Isuzu D-Max LS 2012 Review

13 February 2012
, CarsGuide
Isuzu D-Max LS 2012 Review
The D-Max is a solid workmate and good value against the competition

Some utes don't bother pretending to be show ponies. They're for packing up and working, much like the Aussie stock-horse - it might not be as fast and elegant as a thoroughbred, but it's not going to shy at the sight of a loaded toolbox either.

And that's the frankly honest charm of the Isuzu D-Max range. If the face is familiar, it's probably because it's long been a Holden Colorado (formerly the Rodeo) under another name.

The current ute was co-developed with GM, but later this year we'll see a new D-Max generation completely developed by Isuzu.


The rear-wheel drive D-Max LS dual-cab auto turbodiesel starts from $38,600 with all the basic equipment: airconditioning, cruise control, CD audio and alloy wheels, with a leather-trimmed steering wheel the only bid for luxe touch.

Most people looking at this level will be pricing it against others with a similar 3000kg tow capacity and close to a tonne payload, and the first obvious contender is the clone Holden Colorado, which is pretty much identical but asks $12,000 more to sport the lion logo on the grille, and like the D-Max is only three-star crash rated.

Oddly, despite being overpriced by comparison, the Holden outsells the Isuzu - suggesting that buyers don't realise it's the same vehicle, or don't see past the badge. Sending in the other leading clones - Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 - will get you 3350kg tow capacity from the shared 3.2-litre turbodiesel and six-speed automatic.

But the Mazda is about $4000 more than the Isuzu, and the Ford another $500 on top of that. However it's worth considering that the extra spend brings you two more crash safety stars and a better equipment list.


The D-Max is not going to win any catwalk contests, but it's got an honest no-nonsense appeal. It's built on a tough ladder-frame chassis, with a basic four-door cabin that has a hard-wearing hose-out feel, but offers fairly practical space for legs and heads.

The seats are firm and flat, hard plastics are everywhere, and there's little in the way of high-end gizmos. But with the practical packaging and thought given to storage spaces -including a fold-down rear seat that lets you stash some items out of sight -- it's a case of function being more important than frills.


It carries a 3.2-litre direct-injected turbodiesel that develops 120kW of power at 3600rpm and a handy 333Nm of torque between 1600-3200rpm - not the segment leader for grunt, but more than capable for most worksite towing and payloads.

Our rear-wheel drive test use had the archaic four-speed automatic that is looking easily outclassed by the more modern five and six-speeds appearing in newer utes - some with a 'manumatic' sequential mode.


It gets only a three-star crash rating, with two front airbags and anti-skid brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution to compensate for uneven loading. Don't look for brake assist, stability or traction controls. Or for airbags in the second row. Hopefully the new Isuzu will put a stronger focus on worker safety.



You'll have no doubt there's a diesel under the bonnet right from the start. First there's the signature clatter, but then there's also the confidence from stacks of low-down torque - as long as you're willing to go at things steadily.

The transmission is basic and both the changes and the accelerator response will call on your patience if you're trying to dodge through city traffic gaps or overtake on the highway.

But for everyday load-lugging, the D-Max is a simple and uncomplicated workhorse. And the suspension is clearly happier with a load on board, with a tendency to bounce if it doesn't have a job to do but surprisingly compliant with enough gear in the tray.

The steering is vague, and combines with the vehicle's workhorse design and dynamics to make any attempt at speedy cornering a futile joust with the laws of physics. But nobody is going to buy the D-Max to take to track days, and it would be pointless to mark it down on that.


The D-Max is a solid workmate and good value against the competition, but let down mainly by having three-star safety when the workforce deserves five.

Isuzu D-Max LS dual-cab

Price: from $38,600
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Resale: 39%
Service: 15,000km/12 months
Economy: 9.0L/100km, diesel, 237g/km CO2
Safety: 3 stars
Equipment: two airbags, ABS, EBD
Engine: 3.0 litre turbo-diesel, in-line 4-cylinder, 120kW/333Nm
Transmission: 4-speed automatic, RWD
Body: 4-door ute, seats 5
Weight: 2800kg
Dimensions: 5030mm (L), 1800mm (W), 1735mm (H), 3050mm (WB)
Tyres: 16x7
Spare: full-size

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