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Isuzu D-Max 2021 review: SX


Daily driver score

3.5/5

Tradies score

4.7/5

We’ve covered off the Isuzu D-Max 2021 range in detail, and it has impressed us so far with its hugely improved tech and safety offering, not to mention its step-up levels of comfort in the dual-cab, work-and-play range-topping models.

But how does the work-focused entry-level SX model fare in comparison? Not everyone is buying dual cab utes, and not everyone has dual purpose needs for their vehicles - so we got our hands on a single cab-chassis 4x2 SX and put it to work.

Our mates at IWP Training loaded 1000kg into the tray for us so we could see just how up to the task the new base model ute is. And in this review, we’ll get to how the single cab performed on the day, while also taking a look at the SX grade more generally.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The fact is the D-Max SX line-up is considerably more expensive in the most price sensitive part of the ute market. But boy, does it have some spec for the money. 

The price list starts at $32,200 (MSRP/RRP) before on-road costs for the entry-level SX single-cab chassis manual, but the brand is already doing drive-away deals of $29,990 on the road for this spec. The SX line spans all the way through to the top dual cab four-wheel drive pick-up with an automatic gearbox, which is $49,900. 

The D-Max SX line-up is considerably more expensive than the majority of the ute segment. The D-Max SX line-up is considerably more expensive than the majority of the ute segment.

To make it easy to understand the complexity of the SX line-up - which has more variants and derivatives than any other D-Max trim level - we’ve made a table with the pricing below. 

ISUZU D-MAX SX RANGE

Drivetrain

Body type

Transmission

RRP



 

4x2

 

Single cab-chassis

Manual

$32,200

Automatic

$34,200

Extra cab ute

Automatic

$38,900

Dual cab-chassis

Automatic

$40,700

Crew cab ute

Automatic

$41,900







 

4x4

 

Single cab-chassis

Manual

$40,200

Automatic

$42,200

 

Extra cab-chassis

Manual

$43,700

Automatic

$45,700

 

Dual cab-chassis 

Manual

$46,700

Automatic

$48,700

 

Dual cab ute

Manual

$47,900

Automatic

$49,900

Standard equipment for the SX trim level includes manual air-conditioning, power windows, power mirrors, automatic wipers, auto halogen headlights with auto high-beam, a 4.2-inch customisable driver info display, a 7.0-inch multimedia screen with USB-connect Android Auto and wireless or USB-connect Apple CarPlay (a first for the ute segment), a four-speaker sound system, cloth interior trim, rubber flooring, tilt and telescoping multi-function steering wheel, 17-inch steel wheels and a matte grey front grille. Dual cab models have rear seat directional air vents, too.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard with the SX. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard with the SX.

Wondering how many seats in the D-Max SX? Single cab and space cab/extra cab models have two seats only (the extra cab’s rear seats have been removed for this generation), while dual cab variants have five seats.

The ute you see in these images has a few optional accessories fitted, including a tow bar with 12 pin plug, electronic brake controller, rubber mat set, heavy duty alloy tray, side rear tool box and rear mount water tank. These additions tally $3,073.98, meaning the drive-away deal on this particular ute would be $33,063.98.

The ute you see here has a few optional accessories fitted. The ute you see here has a few optional accessories fitted.

The tray fitted to this ute is one of five factory-offered options (Economy Alloy, General Purpose Alloy, Heavy Duty Alloy as you see here with integrated step loops, Heavy Duty Steel and Mine Specific Steel), and those are part of the accessories catalogue that spans more than 50 items at launch. Other items include bull bar and nudge bar options developed specifically to work with the safety systemes, roof rack options, canopy, tub liner, window tint, headlight protector, bonnet protector, snorkel, side steps, and more.

Colour options for SX models are more limited than the high-grade models, with Mineral White (as seen here), Cobalt Blue mica, Basalt Black mica, Mercury Silver metallic, and Obsidian Grey mica. All the metallic paint choices add $500.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The new generation D-Max is a ground-up redesign, and one of the big changes is that every model now is a high-rider. That’s right, there’s no low-riding SX single cab like before, and that comes down to customer demand and also calibration for the safety systems.

To me, the SX looks great: it’s a chunky, purposeful ute, with bigger steel wheels than some rival base model trucks. I mean, I think Isuzu could do better for the grille treatment (for me, a trip to plasti-dip would be the first step!), and the halogen headlights aren’t my favourite either. They are effective, though, and the lamps are auto on/off, and have auto high-beam, too. 

The new generation D-Max is a ground-up redesign. The new generation D-Max is a ground-up redesign.

No matter what, though, it’s clearly an Isuzu ute, and it lives up to the identity of a tough truck. Plus with multiple derivatives and body styles available in the SX, there’s an option for pretty much all user cases. 

Rightio, let’s get into some of the nitty gritty dimensions. First, here’s how the different versions measure up:

 

Single cab

Extra cab

Dual cab

Length

5325mm

5265mm-5285mm

5265mm

Wheelbase

3125mm

Width

1870mm

Height

1790mm

1785mm-1800mm

1785mm-1800mm

The dimensions vary depending on the variant, as well as which tray body is fitted for cab-chassis models. 

Next, load space dimensions, where the tray fitted again determines the capacity in the cargo area. The following figures - where applicable - are for a factory-offered tray. 

 

Single cab-chassis

Extra cab-chassis

Extra cab ute

Dual cab-chassis

Dual cab ute

Cargo floor length

2550mm

2100mm

1835mm

1800mm

1570mm

Width

1777mm

1777mm

1530mm

1777mm

1530mm

Width between wheel arches

-

-

1122mm

-

1122mm

You won’t fit an Aussie pallet (1165mm by 1165mm) between the wheel arches if you choose a pick-up, but get a single cab-chassis like the one tested here can you can drop the sides and slide two pallets with room to spare. 

The dimensions vary depending on the variant, as well as which tray body is fitted for cab-chassis models.  The dimensions vary depending on the variant, as well as which tray body is fitted for cab-chassis models. 

Next up is payload capacity - again, cab-chassis models will be affected by the weight of the tray body fitted. Our SX single cab, for instance, had a payload capacity of 1087kg with all things considered.

 

Single cab-chassis

Extra cab-chassis

Extra cab ute

Dual cab-chassis

Dual cab ute

Payload capacity

1300-1320kg

1240-1250kg

1090kg

1175-1200kg

1050-1075kg

Gross vehicle mass (GVM)

3000kg (4x2) / 3100kg (4x4)

Gross combination mass (GCM)

5850kg (4x2) / 5950kg (4x4)

Towing capacity

750kg unbraked / 3500kg braked

Get a single cab-chassis like the one tested here can you can drop the sides and slide two pallets with room to spare.  Get a single cab-chassis like the one tested here can you can drop the sides and slide two pallets with room to spare. 

While we’re testing a 4x2 high-riding SX cab chassis model here, you probably want to know what ground clearance and angles you’re playing with. 

 

Single cab-chassis

Extra cab-chassis

Extra cab ute

Dual cab-chassis

Dual cab ute

Ground clearance mm

235mm

Approach angle 

29.6

30.0

Break over/ramp over angle

23.9

23.9

23.3

23.9

23.3 

Departure angle

28.9

27.0

23.9

27.0

23.9 

Wading depth

800mm

Sorry for the brain fart on figures. We know that’s a lot of data! Next up, interior practicality.

How practical is the space inside?

The higher-grade D-Max models are impressive as soon as you sit in, and the SX model is still a huge step up over the previous version, but there are some things that could be better.

Things like the fact the (otherwise excellent) 7.0-inch touchscreen is fitted in the same bezel as the 9.0-inch unit in LS-U and X-Terrain models - like, it just looks really small in that housing. It takes some learning to get your way around the screen, and we don’t love the fact there are no volume and tuning knobs - there are buttons, but they’re not as easy to get a grip on when you’re driving.

The higher-grade D-Max models are impressive as soon as you sit in. The higher-grade D-Max models are impressive as soon as you sit in.

The media system worked perfectly fine - if a little slowly - when reconnecting to wireless Apple CarPlay, while USB-connect CarPlay was excellent on test. 

And while the space around the media screen is more apparent when it’s in use, the overall impression of the cabin is pretty darn positive. However, SX models don’t get as much of the soft plastic finishes, as they’re clearly set up for hard work more than fun times.

The overall impression of the cabin is pretty darn positive. The overall impression of the cabin is pretty darn positive.

The dash design is neat, and even SX models get the configurable 4.2-inch driver info screen with digital speedometer, and the storage options are decent as well: dual glovebox, pop-out cup holders on either side of the dash, bottle holders in the doors and cup holders between the front seats. The SX, though, does have a hard plastic cover on the centre console bin which is a bit rough on the elbows, and while it arguably needs the closable storage caddy on the dash top more than the other variants, it instead gets an open tray for storage.

There is evidence of other cost-cutting measures, including the knobs and dials for the air-conditioning controls, which are a bit flimsy. 

The single cab model we tested has a bit of additional storage space behind the seats The single cab model we tested has a bit of additional storage space behind the seats

The seat comfort is excellent, though, and there’s good adjustability for the driver - rake/reach steering and decent seat adjustment - six way, including manual height adjust - too. And if you’re shorter in stature, there are A-pillar assist grip handles to get in and out, because we know some of you out there will miss the low-riding D-Max models more than others. 

The single cab model I tested has a bit of additional storage space behind the seats, but if you need more room there’s the Space Cab model with a large area behind the front seats. Remember, this one no longer has two jump seats for occupants, but you could put your pooches back there, or use it as secure weatherproof storage. The dual cab models offer competitive levels of space in the higher grade models, so the SX is no different: and you get rear seat air-vents even in this grade, too, which is a nice addition. 

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

You know your 4JJ3-TCX from your 4JJ1-TC. And that’s what matters here. If you don’t, the former is the new engine fitted to the new D-Max, and the latter is the hero engine that is renowned for its truck heritage, which did service in the first-gen D-Max models for more than a decade.

Want to know more about the 4JJ3-TCX? Well, it’s still a 3.0-litre turbo diesel, still a four-cylinder, and still offers comparatively modest outputs compared to its rivals for its engine capacity. This isn’t so much a horsepower hero as a clydesdale workhorse.

Its power output is 140kW (at 3600rpm) and torque is 450Nm (from 1600-2600rpm). That’s down compared to some of its highly-strung four-cylinder competitors - the Ford Ranger Bi-turbo has a 2.0-litre engine with 157kW and 500Nm! - but the new D-Max’s engine is up on power and torque compared to the old engine, by 10kW and 20Nm.

It’s still a 3.0-litre turbo diesel, still a four-cylinder, and still offers comparatively modest outputs compared to its rivals for its engine capacity. It’s still a 3.0-litre turbo diesel, still a four-cylinder, and still offers comparatively modest outputs compared to its rivals for its engine capacity.

Isuzu says the important thing is that there’s “a hearty 400Nm on tap from 1400rpm through to 3250rpm”, and in operation you can feel that grunt underfoot. More on that in the driving section. 

Transmission options include six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic transmission, with drivetrains comprising rear-wheel drive (RWD/2WD), or selectable four-wheel drive (4WD/4x4) with high range (2H and 4H) and low range (4L). All 4WD models get a rear differential lock now, too. 

As noted in the tables above, all D-Max models come with excellent towing capacity: 750kg for an unbraked trailer, and up to 3500kg for a braked trailer. Tow ball down load is 350kg on all variants when an Isuzu genuine towing kit is fitted.

How much fuel does it consume?

Official combined cycle fuel consumption figures - or, claimed fuel consumption - doesn’t vary much between the entire range of models in the D-Max line-up. 

The manual models typically use 7.7 litre per 100 kilometres, while auto models use 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres - and that’s no matter whether you choose different body styles or drivetrains.

Fuel tank capacity for all models is 76 litres. Fuel tank capacity for all models is 76 litres.

On test we saw a real world consumption figure of 8.4L/100km - with and without a load on board. The loaded drive part of the test was pretty limited, and there was a fair stretch of highway driving. 

Fuel tank capacity for all models is 76 litres and you can’t get a long range fuel tank.

The D-Max range is Euro 5 and emits between 200g/km and 207g/km CO2 depending on the model. There’s no AdBlue after treatment to consider, but there is a diesel particulate filter.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

At the time of writing there is no ANCAP crash test safety rating. But given the specs, it should get a high five.

It comes comprehensively kitted out, with a few segment firsts.

Standard is auto emergency braking (AEB) that works at speeds over 10km/h and mis-acceleration control to lessen the likelihood of low speed bumps. The pedestrian detection and cyclist detection work at all speeds as part of the AEB system, and it has a flashy forward collision warning system, too. 

Every D-Max has lane departure warning, active lane keeping assistance (active between 60km/h-130km/h), a system called Turn Assist that prevents you from turning in front of oncoming traffic (between 5km/h-18km/h), and there’s also blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and all automatic models get adaptive cruise control (manuals get regular cruise).

All models including cab-chassis come with a reversing camera. All models including cab-chassis come with a reversing camera.

The D-Max range also has speed sign recognition and warning, driver fatigue detection. You don’t get rear parking sensors on SX models, but you do get a reversing camera on all models including cab-chassis, which you don’t find in the Toyota HiLux cab-chassis variants!

Also standard is a new-for-the-segment front-centre airbag - to protect those in the front seats in the event of a side impact. You need it for a five-star ANCAP rating under 2020 criteria. Plus there’s a driver’s knee airbag and dual front, front side and full-length curtain airbags, for a total of eight - no matter the body style. 

Dual cab SX models come with dual outboard ISOFIX child seat anchor points and two loop-style top-tethers which hook to a centre mounted brace.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

There’s a good chance this part of the review could be what seals the decision for you, because we know that business buyers need to know they’re going to be taken care of in terms of ownership - and Isuzu Ute Australia offers very competitive ownership prospects. 

There’s a six-year/150,000km warranty plan - almost the best in the class, but outdone by SsangYong (seven years), and Mitsubishi is constantly dabbling in the seven-year zone for Triton, too. 

However, there’s a seven-year capped price servicing plan for the D-Max, and service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km (whichever comes first). The average cost over seven years/105,000km works out at $481.85 per visit. 

Isuzu Ute Australia offers very competitive ownership prospects. Isuzu Ute Australia offers very competitive ownership prospects.

But hey, at least you don’t have to take it in to the dealer every six months like you do with a HiLux!

Here are the service intervals, and the costs: 15,000km - $389; 30,000km - $409; 45,000km - $609; 60,000km - $509; 75,000km - $299; 90,000km - $749; 105,000km - $409. For those that are curious, the previous model had an average service cost of $549 over the seven year plan ($3843 vs $3373 for the new model).

Plus you still get seven years of roadside assistance cover at no cost, too.

What's it like as a daily driver?

Boy was it handy to have a HiLux Workmate on site when we were testing the SX cab-chassis. The D-Max was super impressive without a load, and well sorted and composed with one, too.

I had driven the LS-U and X-Terrain 4x4 dual cab models prior to my time in the SX single cab 4x2 manual, and there’s a notable difference in the driving behaviour - and that comes down to the suspension first and foremost.

The D-Max was super impressive without a load, and well sorted and composed with one, too. The D-Max was super impressive without a load, and well sorted and composed with one, too.

And to be honest - and in direct comparison to the HiLux Workmate 4x2 cab-chassis manual low-rider that we had at the same time - the D-Max SX’s composure over bumps was very impressive. It’s not plush, don’t get me wrong, as there’s still some jittering over most surfaces and you still get the occasional big shunt over a sharp edge, but it’s more liveable than a Lux day-to-day if you’re not always going to be running with weight on board. 

Plus the steering is superb - it’s light when you want it to be, when parking or doing three-point turns, but offers decent weighting and response at higher speeds too. 

The steering is superb. The steering is superb.

And the engine without weight on board is very strong as well, with that broad torque band offering easy access to the grunt you need, when you need it. And the gearing is mostly really good for the six-speed manual, too, though first gear is very short and may elicit times when you simply take off in second to save yourself the effort. The engine has the grunt to deal with it.

It’s a good truck without a load on board. But what about when it comes to using it as it’s intended?

What's it like for tradie use?

Well, D-Max SX and LS-M models have a heavy-duty rear leaf suspension setup that isn’t focused so much on comfort. That’s no issue, as the SX single-cab has a payload of 1320kg in this spec - but 1087kg as tested. So when we loaded in 1000kg to the tray courtesy of our mates at IWP Training in Warrawong, the suspension settled nicely.

The rear end dropped to compensate for the weight by about 9 per cent by the tape measure, while the front only rose up half a per cent. On the road with the load the ride was comfortable and composed, but there was still some evidence of jittering. It wasn’t bad, though, and overall the SX felt made for the job.

The SX single-cab has a payload of 1320kg in this spec - but 1087kg as tested. The SX single-cab has a payload of 1320kg in this spec - but 1087kg as tested.

The steering didn’t change all that much, though we did notice that the active lane keeping assistance switched off at one point during laden driving. The engine and transmission offered effortless response, despite second gear being a bit noisy during deceleration. But otherwise, it got to speed with ease, cruised at pace fine, and - unlike some other utes - the brake response was strong even with this much weight on board.

Overall it's impressive and easy to live with if you’re looking for a hard worker. In fact, it makes short work of hard work, and that can’t be said for some of its competitors.

There is no denying that the new 2021 Isuzu D-Max has come a long way, and the SX work model is a vital part of the make-up of that success.

It is still clearly made for the rough stuff, but this time around there are fewer sharp edges and abrasive elements to make you consider a competitor offering instead. The main concern is the lack of a low-riding model or a base petrol version to open the pricing with a bit more aggression. But to me, the D-Max SX offers strong value, even if you have to pay a little more than its rivals to get it. 

You might note our scores are 3.5/5 for daily driving and 4.7/5 for tradie use. The video review score was calculated on the standard scale, where it managed 8.1/10. Apologies for any confusion!

Thanks to our mates at IWP Training for their help with the load.

$32,200

Based on new car retail price

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Tradies score

4.7/5
Price Guide

$32,200

Based on new car retail price

This price is subject to change closer to release data