats, a DAB radio, Bluetooth, sat-nav, keyless entry and start, climate control and front parking sensors and a rear camera, the D-Max's standard equipment list is up there with either rival. What's more, it beats both of said peers with its standard five-year, 125,000-mile warranty and 12,000-mile/24-month service intervals.

However, given that the majority of pick-up drivers are company drivers, to whom list price matters little, the D-Max still isn't one of our top choices. It's a more rounded pick-up than before, no question, but its rivals continue to offer more comfort, refinement and quality while carrying and towing similar amounts for the same monthly fee.

Isuzu D-Max Blade auto

Location Hampshire; On sale Now; Price £33,541 Engine 4cyls in line, 1898cc, turbocharged diesel; Power 163bhp at 3600rpm; Torque 266lb ft at 2000-2500rpm Gearbox 6-spd automatic; Kerbweight 1949kg; 0-62mph n/a; Top speed 112mph; Economy 36.2mpg (combined); CO2 205g/km Rivals Nissan Navara, Volkswagen Amarok

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Comments
5

289

20 April 2017
Small point.....Actually the Isuzu was the first of the modern pick-ups to be able to pull 3500kg a few years back. So this is not new.
Up until then only the LWB Defender was rated thus.

21 April 2017
Your credibility is in tatters if you believe the Nissan Navara has an INDEPENDENT five link rear suspension. It still features a SOLID rear axle which is attached by five links. While the coil spring arrangement marginally improves ride and handling, those with more hands-on experience than your ill-informed reporter agree that the leaf-sprung Amarok is still the best-riding (in relative terms) of the pick-ups. The fact that Nissan's carefully cultivated propaganda about the Navara's rear axle design fooled a publication of Autocar's stature is worrying indeed.

21 April 2017
Apologies for the typo - Bavara is not an indication that BMW is about to badge a Navara

21 April 2017
...than offering tax advice?
With regards to the VAT being reclaimable on a pickup please note the following: "provided the business is VAT registered the company can reclaim all the VAT if there is only incidental private use. The VAT is proportionately reduced by your private mileage percentage." If the vehicle is used as a car it is liable to the same Benefit In Kind charges as a car. Whilst many choose to ignore these stipulations with apparent impunity surely Autocar shouldn't condone the avoidance of the payment of tax of whatever type?

21 April 2017
A friend of mine pointed me towards this review as he knew I had already driven the new D Max this week. (Our company is looking to replace some of our current pick ups) A pick up by its very nature is a work vehicle with increasing levels of car like features & refinements that we only dreamt of even 10 years ago, that said they still have to do a job of work for many off us. So to keep comparing to suvs etc is missing the mark completely. We have tested the Nissan Navarra with its so called "most advanced suspension in its class" & as soon as we put a load in the rear it became unstable, then when we towed with it even more so. The set up is way too soft. Nissans durability is also questionable given the recent chassis corrosion issues of the previous model. I have to say the new D Max I drove had very well weighted steering & nimble handling (for a pick up) which in my opionion coould not be described as anything like "Heavy & slow" neither did we find the engine noisey, far from it -its much quieter than our current trucks. In fact it's as if the review is of a different vehicle to the one I drove!

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