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Isuzu D-Max


Great Wall Steed

Summary

Isuzu D-Max

Last year heralded a raft of significant changes in Isuzu Ute Australia’s (IUA) D-Max and MU-X line-up.

In its first-quarter 2017 launch on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Isuzu officially revealed the range’s new 3.0-litre engine, new six-speed automatic transmission, and upgraded Aussie-specific suspension – all engineered for Australian drivers and our unique driving conditions – as well as a few nifty styling improvements, including a new front-end.

Well, this year Isuzu chose the Mt Cotton driver training centre, just outside of Brisbane, as the venue to let Australian motoring journalists loose in some new D-Maxs and MU-Xs. The changes this time around aren’t anywhere near as big as they were last year but Isuzu is hoping that extra safety features as standard, styling tweaks and value-added service intervals will help to build on growing buyer interest in its ute and SUV range.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency7.8L/100km
Seating2 seats

Great Wall Steed

Great Wall has been China’s best-selling ute brand for nearly two decades, so it’s not surprising to see the company spreading its global footprint into Australia’s hotly contested dual-cab 4x4 ute market. 

What its diesel-powered Steed may lack in performance and overall refinement compared to mainstream rivals, it balances with a huge saving in purchase price. And therein lies the choice of going Chinese - price vs quality.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency9L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Isuzu D-Max7.3/10

The D-Max was already a solid choice for those interested in a functional family-friendly ute and it seems Isuzu might be justified in banking on the new LS-T’s premium appeal, as well as the range’s safety upgrades, extended service intervals and styling tweaks for even more sales.

What do you think of the new D-Max? Tell us in the comments below.


Great Wall Steed6.5/10

On face value the Great Wall Steed 4x4 looks like a bargain, with its eye-poppingly low price, one-tonne payload rating and long list of standard features, particularly when compared to entry-level dual cabs offered by the segment leaders. However, those competitors more than make up for that lack of bling with superior all-round safety, performance, comfort, refinement and resale value. So for buyers more concerned about purchase price and creature comforts than any of its shortcomings – and there are quite a few - the Steed 4x4's value for money equation is about right. In other words, it needs to be this cheap to get buyers in.

Is the Great Wall Steed a bargain or is the low price just what it's really worth?

Design

Isuzu D-Max7/10

Nothing has changed on the D-Max’s outside – it looks chunky, solid and purpose-built for adventure – but the LS-T’s interior now has that perforated leather on body-contact areas and soft-touch leatherette elsewhere. Inside the cabin remains functional but it now has a more premium feel.


Great Wall Steed6/10

The Steed is deceptively large. Compared to the Ford Ranger dual cab 4x4, it's 235mm longer, 50mm narrower, 40mm lower and its ladder-frame chassis rides on a 3200mm wheelbase, which is only 20mm shorter. Like the Ranger, it has double-wishbone front suspension and a leaf-spring live rear axle, but runs rear disc brakes where the Ford has drums. 

Off-road credentials include 171mm of ground clearance, an approach angle of 25 degrees, departure angle of 21 degrees and ramp-over angle of 18 degrees, all figures which are far from class-leading. Plus there's a large 14.5-metre turning circle (compared to Ranger at 12.7m and Hilux at 11.8m).

It has a relatively slim body profile when viewed from the side, which translates to a relatively short floor-to-roof height, reminiscent of utes past. This means shallower foot wells and higher knee/upper thigh angles that concentrate more weight on the base of the spine, reducing comfort on longer journeys. 

The rear outer seating positions are tight, particularly for tall adults, with limited head and leg room. For those sitting in the centre rear position, headroom is even less. And because the front doors are considerably longer than the rears (like the Amarok), the B pillar’s more rearward location impedes the ‘pathway’ to the rear seat, particularly for those with larger shoes.

Overall panel fit is acceptable, but some areas of trim, like the crooked stitched seam across the dash-pad directly in front of the driver, affect perceptions of quality. 

Practicality

Isuzu D-Max7/10

We didn’t have the opportunity to spend very much time in the D-Max this time around but it appears to have retained the previous generation’s easy-to-live-with attributes. Everything is clear to see (the 8.0-inch touchscreen is a good unit), easy to use (big buttons, dials and knobs abound) and the cabin is roomy, comfortable, and hard wearing. Build quality and fit and finish remains solid and touring-ready.

The D-Max's tray is 1552mm long (at floor level), 465mm deep and 1530mm wide across the top, 1105mm wide, between wheel arches. It has four tie-down points in the tray, one at each corner.

This D-Max has a 1024kg payload, 3050kg GVM, a maximum braked towing capacity of 3500kg and 750kg unbraked.


Great Wall Steed6/10

The Steed’s 1900kg kerb weight is relatively light for its size and with a 2920kg GVM it’s a genuine ‘one tonner’ with a maximum payload of 1020kg. It’s also rated to tow only 2000kg of braked trailer, but with a GCM of 4920kg it can carry its maximum payload while doing it, which is a practical compromise.

The fully lined cargo bed is 1545mm long, 1460mm wide and 480mm deep. Like most dual-cab utes there’s not enough width between the wheel arches to carry a standard Aussie pallet, but it has four sturdy and well-positioned anchorage points for securing loads.

Cabin-storage options include a bottle holder and upper/lower storage pockets in each front door, a single glovebox, centre console with open storage cubby at the front, two cup holders in the centre and a box with padded lid at the rear that doubles as an armrest. To the right of the driver’s head there’s also a roof-mounted sunglasses holder with a spring-loaded lid, but it’s too shallow to be able to close the lid with a pair of Oakleys inside.

Back-seat passengers get overlooked when it comes to storage, as there are only slim pockets on the rear of each front seat and no bottle holders or storage pockets in the doors. And there’s no fold-down centre armrest either, which would be a useful place to offer at least two cup holders when the rear seat only has two occupants.

Price and features

Isuzu D-Max7/10

There are 23 variants in the D-Max line-up, ranging from the 4x2 single cab chassis SX manual ($28,600) through to the new LS-T (formerly known as the LS-Terrain), costing $54,700 (recommended retail price).

There are four variants in the crew cab (dual-cab) range – SX, LS-M, LS-U and the new LS-T (formerly known as the LS-Terrain), which we’ll focus on in this yarn. There are 4x4 and 4x2 variants for everything in the 2018 D-Max range; and manual or auto transmissions for a lot of the line-up everything.

The LS-T is auto only and costs $54,700 (recommended retail price). Available in 4x4 or 4x2 guise, the LS-T gets, above and beyond what came before, perforated leather on body-contact areas, soft-touch leatherette in other spots (also in LS-m and LS-U), 18-inch wheels, sat nav, roof-rails, and two USB charge points.

Safety upgrades include trailer sway control for all new D-Maxs – except the 4x2 low-ride SX single cab chassis manual – and rear bumper and reversing camera as standard on everything, except cab chassis models, but it is an option on those.

There are also three new exterior colours available for the D-Max: 'Magnetic Red Mica', 'Cobalt Blue Mica' and 'Graphite Grey Metallic'. The new MU-X also has the Magnetic Red Mica option.


Great Wall Steed8/10

Available only as a dual-cab ute with five-speed or six-speed manual transmissions and a choice of petrol 4x2, diesel 4x2 and diesel 4x4 drivetrains. It’s also only available in one well-equipped model grade, so every Steed buyer gets a burger with the lot. Albeit a Chinese burger.

Our test vehicle was the diesel 4x4 six-speed manual, which, at only $30,990, presents a compelling value-for-money comparison for those wanting a brand new ute who don’t have big dollars to spend. For example, the cheapest Ford Ranger dual cab 4x4 is the XL with 2.2 litre diesel and six-speed manual at $45,090, and the cheapest Toyota Hilux equivalent is the hose-me-out Workmate 2.4 diesel with six-speed manual at $43,990. 

The Steed’s single model specification also includes numerous features and creature comforts you won’t find on rival entry-level utes costing 30 per cent more. There are lots of chrome body highlights, including roof racks, stainless-steel sports bar and door scuff plates, side steps, cargo bed liner, 16-inch alloy wheels with 235/70R16 tyres and a full-size spare, leather-appointed trim including steering wheel and gear-knob, heated front seats with six-way adjustable powered driver’s seat, electric-folding door mirrors with demisters and indicators, tyre-pressure monitoring and six-speaker sound system with touchscreen, steering-wheel controls and multiple connectivity including Bluetooth, to name a few. A tow bar, tonneau cover and sat-nav with reversing camera are optional.

Engine & trans

Isuzu D-Max7/10

The Euro 5 compliant 3.0-litre four-cylinder common rail diesel engine, producing 130kW at 3600rpm and 430Nm from 2000-2200rpm, stays, and is matched to a six-speed Aisin-sourced automatic transmission.


Great Wall Steed6/10

The GW4D20B is a Euro 5-compliant 2.0-litre turbocharged common-rail four-cylinder diesel that delivers 110kW at 4000rpm and a relatively small 310Nm serving of torque between 1800-2800rpm.

There’s only a six-speed manual available, so an automatic option would broaden the Steed’s showroom appeal enormously. The 4x4 drivetrain uses a Borg Warner part-time dual-range transfer case with electronic dashboard control, and there’s no locking rear differential.

Fuel consumption

Isuzu D-Max7/10

We only got the chance to spend very little time in any new models and we’d have to drive it for a week or more to get a good handle on real-world fuel consumption but Isuzu claims the D-Max gets through 7.9L/100km (combined cycle). It has a 76-litre fuel tank.


Great Wall Steed8/10

Great Wall claims a combined figure of 9.0L/100km and at the end of our test the instrument read-out was showing 9.5. That was close to our own figures, based on ‘real world’ trip-meter and fuel-bowser readings, which came in at 10.34, or about average for this segment.  

Based on those numbers, its 70-litre fuel tank should deliver a driving range of around 680km.

Driving

Isuzu D-Max7/10

We only did brief drive loops on the launch, including a decent off-road course and towing a 1750kg boat with a D-Max on a twisting bitumen road, designed to replicate real-world driving conditions.

Running 20 psi (pounds per square inch) in our Bridgestone Dueler or Toyo Open Country tyres, the Isuzus handled everything on the 4WD loop with ease, including runs up and down steep greasy-muddy hills peppered with rocks and tree-root hazards, tight turns in between trees, plowing through mud puddles and more. 

No surprise at its efficacy on rough terrain because it works off the proven 4X4 'Terrain Command' system, operated via a dial near the auto shifter, and which can be switched on the fly from 2High to 4High at speeds of up to 100km/h. To engage 4L you need to be stationary.

The LS-T is 5295mm long, 1860mm wide (excluding wing mirrors), 1855mm high (excluding roof rails) and has a 3095mm wheelbase and 1570mm track. It has a 12.6m turning circle. Kerb weight is listed as 2026kg.

It has 235mm ground clearance, 30 degrees approach angle, 22.7 degrees departure angle, and 22.3 degrees ramp-over angle. The LS-T's wading depth is 600mm.

The Isuzu ute retains the previous generation’s hill start assist (designed to hold gear during climbs) and hill descent control (which maintains engine-braking speed on downhills and is able to be regulated with acceleration or braking).

The D-Max’s underbody protection includes under-front steel plate skid/splash shield and steel plate guards on the sump, transfer case and fuel tank leading edge; and sheet steel under the fuel tank.

It has double wishbones and coil springs up front and leaf springs at the rear, reduced from a five-span spring set-up to three, which has resulted in a softer and more comfortable D-Max ride than before. 

We had the opportunity to drive a 2017 and a 2018 model back-to-back through lumpy sections at different speeds and the newer model exhibited a clear advantage in the ride and handling stakes over its older version.


Great Wall Steed6/10

There’s a pleasant whiff of leather when you open the door, but the driving position is compromised by the high floor height and relatively shallow foot-well. For taller drivers this positions the knees  close to the steering wheel, even in its highest position, which can hamper turning, and comfort, at times. Ergonomically wonderful it is not.

The left footrest is well positioned but the vertical section of console right next to it has an uncomfortable sharp-radius edge where the upper shin and knee rest against it. And on the right-hand side, the window control panel at the front of the door-pull also has quite a hard edge where the right leg rests against it. Softer, larger radius edges on both sides would greatly increase driver comfort.

The power steering is too lightly weighted and remains vaguely linear in feel regardless of road speed. The gearing is also too low and requires excessive wheel-twirling relative to steering response, which is required often given its large turning circle and the number of multi-point turns needed as a result.

The 2.0-litre turbo-diesel’s lack of low-down torque is really noticeable below 1500rpm, as it falls off a cliff with what feels like zero turbo boost. The gearshift feel is also a bit notchy and the gear-stick itself has an annoying vibration in fifth and sixth gears.

The ride quality when empty is acceptable if a bit harsh in the rear over bumps, which is not uncommon with leaf-spring live rear axles designed to carry more than a tonne. We loaded 830kg into the cargo bed, which, with a 100kg driver equalled a payload of 930kg, or about 90kg short of its 1020kg maximum rating. 

The rear springs compressed 51mm and the nose rose 17mm under this load, leaving adequate springing capacity. The ride quality also improved noticeably, with minimal decline in steering control and braking response. By keeping the revs up (and therefore turbo boost) it coped reasonably well with stop-start traffic. 

The Steed definitely felt more at home at highway speeds, however. In top gear with the cruise control engaged, it rumbled comfortably within the engine’s peak torque band, showing just 2000rpm at 100km/h and 2100rpm at 110km/h. Engine, wind and tyre noise were unexpectedly low, allowing conversations to take place at normal levels. 

The tyre-pressure monitor displayed in the driver’s information scroll works well (mandatory in the USA and EU) and adds considerable peace of mind, but the info menu should also include a digital speed read-out. A permanent display of the cruise control’s speed setting would be handy, too.

Given its small torque figure and the fact it had close to a tonne on its back, the Steed coped pretty well with our set climb (albeit with the right foot flat to the floor) powering up the 13 per cent 2.0-kilometre gradient at 60km/h in third gear at 2400rpm.

Safety

Isuzu D-Max8/10

The D-Max has a maximum five-star ANCAP rating from November 2016. As mentioned, noteworthy safety upgrades include trailer sway control for all new D-Maxs – except the 4x2 low-ride SX single cab chassis manual – and rear bumper and reversing camera as standard on everything, except cab chassis models, but it is an option on those. 

Other standard safety gear includes six airbags (dual front, side and full-length curtain), ABS with electronic brake-force distribution, ESC, traction control and EBA (emergency brake assist), 'Hill Start Assist' and 'Hill Descent Control', plus three top-tether ISOFIX child-seat points in the rear seat.


Great Wall Steed6/10

There is no ANCAP rating for this Great Wall so far but the 4x2 variant tested in 2016 achieved only two stars out of five, which is terrible. Still, this one is equipped with dual front airbags, front-side and full-length side-curtain airbags, a three-point seatbelt for the centre rear passenger (but no head rest), ISOFIX child seat anchorage points on the two outer rear seating positions and a top tether for the centre seat position. 

Active-safety features include Bosch electronic stability control with traction control, brake assist and hill start assist, but no AEB. There are also rear parking sensors, but rear view camera is optional (and should be standard).

Ownership

Isuzu D-Max8/10

It has a five-year/130,000km warranty, with five years of roadside assist and five-year/75,000km capped price service costs. Servicing is recommended at 12-month/15,000km intervals. Prices are: $350 (at 12 months/15,000km), $450 (at 24 months/30,000km), $500 (at 36 months/45,000km) $450 (at 48 months/60,000km) and $340 at 60 months/75,000km – for a total cost of $2090.


Great Wall Steed6/10

Three-year/100,000km warranty and three-year roadside assistance. Service intervals and recommended (not capped price) servicing costs start at six months/5,000km ($395) then 12 months/15,000km ($563), 24 months/30,000km ($731) and 36 months/45,000km ($765).