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Isuzu D-Max 2021 review: LS-M

The Isuzu D-Max is known as a tradie ute - but how does it perform as a family car in the suburbs?

The 2021 Isuzu D-Max is well known as a tough working ute for tradies, but this week I drove it as a family vehicle around the inner suburbs of Sydney. 

With lots of space inside and in the back (tray), the 'big truck' feel as my kids called it, feather light steering and loads of on-board safety features, there is a lot to like.

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What does it look like?

The D-Max LS-M looks like a chunky modern dual-cab ute, tough and ready to work. On this model there aren't many extras on the exterior, but I really liked the 'Cobalt Blue' colour. 

I certainly could have done with a sidestep to get into the drivers seat, and help with access to the kids in the back. 

The D-Max looks like a chunky modern dual-cab ute. The D-Max looks like a chunky modern dual-cab ute.

The front grille is very deep, and the edges are rounded and smooth. The other models in the range above the LS-M have more tweaks and accents to add to the exterior appearance, but this one does come with 17-inch alloy wheels, and sizeable pipe-like tubes across the back of the cab.

The LS-M wears 17-inch alloy wheels. The LS-M wears 17-inch alloy wheels.

The shiny hard cover on the ute tray opens easily, with one solid slab that lifts up, and the rear gate is very high and deep, it really slams down when you open it.

Our test car came equipped with a blacked-out sports bar. Our test car came equipped with a blacked-out sports bar.

Inside the appearance is full of contradictions. Some of the dash looks basic and clunky, yet the media screen and digital instrument display look shiny and modern. Yet, the steering wheel is functional rather than luxurious, and the base model cloth seats feel very no-frills. 

The digital instrument display looks shiny and modern. The digital instrument display looks shiny and modern.

How does it drive?

My first impression was that the acceleration is quite sluggish and certainly doesn't feel as powerful as the Toyota HiLux Rogue I recently drove

That said, driving such a big ute in the suburbs you really don't need it to take off super fast. On the freeway it motors along nicely, and features like adaptive cruise control are simple to set and monitor, making for a comfortable drive over distances.

The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine produces 140kW/450Nm. The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine produces 140kW/450Nm.

The main thing I liked about the drive was the steering, with a fully adjustable steering wheel, and electric power steering, it is so light you really feel you are driving a smaller, lighter vehicle. This makes driving in the city and suburbs much easier than I'd expected for a ute of this size. 

The light-touch steering helps with parking and turning, so while there are no parking sensors on this model, there is good visibility and a rear camera, so it's really not hard.

How spacious is it?

There is plenty of room in the front seats and in the back, for adults and kids alike. If the driver's seat is set for a taller driver, it obviously impacts the legroom in the seat behind it, but is still very manageable for most adults in the back seat.

There is plenty of space in the back. There is plenty of space in the back.

The back of the ute tray is huge for every day items, but you are limited to the depth of the tray, with the hard top needing to be closed for driving.

The tray is huge. The tray is huge.

How easy is it to use every day?

The LS-M model D-Max has remote entry, key start and manual seat adjustments, so while it doesn't have some of the modern luxury features that aid driving, it is simple and easy to get on the road.

The high grade cloth seat covers, and decent lumbar support means the seats are a good balance of firm but supportive.

The front seats offer decent lumbar support. The front seats offer decent lumbar support.

There are standard cupholders in the middle console plus on the sides of the dash, and bottle holders in the door, a large functional storage bin plus a double glove box. 

Extra storage is in the sunglasses holder near the rearview mirror, and a pop-up space nestled in the dashtop, but the flip-up top didn't always open easily on the car I drove. 

There's a pop-up space nestled in the dashtop. There's a pop-up space nestled in the dashtop.

How safe is it?

This is where the D-Max excels. There is a long list of safety features (which makes it even weirder that there are no rear or front parking sensors!). 

The D-Max scores a maximum five stars in the ANCAP safety ratings, last tested in 2020.

Features include lane keep assist, lane departure warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), emergency brake assist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and driver attention assist. 

Most of these can easily be turned on and off so you aren't hounded with beeps and alerts if you don't want to be. 

The addition of pollen and fine particle air filters in the air conditioning system is a nice touch for those with allergies, or maybe working in dusty environments. Eight airbags - including front centre airbag coverage - are fitted.

For kids car seats there are two ISOFIX points and two top tethers. I used the top tethers for my two kids seats, and you certainly wouldn't want to have to install seats every day. 

They feed through a cloth loop at the back of the seat then through a metal clip in the middle. This set up is mildly easier than it sounds, but it took me longer than in other styles of top tether set-up.

What’s the tech like?

The nicely designed, shiny 7.0-inch touchscreen display connects via a cable to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is essential if you would like sat nav, as there is none in the native on-board tech.

Having access to many of your phone apps through the main screen means Google maps can be used via a spoken command, and you can easily access Spotify or your other music apps.

Up front is a 7.0-inch touchscreen, which features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Up front is a 7.0-inch touchscreen, which features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

There is a USB port in the front and back, as well as a 12V charger in the front.

The navigation through the on-board tech is not bad. I really liked the old school looking screen for the radio stations, allowing easy tuning of stations and flicking around between functions.

How much does it cost to own?

Priced at $53,000 plus on-road costs and extras, this is a significant amount less than the similar Toyota HiLux Rogue I drove recently. There are other versions of the D-Max which might appeal more to family buyers, and they're more expensive but you get more equipment.

Official combined fuel efficiency is 7.7L/100km. For my test drive around the suburbs, city commute and some freeway driving it sat at 8.9L/100km.

There is a solid six years/150,000km warranty with servicing required each year. There are a variety of options in pricing for servicing.


The Wrap

For my family with two young kids a large double-cab ute isn't what we need living close to the city, and not doing any off-roading, or towing anything heavy. But the D-Max is easy to drive, and the height and safety features are certainly a solid bonus. A higher spec with a few more features and comfort items might be a better bet for family buyers.

I scored it  7/10  and the kids gave it 7.5/10 for the 'big truck' feel.

Likes

Very light steering
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity
Safety features

Dislikes

Installing kids car seats
Basic interior
Heavy tailgate

Scores

Kate:

3.5

The Kids:

3.8

$54,000

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

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