REVIEW | Isuzu D-Max AT35 is a flawed but formidable double cab bakkie

17 January 2024 - 08:29
By Phuti Mpyane
Few double cab bakkies have the rugged all-terrain look of the Isuzu D-Max AT35.
Image: Supplied Few double cab bakkies have the rugged all-terrain look of the Isuzu D-Max AT35.

It would be remiss of me to not admit being crazy about the first-gen Isuzu D-Max Arctic Truck 35, circa 2019. It was an intimidating thing that grappled with popularity because the equally burly Ford Ranger Raptor was cushier and more technologically advanced.

The latest AT35 on test is based on the completely new D-Max V-Cross model. It’s now competitive with its modern Ford rival in some areas but still lags elsewhere, unfortunately. It’s still a wide-body behemoth but with shapelier and bolder hips, and thanks to a suspension jack-up it has 268mm of ground clearance perched on thick, 35-inch BF Goodrich rubber. 

Inside the revamped third-gen Isuzu D-Max cabin the model gains well-shaped leather-clad seats with the official Arctic Truck logos embroidered on the headrests. The latest D-Max is generously spacious and the surrounds pleasant enough to look and touch with a modicum of integrated new-age innovations that include a touchscreen main display, app control, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and more.

The usual caboodle of convenience systems are managed through the digital screen and some driving function buttons are located on the steering wheel. As part of new updates the AT35 introduces a new single-action switch function that disables the lane-keep assistance.

From here onwards, the height of the thing really props you up for great views ahead but discourages meaningful loading of large items in the loading bay. You’d just about need a forklift, and the large rear cowling adds style but helps shrink the load bin to a maximum 660kg allowed. The four-cylinder 3.0l diesel engine with 140kW and 450Nm, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, is unfazed by the added girth.

Leather-clad seats proclaim Arctic Truck prowess with embroidery on the headrests.
Image: PHUTI MPYANE Leather-clad seats proclaim Arctic Truck prowess with embroidery on the headrests.

It pulls strongly and doesn’t lumber about. Steering responses aren’t as precise due to the thick tyres, but it is effortless to swing around. A standard rear-facing camera helps with parking the AT35 but it remains a big ask to slot it into standard parking bays, especially basements with their thick pillars. 

If the AT35 has a major flaw, it’s the stiff ride quality that is jarring on less than perfect roads. It’s unforgiving on corrugated gravel and is happiest driving on smooth tarmac roads, averaging 8.9l/100km in the process. It's got adaptive cruise control too, and no discernible roar coming from its thick tyres. 

Another bugbear is the asking price. At R1,159,900 it’s only R24K less than its most obvious rival, the much more powerful Ford Ranger Raptor. The Volkswagen Amarok PanAmericana with its sensational comfort is available for R31k less than the Isuzu, and both these rival cousins come with more dazzling interior tech and larger 3.0l six-cylinder motors mated to 10-speed auto boxes. They are more accomplished drives than the AT35.

Despite the lack of outright oomph and cream compared with the Ranger and Amarok, the Isuzu gets points for using less fuel on average, and it can tow a braked trailer of up to 3,500kg. This figure matches the Amarok’s but beats the Raptor’s 2,500kg rating.

When it comes to off-road credentials the Ronnie Coleman of bakkies is unquestionably gifted. We used the strengthened chassis, 4x4 with low-range gearing, diff-locks and Bilstein damper-equipped suspension to make easy meat out of local mountains at the AT35’s launch event in 2023. 

Isuzu South Africa said this model will be available in limited numbers annually, and if the hard suspension and price don’t put you off then the Isuzu D-Max AT35 is even more handsome this time around, especially with the newly introduced palette of colours. Islay Gray and Biarritz Blue are the options I’d strongly recommend. This is still a very likable bakkie with its King Kong styling.

The height makes it less workhorse and more adventurist dream.
Image: PHUTI MPYANE The height makes it less workhorse and more adventurist dream.

Tech specs


Type: Four-cylinder turbo diesel

Capacity: 3.0l 

Power: 140kW

Torque: 450Nm


Type: Six-speed auto


Type: Selectable 4WD, low range transfer case


Top speed: N/A

0-100km/h: N/A

Fuel Consumption: 8.5l/100km (claimed), 8.9l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 224g/km


High beam assist, 35-inch wheels, leather seats, surround park distance control, adaptive cruise control, daytime driving running lights, auto on/off lights, rain sensor wipers, climate control, USB A&C ports, touchscreen infotainment system, lane-keeping assist, seven airbags, traffic sign recognition, emergency lane keeping, touchscreen interface with Bluetooth connectivity, Android Auto and Apply CarPlay, rear camera, parking sensors, dual zone climate control, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking.


Warranty: Five years/120,000km

Service plan: Five years/90,000km

Price: R1,159,900

Lease*: R25,750 per month

* at 11.75% interest over 60 months no deposit

Isuzu D-Max AT35 4x4

WE LIKE: Looks, off-road prowess, fuel consumption

WE DISLIKE: Hard suspension

VERDICT: Hugely appealing but compromised

MOTOR NEWS star rating


Performance ****

Economy *****

Ride ***

Handling ****

Safety *****

Value for money ***

Overall ****

The competition

Ford Ranger 3.0 V6 EcoBoost Raptor, 293kW/583Nm — R1,184,100

Volkswagen Amarok 3.0TDI V6 PanAmericana 4Motion, 140kW/450Nm — R1,128,400