LONG-TERM UPDATE 1 | Isuzu D-Max impresses with space and comfort
A few weeks into our extended test of Isuzu’s new D-Max 3.0 Ddi LSE 4x4, and I want to talk about space.
It is one of the roomiest double cabs in the league, with stretch-out legroom and rear-seat backrests that aren’t angled too upright, making for a comfortable family bakkie that’s made to take on long trips. It also has generous oddments space, including no less than three cubbyholes: two glove holders in front of the front passenger, and one on top of the dash. Add to that a lidded storage box between the front seats that doubles as an armrest, as well as front door pockets, and there is a formidable array of hidey holes inside Isuzu’s new bakkie.
Manufactured in Gqeberha, the latest D-Max has become more comfortable and hi-tech without losing the hard-working credentials for which its forerunners became known. The styling is decidedly sleeker than before and uses smart-looking LED lights, and the test car really pops in its desert orange colour.
The Isuzu D-Max and its KB predecessor have always been about good utility, and that hasn’t changed in the new-generation version. The load box has come in handy for cycling expeditions and picnics, but we’ve yet to load it up with any real weight to properly test the 995kg payload.
We plan to do so soon, which will also give us the chance to see how a heavier load affects the bakkie’s ride and handling. The wheelbase has been extended by 30mm, which has improved both legroom and ride quality compared with its predecessor.
Unladen, the D-Max has a reasonably comfortable ride and doesn’t jitter as badly as some peers (we’re looking at you, Mazda BT-50) though it still doesn’t tackle bumps as smoothly as the market-leading Toyota Hilux.
This respectable ride quality, coupled with its improved sophistication, has edged the D-Max double cab more into the “lifestyle vehicle” realms where it’s become a viable alternative to an SUV. Aside from its gruff-sounding diesel engine, which is perhaps more acoustically suited to a mielie field than a jaunt through the suburbs, the Isuzu is quite refined. Wind and road noise are well muted inside the cabin, allowing occupants to speak without raising their voices.
Isuzu has also lifted its game in the look and feel of the interior. The high-specced LSE model has a car-like ambience with premium soft-touch materials, leather seats and a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It also has digital DAB audio, which means you can listen to your favourite regional radio stations even when you leave the province — although the coverage isn’t yet national.
There are thoughtful touches that make life easier inside this bakkie, including a passive entry start system where the key stays in your pocket and the doors are opened by touch. The rear doors have been lengthened for easier access to the back seats.
The D-Max rides into a new era with safety features such as a blind-spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert, the latter warning of approaching vehicles when reversing out of a driveway or parking bay.
The Isuzu also comes with front and rear parking sensors and a rear camera, which take some of the sweat out of guiding this big bakkie into tight bays. It really is huge, and even with digital assistance it sometimes takes a few manoeuvres to park this hefalump properly.
At least it isn’t a sweat to drive. The steering is very light (perhaps too much so for those who prefer more “feel”), which makes easy work of zigzagging the bulky bakkie through traffic, and it’s supported by a satisfyingly responsive engine.
What the gravel-voiced four-cylinder diesel lacks in acoustic appeal it makes up for in performance and economy. The 3.0l turbo diesel dispatches 140kW and 450Nm with an easygoing nature, ensuring fairly swift pull-offs without excessive turbo lag, and brisk overtakes.
On the economy front it’s averaging a respectable 9.4l/100km on the urban cycle — not bad for such a big beastie, and an important consideration with record high fuel prices.
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