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Isuzu D-Max test drive

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    The Isuzu D-Max is not super-refined but is comfortable and competent as a town and country machine. Photo Gallery

  • The Isuzu D-max undercuts almost all of its competitors by thousands.
  • The D-Max is powered by the much-trusted 3.0-litre, turbocharged diesel.
  • The five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions are special low-friction designs to help save fuel and run quietly.

Isuzu's D-Max light truck has a no-nonsense approach.

It was a brave move by Isuzu Ute to launch the newest motor vehicle brand in October last year.

But it has competitively priced the D-Max range, undercutting almost all of its competition by thousands of dollars except for the SsangYong and Mahindra variants.

Sales are trickling in as buyers slowly become aware of the brand.

As of the end of March, Isuzu had sold 576 D-Maxs for the year for a 1.5 per cent share of the market. The company says sales have grown each month since the launch with March sales up 47 per cent on February.

The test vehicle was the $38,700 D-Max LS-M 4x4 crew-cab, which improves on the Toyota HiLux SR dual-cab diesel's standard equipment list with ABS, air, cruise control, one-inch-wider wheels, four extra speakers, projector-lens headlights, a roof console and a three-tonne towing capacity.

Other goodies include cruise control, wheel arch flares, alloy wheels, leather steering wheel rim and shift knob, electro-luminescent instrument cluster, trip computer and projector headlights and front fog lights.

Both the five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions are special low-friction designs to help save fuel and run quietly.

Shifting between 2WD to 4WD High Range is done on the fly at speeds of up to 100 km/h with the simple in-dash push button Drive Mode Selection panel.

There’s no doubt the D-Max is a workhorse, no flash filly or showjumping stallion.

It’s been designed to do the hard yards, whether it’s on a building site or out on the farm.

It’s powered by the much-trusted 3.0-litre, turbocharged diesel and the test vehicle was the sensible four-wheel drive dual cab ute.

It is practical and offers a variety of functions from family wagon to workhorse to plaything.

It rides comfortably and handles reasonably too.

The design, inside and out, is clean and tidy. The cabin does not offer quite as much elbow room, nor as many clever storage spots, as more modern Toyota HiLux, Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton models, yet the D-Max has a good driving position with clear instruments and decent ergonomics.

There is airconditioning, a six-speaker stereo system and cruise control. Back seat leg and headroom are acceptable but best for smaller people, such as children, on longer trips.

Isuzu's diesel does not rev as high as some rivals. Peak power of 120kW comes at 3600rpm and peak torque between 1800rpm and 2800rpm.

Highway cruising should realise 8 litres per 100km, stop-and-start work around the town will see that lift to just below 10.


The Isuzu is not super-refined but is comfortable and competent as a town and country machine.

It comes into its own by carrying fridges and the like, weekend runs to the rubbish tip or highway transport capable of dealing with all types of road conditions.

The ride is firm and when unladen the rear end can crash and skip through potholes.

It adequately tackled mountains roads, although the steering is a bit ponderous and needed a lot of turning through the twisty bits.

My off-road testing was across Black Mountain Rd between Kuranda and Julatten in North Queensland, but I was disappointed.

After all the recent rain I was expecting some wet and slippery conditions but apart from some big puddles the journey was uneventful.

Not once did I have to engage 4WD with the gutsy turbo-diesel easily climbing up and over a couple of steeper sections of the track.

The D-Max was a tidy and clean handler on the gravel sections and even the corrugations failed to upset its progress.

The Isuzu is an easy machine to live with around town too and relatively straight forward to park and manoeuvre around city streets.

The Isuzu D-max LS-M is a good-value proposition.

It might not have as much cabin space or the extra refinement of newer-designed rivals, but the Isuzu is competent, robust and a no-bullshit working light truck.

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 10 comments

  • Can somebody help me? How far can the new Isuzu D-MAX run with one full tank? Thank you.

    Siegfred Balao-as of Baguio City, Philippines Posted on 12 October 2010 8:46pm
  • Can someone tell me what the tows like? Have just bought a bob cat and looking for a vehicle that can handle towing it.

    CuriousBuyer of Central Queensland Posted on 14 April 2010 4:26pm
  • I have had a D-Max LS-M for 3 months and have a great time driving it. The things I would change are instilling a diff locking system, and the option of a snorkel. It does have great fuel economy, but I would lke to know how the testers get those impressive numbers

    Andrew of Darwin NT Posted on 11 April 2010 12:45am
  • I have just bought a second hand one with 64,000 on the clock. I have traded in my old 03 Rodeo and so far so good. I just love the amount of power the new truck has got over the older one.

    Stevo Posted on 01 April 2010 10:41pm
  • I’ve just bought the top of the range one… after driving Landcruisers for years and I love it! Living in the North West of Australia this car handles everything I have put in front of it!

    Dorkascorkas of Pilbara, NWA Posted on 18 March 2010 8:07pm
  • I have only heard of good things about this veihcle and I am now looking for a used one….no luck cause no one seems to want to sell theirs!

    Brenda Willis of Darwin Posted on 25 February 2010 10:16pm
  • I drive a D-max in Thailand, where they are known as the market lady’s car, carrying 2 tonnes of pineapple’s, cement or schoolkids. They are unbreakable, and I am starting to love the the thing after 4 years!

    I also have a Toyota Vigo, but prefer the robuster handling of Dmax, apart from the gearbox which is a bit mushy, but since i drive long distances, not an issue.

    berni of bangkok Posted on 05 December 2009 10:46pm
  • could anyone tell me the precise difference between the d max & the colarado

    darryl ries of devonport tasmania Posted on 05 November 2009 10:42pm
  • reading this in conjuction with 4wd actions cy\urrent magazine is an intersting read which oputs this slightly ahead of the colorado and well ahead of hilux, navara, triton and BT 50 and for a few thousand left over to fit out with bar work snorkel and serious rubber it seems like a good proposition indeed

    Osher G of Melbourne Posted on 05 May 2009 3:44pm
  • A Holden Colorado by any other name would drive as sweet?

    David Jory of Melbourne Posted on 05 May 2009 1:20pm
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