For years now, the Isuzu D-Max has been considered the king of the pick-up trucks due to a combination of reliability and affordability but most of all that sought after 3500kg towing ability.
With an estimated 50,000 sales in 2017 of these commercial vehicles and the introduction of models from Renault and Mercedes, alongside long standing favourites from Mitsubishi, Ford and Toyota, the segment hasn’t been busier or as competitive in years.
However, despite the choice on offer within the segment, in Northern Ireland the Isuzu D-Max is the best seller and rightly so in my opinion. The D-Max is a true work horse and is built to last, as such it maybe won’t do any one thing exceptionally, but it does everything perfectly, something that few others can boast.
This 2017 model has been restyled and enhanced with new bumper, bonnet, grill, tailgate and wheel designs along with headlights incorporating LED daytime running lights. A combination that makes the all new D-Max a nice looking package, but with a good looking outgoing model it was going to be hard to ruin what Isuzu had created.
With buying incentives from Isuzu UK via the Ulster Farmers Union for the agricultural user through to a deal with the British Association for Shooting and Conservation for the lifestyle owner with LEX Autolease looking after the commercial user, there really is not better time to be buying a D-Max.
Not only has the new D-Max had a face-lift, but across the range it has become a more refined and quieter place, with equipment such as hill start assist, hill decent control, Bluetooth, electric windows and air conditioning coming as standard from the entry level.
This entry level ‘Utility’ model, a sheep farmers favourite, starts from £15,749 (all pricing listed is commercial vehicle on the road and is plus vat) whilst an ‘Eiger’ double cab starts from £20,499 and adds a reverse camera, alloy wheels, colour coded bumpers and a CD player.
Next up and starting from £20,499 is the more popular ‘Yukon’ which sees the addition of 18” alloy wheels, side steps, load liner, cruise control and a 7” multi-function touchscreen system whilst the model to go for is the ‘Utah’ offering keyless entry, Apple Carplay & Android Auto, sat nav, DAB radio, roof bars, heated leather interior and rear parking sensors and starts from £24,149.
A range topping ‘Blade’ comes into the dealerships from £26,999 and will suit the lifestyle city owner who enjoys a great escape to the country adding privacy glass, 9” multi-function touchscreen system, front and rear parking sensors, puddle lamps and either a colour coded Aeroklas canopy or sports bar with roller cover.
A single engine offering comes in the form of a 1.9L turbo diesel and said power-train is one major shock and can be mated to either a 6sp auto or 6sp manual gearbox. A shock in the fact that Isuzu have replaced the 2.5 L twin turbocharged diesel unit with a 1.9L variant that produces 162bhp with 266lb/ft.
I will admit that i was sceptical of this downsize in engine, despite understanding why Isuzu have taken the choice. Simply put, with such an engine the new D-max will be more frugal, produce less emissions and as such offers reduced tax, yet still has the means to cope with the job in hand without the need for AdBlu.
Now the job for most D-max’s is one of lugging a trailer around all day (up to 3500kg) whist having a catalogues worth of tools or machinery in the pick-up load bay or a few bales of hay for the horses on tow (up to 1000kg).
This is what the Isuzu was designed for and it performs this with comfort, ease and just enough technology on board to keep it in the minds of those buyers who maybe wanted a pick-up which was nothing more than fur coat and no knickers.
By that i mean a pick-up from a manufacturer that offers premium comfort and mass amounts of tech but doesn’t actually have the underpinnings to do the job in hand of towing big loads or venturing into rough terrain without grounding out or getting stuck.
During my time at the UK launch event of the Isuzu D-Max a month or so ago now – I had the pleasure of an extensive drive of the pick-up on-road in both automatic and manual guise and for a working vehicle I couldn’t fault it, in fact it is one of the most grounded work orientated trucks around.
At the launch there was towing and off-roading available but to be fair both courses were very tame and didn’t demonstrate fully the potential of the new D-Max, this meant a trip down the M1 to Todds Leap Activity Centre outside Ballygawley was called for most recently.
Isuzu NI laid on a proper challenge for us to see just what the D-Max is capable of when the mountain goats need tending to and after a thirty minute drive around the meandering and undulating countryside in an automatic Blade model with close to 3500kg (another D-Max) on board the tri-axle trailer I knew the downsize in engine isn’t going to be much of an issue!
From here it was into an entry level 4×4 model coupled with 6sp ‘box alongside instructor Niall O’Hanlon from Todd’s Leap keeping the craic flowing and calling the notes around his family’s mountain tracks.
Thankfully Niall knows I have experience off-roading and as such we were both eager to see just what could stop the D-Max, Isuzu will be glad to hear that the answer is nothing – it was unstoppable on some very challenging areas.
Testament to this is the fact that you will see a lot of the NIE Defenders are now being replaced with Isuzu D-Max trucks – trucks that just work – trucks that can do everything!
With a 5 year, 125,000 mile warranty with 5 year UK and EU roadside assistance I think this new model D-Max has reaffirmed itself within the segment and will likely continue to be the most sought after truck in NI.
Words and Photos: Graham Curry
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