Isuzu makes no extravagant, colourful promises for its D-Max one-tonne utes. Instead, it says it offers “honest, reliable products that deliver on their promise”.
This statement won’t sell sports cars, but it’s what you want to hear about a four-wheel drive ute that will be expected to climb every mountain, cross every rubble-strewn building site and take the family up the beach on weekends.
If you haven’t noticed, the ute is now one of the most popular vehicle types in Australia. The SUV wagon is also tearing up the sales charts, but if something tougher and stronger is needed the one-tonne, crew-cab (four-door) 4WD ute is the answer.
We’re following the American enthusiasm for big, blinged-up pick-ups, albeit a size smaller in the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50, Holden Colorado, Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton that sell here faster than a sausage sizzle at Bunnings.
And then there’s the Isuzu D-Max. Launched in 2012 and hardly updated since, the current D-Max is the oldest offering in this group and in the higher-spec versions a family might want, seems to lack some features.
That doesn’t mean it’s not popular. The Japanese-owned, Thai-built D-Max found almost 15,000 new owners last year and there are now more than 70,000 utes and sibling Isuzu MU-X wagons on the road.
(And just to confuse you, it’s in a sense way more than that – under the Holden Colorado and its Rodeo predecessor are the bones of the Isuzu ute. Isuzu has supplied Holden for many years, although the differences between the models are wider than they used to be.)
That’s a big achievement for a company that launched in Australia less than eight years ago and, incidentally, is the only major motor vehicle importer headquartered in Queensland.
Clearly, Isuzu’s research showed Queenslanders would take to the rugged D-Max.
There’s a 4×2 range for commercial operators, but it’s the 4×4 private buyers or successful tradies will want. The usual single cab-chassis, king cab and crew cab configurations are available and there are up to four equipment levels. Prices excluding on-roads are between $33,900 and $53,000.
Every D-Max comes with a 3.0 litre turbocharged diesel engine producing 130 kiloWatts of power and 380 Newtonmetres of torque. Five-speed manual or automatic transmissions are available. I’d choose the versatile auto.
The top-spec Terrain version features plenty of gear for a ute, from navigation to climate control, keyless locking and ignition, reversing camera, Bluetooth connection and leather upholstery. Yet it lacks technology newer (but pricier) rivals have introduced, such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assistance, driver fatigue monitoring and tyre pressure monitoring.
But this is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get 4WD, remember? The important assets are that grunty diesel, ladder-frame separate chassis and dual-range transmission, with 4WD able to be selected “on-the-fly” at up to 100 kmh via a simple nob on the console.
Towing capacity with a braked trailer is rated at three tonnes and tray load capacity is “approximately” 1000 kg. The tow rating is no longer at the top of the class, but that should immaterial for owners of average-size boats, vans or floats.
As daily wheels go, the D-Max is easy to handle and feels indestructible.
With space and comfort for parents and three kids, plenty of cargo tray capacity and enough muscle to haul a boat, it’s Great Outdoors here we come.
Isuzu even helps you get there. It’s created an owners’ club, I-Venture, which provides expert off-road training and leads small groups on beach or bush adventures.
That really is delivering on the maker’s promise of an honest, reliable vehicle that will get you anywhere.