Isuzu D-Max VS Mahindra Pik-Up
- Reversing camera as standard
- Suspension upgrade
- Off-road capability
- No AEB
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
- Still noisy when driven hard
- Attainable entry price
- Looks pretty rugged
- Five-year warranty
- Cheap and cramped in the cabin
- Questionable dynamics all-round
- Cheaper models underdone with safety kit
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.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
For years now, our mainstream car companies (think Japanese, Korean, German) have been keeping a close eye on the Chinese manufacturers, convinced - as we all are - that a time is coming when they will be mixing it with the best in the business in terms of build quality, capability and price.
It's yet to set the sales world on fire, sure, but Mahindra reckons this 2018 nip-and-tuck will give its rugged ute its best chance yet of competing with the big boys of the Aussie market.
So, are they right?
|Engine Type||2.2L turbo|
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.
Let's be honest, it's not the best in its segment on the road. For mine, the seemingly willfully confusing steering and lack of any real creature comforts or advanced safety tech would rule it out as a daily driver. But the price is mighty tempting, and if I spent more time off-road than on it, a four-wheel drive model would begin to make a lot more sense.
Does a low cost-of-entry get you over the line for a Mahindra PikUp? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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.
It couldn't be more blocky if it had been constructed using Lego. As a result, it doesn't really matter which body style you opt for, Mahindra's PikUp looks big, tough and ready to get down and dirty.
While plenty of utes are now shooting for a car-like shape, the PikUp definitely aims for more truck-like in its body styling, looking tall and square from just about any angle. Think 70 Series LandCruiser over an SR5 HiLux.
Inside, agricultural is the flavour of the day. Up-front riders sit on seats riveted to exposed metal framework and are faced with a sheer wall of rock-hard plastic, interrupted only by the jumbo-sized air-conditioning controls and - in the S10 models - a touchscreen that looks tiny in the sea of plastic jumbo-ness.
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.
Let's start with the numbers: expect a 2.5-tonne braked towing capacity across the range, and there's around one-tonne of load lugging capacity no matter whether you opt for the cab-chassis or the well-side tub.
Inside, the two front seats sit on exposed metal framework and leave you perched fairly high in the cabin. An armrest on the inside of each seat saves you leaning on the hard plastic of the doors, and a single, squared-off cupholder lives between the front seats.
There's another phone-sized storage cubby in front of the manual gear shift, and there's a single 12-volt power source and a USB connection. There's no room for bottles in the front doors, though there is a narrow glovebox and a sunglasses holder fitted to a roof lined in what looks like 1970s felt.
Weirdly, the central column that divides the front seat is massive and it leaves driver and passenger feeling cramped in the cabin. And the sparse back seat (in dual-cab cars) is home to two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window position.
Price and features
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.
Mahindra's PikUp arrives in two trim levels - the cheaper S6, available in two- or four-wheel drive and in cab chassis or 'well-side tub' (or pick-up) body style - and the better-equipped S10, which is exclusively four-wheel drive with the well-side tub body.
Pricing is at the forefront here, with Mahindra well aware it's attempting to lure customers out of far more established brands, so predictably the range starts at a sharp $21,990 for the single-cab S6 cab-chassis in manual.
You can have the same car with four-wheel drive for $26,990, or step up to a dual-cab version for $29,490. Finally, a dual-cab S6 with four-wheel drive and a well-side tub is $29,990.
The better-equipped S10 can be had in one flavour only; a dual-cab with four-wheel drive and a well-side tub for $31,990. All of those are the drive-away prices, too, which makes the PikUp very cheap indeed.
The S6 serves up steel wheels, air-conditioning, an old-school letterbox stereo and fabric seats and projector headlights. The S10 model then builds on that basic spec, with 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, navigation, central locking, climate control and rain-sensing wipers.
Engine & trans
Just the one on offer here; a turbocharged 2.2-litre diesel good for 103kW/330Nm. It is paired only with a six-speed manual gearbox that will power the rear wheels, or all four, should you spring for four-wheel drive. If you do, you'll find a manual 4x4 system with low-range and rear diff lock.
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.
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.
And so, after an admittedly short run in the dual-cab PikUp, we found ourselves rather pleasantly surprised in places. The diesel engine feels smoother and less ragged than our previous reviewers have noted, while a ratio change for the manual gearbox has made rowing through the gears a far more intuitive process.
The steering, though, remains utterly confusing. Light enough at turn-in, before all the weight turns up roughly midway though a corner. It's painfully slow, too, with a turning circle that leaves your arms tired and makes even wider roads a three-point job.
Keep it on straight and slow-speed roads, and the PikUp performs just fine, but challenge it with twistier stuff and you'll soon uncover some significant dynamic drawbacks (a steering wheel that tugs at your hands, tyres that squeal with minimal provocation, and vague and confusing steering that makes holding anything resembling a line near impossible).
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.
It's a pretty basic package, I'm afraid. Driver and passenger airbags, ABS brakes and traction control are joined by hill-descent control and, should you spring for the S10, you get a parking camera, too.
Little wonder, then, it was awarded a sub-par three stars (out of five) when ANCAP tested in 2012.
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.