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Isuzu D-Max review

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    Isuzu Ute may have to do some more work to win the market it wants here Photo Gallery

Graham 'Smithy' Smith road tests and reviews the Isuzu D-Max Ute and thinks it has a long way to go

Isuzu Ute has made steady if unspectacular progress since it debuted in this market a year ago, recently recording its 2000th local sale. But you can't help thinking it has a long way to go to establish the strong presence in this country it wants.

As a one-model brand it is likely struggle to attract customers to its showrooms, particularly when its only model isn't terribly new. The Isuzu D-Max ute is quite a decent vehicle, but there's nothing about it that screams ‘buy me’ if the recent drive of an LS-M four- wheel drive dual-cab is anything to go by.

For starters the D-Max is in essence the Rodeo once sold by Holden under that badge, so there's nothing really new to get ute buyers all worked up. In a corporate divorce Holden quit the Rodeo and took up the Colorado, a very similar vehicle also made in Thailand.


The LS-M D-Max carries a sticker price of $40,600 and has a three- year/100,000 km warranty. But only those who particularly liked the Rodeo and knew the D-Max was the same vehicle might choose to seek out an Isuzu Ute dealer. Based on the test drive Isuzu Ute needs a new model to get noticed, the current D-Max, while competent, feels a little dated by comparison to other four-wheel drive utes on the market.

Fit-out and equipment

We spent a week in an LS-M, which is the same as the range- topping LS-U but without the bling that comes with the 'U'. Painted silver-grey with plain black bumpers, guard flares, mirrors and door handles it looked dull and dreary. The feeling carried through to the interior, which was awash with grey plastics and fabrics that created a rather sombre feeling even though there were also some silver highlights.

In general the build quality seemed of a decent standard, but at the same time the interior fit and finish was a little off the mark expected of a Japanese-designed, Thai-produced ute in this market. Exposed screws had surface rust; some of the dash fittings simply didn't fit very well.

It had plenty of standard features, like air, cruise, leather wheel and shift knob, trip computer, CD/MP3 sound, power windows and mirrors, but they were all contained in a rather dull package.


Isuzu offers just the one engine, a surprisingly economical 3.0-litre double overhead camshaft common rail injection turbo diesel four that peaks with 120 kW at 3600 revs and 360 Nm from 1800-2800 revs when hooked to a manual gearbox. That manual is a five-speed unit with a relatively long throw shift and long clutch travel.

The test ute had four-wheel drive, which offered the choice of two- wheel drive for regular driving, and high and low-range four-wheel drive. Selecting the wanted drive was simply done by pressing the appropriate button on the dash.


On the road it was smooth and steady, nothing to write home about, but it got the job done.
Isuzu Ute claims the LS four-wheel drive dual-cab manual would do a combined 8.4 L/100 km and that impressive figure was backed up by Big Wheels when the test ute got 8.5 L/100 km on test.

Like all Japanese-designed Thai-built utes of its type the Isuzu Ute rides on a separate ladder chassis, with torsion bar independent front suspension and leaf spring rear. Steering is power-assisted rack-and-pinion and brakes are a combination of front disc and rear drum, with the assistance of ABS antilock and EBD brakeforce distribution electronics. More safety is delivered through the dual-front airbags.

Tradies most often tow a trailer behind their work utes, and the D- Max, with its three-tonne towing capacity will handle their trailers with ease.

Isuzu D-Max LS-M

Price: from $40,600
Engine: 3.0-litre four-cylinder common-rail injection turbodiesel
Power: 120kW at 3600rpm
Torque: 360Nm at 1800-2800 revs (manual)
Transmission: five-speed manual, all-wheel drive

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 14 comments

  • Hi all, I have had my d max lsu manual for over 12 months and done 36,000km so far, I have to admit I have never used four wheel drive yet, but I travel to Darwin from Alice Springs every four to six weeks and sit on 120 to 140 and tow a 5 meter tandem trailer sometimes with building materials on it usually about 1.5 ton. It loves it, pulls unreal for what it is. Fuel consumtion varies trip to trip, best was travelling at night no trailer 500km on 45 litres sitting on 110 kph. I can pass road trains with ease no need to change back a gear just stick the foot down and its done. Apart from the a/c freezing up and not working in the tropics, which Isuzu dont seem to be able to fix I love it. I fitted a Chipit chip to it at 10,000km that made a big difference.
    Chris Alice Springs

    Chris Schembri of Alice Springs Posted on 26 January 2013 2:41pm
  • My sx dual cab got a steel razorback canopy, arb bars front & rear,cooper at3’s & tows a 2.5 tonne Trakmaster van off bitumen everywhere I want to go. Economical, comfortable, unstressed… it !

    Iain MacGregor of warrnambool Posted on 24 January 2013 8:24pm
  • Had my LSM Isuzu for 2 months now. Only 3000km so far but would pull the heads off the two Hilux utes I drove prior to purchase. Love it!!

    Peter Allott of torbanlea qld Posted on 14 April 2012 9:25pm
  • Hi, i have a 2011 ls 4x4 dual cab, have done 14,000 k since october including a trip to sydney, drove 10 hours and found it very comfortable. consistantly returns 8k/litre with my tools in the back and at 110k on the freeway, had a hz holden on a car trailer and towed from moogera to tweed no problems and still only used 9.5 litre/100, tough ute great fuel economy, comfortable and good to drive, recommend it to anyone.

    bc of tweed Posted on 01 March 2012 9:17pm
  • I drove my LSU from Tewantin Qld, to Sydney’s Western suburbs and clocked 10.3 ltrs to 100 klms, sticking to all speed limits mostly! Very impressed with this 4x4 all round.

    tony deathe of Queensland Posted on 08 August 2011 5:34pm
  • The peak torque (360 Nm) of the DMax “3.0 iTEQ VGS Turbo” is widely-distributed that’s why it’s heaps better and way more usuable than the narrow peak torque breadth of the Navara and Triton. It even looks better than the two, especially than the egg-shaped Triton that looks like a hybrid between the Transformers and an egg….

    JFS of Philippines Posted on 31 July 2011 3:03am
  • I too owned a Navara d22 3 litre, problems started to develop with the turbo leaking exhaust fumes into the engine bay and my injectors were shot, i ended up buying a 4x2 crew cab LS ute, didn’t need a 4x4 anymore and have not looked back… i had a minor problem with the drivers seat squeaking but that’s now fixed. These cars are great and Isuzu have made a great move separating themselves from Holden to give themselves a wrap for being a tough ute, 800klms to a tank around town. Very happy. Years of Trouble free motoring ahead!

    RK Posted on 05 June 2011 10:01am
  • Test drove one yesterday and loved it!  I ordered a red LS U DMax today.. Nearly ordered the Navara D40, sorry Nissan..

    John K of Melbourne Posted on 12 May 2011 9:31pm
  • I’ve had my D-max LS-M since January 2011 and love it. It has heaps of power is great on fuel, I’m getting around 700 ks from a tank towing a tool trailer around the suburbs. I would highly recommend a D-Max .

    Brent Milton of melbourne Posted on 17 April 2011 10:29pm
  • We bought a D-max after having a Navara that did nothing but break down. Im a mu with 2 kids, so its used as a shopping trolley and kids taxi during the week, and then we take it offroad as a family on weekends! Its the best car we’ve owned!! So bloody good on fuel, I do alot of in town kms and I get 610km to a tank putting around, stopping and starting. On the open road its even better!! Its such a tough little workhorse and I couldn’t ask for a better ute!!  Definitely recommend one to those who don’t need all the bells and whistles.

    Riss K of Boulder WA Posted on 17 November 2010 11:54pm
  • Isuzu dmax is by far the best ute on the market,anyway what would graham smith know, I tow 2.5 tonne daily and this ute is as gutsy as they seems to enjoy towing!!  No way would i swap this for a 55 grand hilux!

    d jones of illawarra Posted on 09 November 2010 7:59pm
  • Had my Isuzu for 18 months, done 51,000 ks, 12,000 ks off road including Gunbarrel, Tanami, Donahue and plenty highway. No problems, love it. Good on juice and love the low gearing and grunt off road. Might not be a show pony but off road this work horse definitely shows the ponies a thing or two. I would have another.

    Bernard Cannon of Mackay Posted on 15 October 2010 10:14pm
  • Have just bought a second hand one - 18 months old, 18500km.  LS-U.  Have done a lot of research and also yet to hear a bad word about them.  Have only had mine for a month but love it.  Almost bought a new Navara D40, now glad I didn’t!!!  I regularly tow a 4 horse float, so usually about 2500 - 2800kgs, with plenty of power and most of all good fuel economy.  I did get the suspension upgraded though. Couldn’t find one in Brisbane, so found one in Melbourne, flew to Melbourne to look at it and drove it home.  Love my D-Max.

    Lori Hicks of Brisbane Posted on 09 October 2010 12:53am
  • I’ve just ordered the LS U and I’m so impressed with it. I’m yet to hear a bad word about it. Can’t wait to take it outback for a run!

    Charles Clarke of Goombungee 4354 Posted on 25 May 2010 10:34pm
Read all 14 comments

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