Joel Helmes road tests and reviews the 2012 Isuzu D-Max.
2013 marks 50 years since the first Isuzu ute rolled off the production line.
Now they have a new model on offer and everyone wants to know if it’s just as rugged, versatile and good value as the previous model D-Max.
After spending a week in the new model I reckon it certainly is.
The old Isuzu D-Max was just that – old.
It was the same basic design as the superseded Holden Rodeo but that didn’t bother buyers with sales surpassing probably even Isuzu’s own expectations since its launch in 2008.
Buyers have been drawn to the Isuzu D-Max over the past five years for those simple qualities already outlined; it’s well priced, tough, well-built and adaptable.
Isuzu admits the new D-Max does share some components with the new Holden Colorado; designers of the two new offerings also shared some info on their respective models.
As for the rest of the D-Max and Colorado, well there’s very little in common.
On the outside there’s no doubt the new D-Max is now a little more sophisticated.
I had the top of the range 4×4 crew cab/chassis which comes with not only a more attractive body than the previous D-Max but some nice chrome work on the grille, as well as the rear bumper, mirrors and door handles.
As far as looks go I reckon it’s as attractive as any of its competitors.
Under the bonnet you’ll find the same engine right across the D-Max range – a 3.0 litre four cylinder turbo diesel delivering 130kW and 380Nm.
The transmission choice is either a 5 speed manual or 5 speed auto.
I had the automatic version and I’m pleased to say it doesn’t want for any get up and go.
While admittedly I didn’t have a load on (it has a one tonne load capacity and the 4×4 version boasts a three tonne (braked) towing capacity) the Isuzu didn’t give any indication to me that the 380Nm on tap isn’t going to be enough.
Around town acceleration is a little sluggish at low speed but once the revs are up, the turbo has kicked in, and the Isuzu D-Max is moving it gets along quite nicely.
Fuel consumption is good at a combined 8.1 litres per 100.
I found the ride in the D-Max a touch firmer than what I was expecting but I’m putting this down in-part to the vehicle I had being brand spanking new with only 300 kilometres on the clock.
I would expect the springs and shocks to offer a little more give after a few thousand k’s but you must understand that the D-Max has been developed with a focus on tough, rather than soft and comfortable.
Inside the cabin in the top spec LS-Terrain you’ll find leather seats, an electronically adjustable driver’s seat, and some good sized storage areas including an upper and lower glove box.
The upper spec models also feature a touchscreen audio/satellite navigation system encompassing a rear reversing camera.
The system takes a little bit of getting used and at first isn’t the easiest I have come across to navigate around.
On a more positive note the system offers Bluetooth connectivity and has an auxiliary audio input.
The system also comes with audio reminders on road conditions such as if you’re above the speed limit, approaching a school zone, speed camera or high accident area.
It’s a good feature but when driving in city areas it can be a little annoying due to the frequency of reminders that the female voice gives you, thankfully you can change all of this in the systems settings.
While the interior is certainly not an unpleasant cabin you still get the feeling on the inside that the D-Max is built primarily for the rough and tough rather than for passenger comfort.
This means the door trims and dash are made from hard plastic (the positive side to this is that it’s easy to keep clean especially if you’re using the Isuzu D-Max as a family vehicle e.g. little people have sticky fingers and have a habit of spilling drinks etc.).
The arm rests and steering wheel are quite firm and this lets down the comfort levels a little.
Just on the steering wheel I was a little perplexed that you get cruise control buttons but no volume or stereo controls.
Other positives in the cabin of the D-Max include great visibility, simple and well placed air-conditioning and heater controls and adequate leg room front and back.
I’m pleased to report that the D-Max also holds its own when it comes to safety with standard features including six air-bags, ABS, EBD, ESC, traction control, hill ascent and descent control and emergency brake assist among others.
No doubt this new model will surpass the previous D-Max’s poor 3-Star ANCAP safety rating.
Interestingly the Colorado comes with only four air-bags and doesn’t have hill ascent and descent control or brake assist and it was recently awarded a 5-Star ANCAP rating!
I was also pleased to note that the D-Max has three child seat anchor points in the back and these are easy to access thanks to a fold-down seatback.
But I still haven’t answered the question “Is it still tough?”
Well Isuzu tell me the new model has been built on a stronger and more durable ladder chassis which increases rigidity.
I don’t doubt that because the Isuzu D-Max certainly feels like a tough truck all-round.
At this point I can’t see how this new one can’t meet or surpass the popularity of the superseded D-Max.
NUTS and BOLTS – 2012 Isuzu D-Max
Engine: 3.0 litre turbo diesel producing 130kW and 380Nm
Transmission: 5-speed auto or 5-speed manual
Safety: Five stars
Price: From $27,200