ISUZU was founded in 1916 in Japan and in 1987 the first Isuzu vehicle, the Trooper, was imported into the UK. This was followed in 1988 by the TF pickup, which became the Rodeo in 2002. The first D-Max was launched in 2012 with a 2.5-litre diesel engine. This model was refreshed in 2017 when the 1.9-litre engine was introduced.

Earlier in 2021, the all-new D-Max was unveiled, still featuring the 1.9-litre diesel engine but introducing a new body on an upgraded chassis, maintaining its 3.5-tonne towing capacity, and over 1,120 kg payload. Isuzu’s dealer network increased to 111 across the UK.

The D-Max is actually built in Thailand, where it is the country’s best-selling vehicle. Each new model comes with a 125,000-mile/five-year warranty and five years’ UK and European roadside assistance. 

READ MORE: Review: Isuzu D-Max tipper

Sales of the D-Max since introduction have been around 5,000 units annually and Isuzu has high hopes for the new version, expecting sales to head towards 10,000 a year. With both Nissan and Mitsubishi pickups existing in the UK and European markets there is certainly scope for the D-Max to gather sales momentum.

The D-Max is available in a wide array of body types, with models ranging in price from £21,000 plus VAT for a two-wheel-drive single cab, up to £32,759 plus VAT top of the range. Body types comprise single cab, extended cab and double cab. In 2020, for the outgoing model, nine per cent were single cabs, 12 per cent extended cabs and 79 per cent double cabs. Utility models counted for 34 per cent of sales, all-purpose 44 per cent and adventure 22 per cent. Isuzu is expecting the all-new model to see adventure models take a greater share of 30 per cent, utility 25 per cent and all-purpose 45 per cent.

Forestry Journal:

The new D-Max is available in four trim levels: Utility (all three body types available), DL20 and DL40 (extended and double cab) and V-Cross (double cab only). All models share the same 1.9-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, providing 164 bhp and 360 Nm of torque. The same six-speed manual gearbox is carried over from the outgoing model, but the automatic gearbox has been upgraded to enable up to 25 per cent faster gear changes for a smoother, more efficient ride.

I test-drove a Utility double cab with a manual gearbox and I would certainly be keen to drive one with the revised auto box which accounted for 30 per cent of sales in 2020. The manual gearbox is a long-throw device and, combined with a long-travel clutch, it certainly keeps you active in the driving experience. There is not much range in first gear and, when under acceleration, the engine is noisy. Once cruising all is calm. So, if the auto box is any good it would probably be worth specifying, but it does reduce fuel economy by 3 mpg and costs an additional £1,500 plus VAT.

Forestry Journal:

Isuzu has kept the specifications high, even for the cheap entry Utility model, which includes automatic headlights, auto windscreen wipers, a stop-and-start system, lane departure warning (where the steering wheel reacts if you venture out of your lane), electric windows and manual air conditioning. Utility models feature easy to clean vinyl flooring and durable steel wheels, while the bumpers, door mirrors and door handles are made from hard plastic.

The next models up the range are the DL20 and DL40, the DL signifying that the rear diff becomes a standard feature. DL20 features include heated front seats, rear parking sensors, front fog lights and 18” wheels. DL40 additional features include LED lights, more bright work and keyless entry, leather upholstery, leather steering wheel, electric adjustable driver’s seat, and, most useful, climate control. The DL20 double-cab auto is priced at £28,259 plus VAT and the DL40 auto at £31,259 plus VAT. The range-topping V-Cross comes with a larger 9” multi-function colour touchscreen, eight speakers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and auto headlight levelling, smarter leather etc, at £32,759 plus VAT.

Forestry Journal:

The steering turning circle is tight, but the wheel does need a fair bit of turning to get you there. The D-Max feels well made and built for hard work. Heated seats should be standard on the Utility version as when working outdoors in wet conditions they are often very welcome!

As with most pickups, the ride is a bit jittery when unladen. Pickups tend to be long vehicles and with the D-Max at 5.4 m long the rear-view camera available on the DL40 and V-Cross is very useful. Again, it should be available on the Utility model as they are very handy for trailer work. The new rear bumper has an integrated rear step which makes it easier to access the load area.

Forestry Journal:

The wheelbase is now 30 mm longer, allowing for a little more space in the cabin, and there are plenty of storage compartments. Certainly, between the front seats there is a very useful range of bins, and the overhead console features a sunglasses holder as standard across the range. The steering wheel is both height and reach adjustable.

The strength and rigidity of the ladder-frame chassis has increased with the addition of an extra cross member and larger rails which are up to 34 per cent wider and 14 per cent higher in sections. All 4x4 models are equipped with trailer sway control which reduces speed if sway is detected. Hill-start assist and hill-descent control are standard on all variants.

The 4WD is engaged via a rotary control on the dashboard. This shift on the fly has three settings but a new actuator now provides much faster transfer between 2H, 4H and 4Low. 2H is for on-road driving, 4H is used for slippery surfaces like grass and mud, and 4Low is for more extreme off-road terrain.

The rear differential lock is activated by pressing a button by the gear lever and will only engage when 4Low is selected and speed is less than 5mph. This locks the rear differential, meaning the left and right wheels on the rear axle turn at the same speed. ABS, ESC, traction control, HSA and HDC do not work when diff lock is activated. It disengages when speed reaches 19 mph. 

Underbody protection has been improved, now featuring a 1.15-mm steel skid plate, 1 mm steel guard for the engine sump, transmission and transfer case, and new 5 mm reinforced resin underbody air deflector. The rear suspension features a new design of leaf spring. Brakes comprise front discs and rear drums.

The D-Max weighs in at two tonnes and has a 76-litre fuel tank and 14-litre AdBlue tank. According to the onboard computer it averaged 38 mpg in my hands, whilst the official combined cycle is quoted at 34 mpg for the manual.

Forestry Journal:

The D-Max is a well-designed workhorse which is at home off-road and good enough on road. It is just about fast enough that you can spin along nice enough on the open road, but the manual gearbox/clutch combination gets a bit wearisome. The brakes and handling are good, and no doubt with a load aboard the ride would settle down.  Its ground clearance of 235 mm is very good and does mean it’s a pull-up to get into the driver’s seat.

Already Isuzu are reporting strong sales of this new D-Max. So, it will be interesting to see how it does in 2022 with the restricted choice and availability of pickups on the UK market. The D-Max will certainly attract much interest.