Joel Helmes road tests and reviews the 2014 Isuzu D-Max.
The Isuzu Ute Australia story is one of facing challenges and overcoming them.
The Australian ute market is hard enough to crack at the best of times, but a tiny team of hard workers set-out to do just that back in 2008, with just the one vehicle on their books.
The original Isuzu D-Max, a carryover of Isuzu and GM’s partnership and a model previously sold here as the Holden Rodeo, was launched in 2008.
With a dated product, just a hand full of dealerships and the global financial crisis in full swing Isuzu managed to consistently grow its monthly sales numbers.
On the way to a milestone 10,000 sales, they even managed to persuade some Australian mines to choose their product over the Toyota Hilux – an enormous feat on its own!
Now, six years on, Isuzu has a new D-Max to offer Australian buyers and even an SUV – the MU-X.
The 2014 Isuzu D-Max range is priced from $27,200 and features single cab, space cab and double cab configurations and ute and cab chassis variants too.
All are powered by the same 3.0 litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine, there are 2WD and 4WD versions available and transmission choice is simple – five-speed manual or five-speed automatic.
I had a week in the upper-spec LS-U D-Max with an automatic transmission, a combo that will cost you from $48,300 ($4,300 more than the manual version).
It is what you probably expect, a mix of reasonable comfort, good off-road ability and all-round toughness.
The engine is a definite highlight, producing 130kW and 380Nm acceleration from a standing-start is a little sluggish, but at speed or when climbing a hill the diesel engine comes into its own.
I averaged a very good 8.1L/100kms in a mix of city, country and freeway driving in the 2014 Isuzu D-Max. The official combined figure is exactly the same 8.1L/100kms.
The transmission, while being a ratio short of competition including the Ford Ranger and Holden Colorado (VW Amarok features eight-speed auto!), provides smooth changes and is responsive enough when more effort is required.
On the road the Isuzu D-Max provides a reasonably good ride, the suspension and chassis have quite a rigid feel though and with slightly vague steering and a high centre of gravity, its more truck than sports car (as you would expect!).
Inside the cabin you can see that the D-Max is obviously designed more for functionality than luxury. Hard arm-rests and steering wheel bring the comfort levels down and the dated stereo/infotainment screen disappoints.
Satellite-navigation and a reversing camera aren’t available in the LS-U grade of the Isuzu D-Max either.
On a more positive note, legroom is reasonably good, visibility from the driver’s seat is quite reasonable, you get a very functional trip computer, Bluetooth connectivity and the fit and finish in the cabin is quite impressive.
The front seats too are comfortable, even on a long trip.
17” alloys, plenty of chrome work, side-steps and body-coloured bumpers complete the external appearance of what is an attractive ute.
Summing it up – If you want to tow a boat or a caravan, like getting off-road, or you are a tradie or a farmer, then the D-Max will do everything you need it to.
With any dual-cab ute you do make compromises though when it comes to driving pleasure and comfort, but if versatility, strength and general ruggedness are your priorities then make sure the Isuzu D-Max is on your test-drive list.
NUTS and BOLTS – 2014 Isuzu D-Max
Engine: 3.0 litre turbo-diesel producing 130kW and 380Nm
Transmission: Five-speed manual or five-speed automatic
Safety: Five stars
Price: LS-U from $44,000