Chuck a tonne in the back of your new one tonne ute and chances are the towing capacity drops right away. They can't take the weight in the tub and through the tow bar at the same time. Not the case with the new Isuzu D-Max ute which can handle up to about 950kg in the load tub and still pull its 3.0-tonne towing capacity - without spilling its guts all over the road.
Prices for the base cab chassis 2WD start at $27,200. Our test vehicle was $51,700. The Isuzu D-Max ute is functional and in the LS Terrain model's case, well equipped complete with a large touch screen and satnav (featuring 10,000 off road destinations), reverse camera, decent audio and Bluetooth connectivity.\
We really appreciated the fine particle pollen filter and multi-media connectivity but the seats are a bit flat and the embossed leather tacky. The test vehicle had hill ascent and descent assist as well as other driving aids. A full size spare is supplied on all models.
The ability to tow a decent amount while loaded up is because the D-Max is unashamedly a work truck right down to its ‘truck' engine and heavy duty transmission from Japanese manufacturer Aisin. It's actually the same tranny as Toyota uses in the 200-Series Landcruiser modified to suit the D-Max.
The 3.0-litre four pot turbodiesel Isuzu engine is built for light commercial vehicle application and is infact a revised version of the previous unit achieving some 130kW/380Nm output, the latter from 1800rpm. The top of the range test vehicle, an LS-Terrain Crew Cab five-speed auto had selectable 4WD as well as sequential shift mode, not that you need it, this is a truck after all.
The engine has a variable geometry turbo (VGT) and other refinements to improve efficiency and performance. D-Max has a double wishbone front suspension with gas dampers and leaf rear springs while the front diff' is independent the rear is a rigid, old-school set-up - just what's required for a ute.
Terrain Command 4x4 system offers 2WD and 4WD high and low range - selected by a dial on the centre console (at up to 100kmh).
This is a new model from Isuzu featuring a stylish new body and new chassis. It's a body-on-chassis design as all utes should be but in this case, that ladder features numerous cross members for extra rigidity and strength in arduous conditions.
It also has a longer wheelbase than before to provide additional cabin space. Though similar to Holden's Colorado ute to look at, the D-Max is actually a more handsome beast thanks to its different frontal treatment and other tweaks to the sheet metal and trims. Comes off a different assembly line too, so calling the D-Max a rebadged Colorado is way off base. It's almost completely different.
Inside is best described as serviceable with mostly hard plastic surfaces styled to look acceptable.
On the road, the D-Max is surprisingly smooth and quiet, much better than the Colorado. It has plenty of performance through a wide engine rev range and can achieve relatively frugal economy rated around the 8.0-litre/100km mark.
The auto seems well in tune with the engine's outputs because there's never a hole when you push the accelerator. It has a softish ride and is suitably comfortable on and off road but the turning circle is big. There's plenty of room in the big cabin for five and access is helped by large doors and door openings.
Loading the beast is easy too - not too high and the tub is large - certainly for two trail bikes and a mountain of spares. Goes almost anywhere off-road spoiled only by the stability control system that can't be turned off in 4H.
We mostly like the D-Max apart from the cheap interior and large turning circle. It's a ridgey-didge light commercial vehicle up for pretty much anything you throw at it.
Isuzu D-Max LS-T
Price: from $51,700
Warranty: 5yrs/130,000km with 5yr roadside assist
Service intervals: Six months/10,000km
Safety: Six airbas, ABS, TC, ESC, hill ascent/descent
Engine: 3.0-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder, 130kW/363Nm
Transmission: Five-speed auto, 4x4
Dimensions: 5.3m (L), 1.86m (W), 1.8m (H)
Thirst: 8.1L/100km (diesel), 214g/km CO2