2017 Isuzu D-Max Review

2017 Isuzu D-Max Review

Overall Rating

0

3.5 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

4 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

4 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

3 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

3 out of 5 stars

Technology

3 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProSolid, with a reliable engine and 5-year warranty.

  2. ConDoes not do anything unusually well.

  3. The Pick: 2016 Isuzu D-MAX LS-U Hi-Ride (4x4) Crew Cab Utility

What stands out?

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The Isuzu D-Max ute is powered by a proven 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine and offers an equally proven automatic gearbox from the Toyota Prado. It has good cargo and towing capacity, and is available with dual-range four-wheel drive. All models, from farm truck to family tourer, have stability control and full airbag coverage.

What might bug me?

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That friends with some other utes can make easier work of carrying or towing big loads. The D-Max is rated to haul as much as any ute, and it feels safe and secure to drive near its load limits. But you feel the load on its engine more than in some alternatives.

What body styles are there?

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Single-Cab, Space-Cab and Crew-Cab, and in both ute and cab-chassis form. Space-Cab models have fold-down seats behind the front seats, accessed via rear-hinged doors that can open only when the front doors are open. Crew-Cabs have a conventional four-door arrangement, with seating for five. Buyers of cab-chassis models fit trays of their choice at the rear, commonly tailor-made by aftermarket specialists. Utes come with a factory-fitted tub at the back. The D-Max is available as a rear-wheel drive vehicle, or with dual-range four-wheel drive. Rear-wheel drive D-Maxes are available in Low-Ride and High-Ride form. The low-riders are easier to load and unload, while the high-riders have a 4WD look and more clearance for driving on tracks. Four-wheel drive D-Maxes use a part-time 4WD system, which means you can operate them only in rear-wheel drive on sealed roads but may switch to 4WD on loose surfaces. In 4WD you can choose high-range or low-range gears – the latter allowing you to drive comfortably at very slow speeds, which helps in difficult conditions. The D-Max is classified as a light commercial pick-up/cab-chassis.

What features does every D-Max have?

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Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming. An MP3 compatible sound system with an AM/FM radio, a CD player, AUX and Micro USB inputs, and at least four speakers. A leather-wrapped steering wheel with buttons for control the sound system. Air-conditioning, and a 12-volt outlet in the glovebox. Six airbags: two directly in front of the driver and front passenger; one alongside each front occupant to protect the upper body; and a curtain airbag on each side protecting the heads of front and rear passengers. Hill-start assist, which helps you start from rest on uphill slopes by controlling the brakes automatically. Electronic Traction Control. This helps the car maintain drive on slippery surfaces, and is especially helpful with the four-wheel drive models in difficult going. Electronic Stability Control, which helps prevent the car from skidding out of control. This is mandatory on all passenger cars but not on commercial vehicles like the D-Max. In addition, all but one D-Max has remote central locking, power windows, and cruise control that can be operated from buttons on the wheel. (The exception is the D-Max EX, a no-frills 4WD farm truck.) Every D-Max carries a five-year, 130,000km warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

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Only one engine is available in the D-Max, a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel. This is a proven engine that has been in use since 2006. It was revised for this D-Max, which arrived in 2012. It consumes about 8.2 litres/100km in official tests (urban and country combined), with little difference between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive versions, or manuals and autos. In real-world driving, you can expect about 9.5 litres/100km from a D-Max. Most models are available with a five-speed manual gearbox or a five-speed conventional automatic.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

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The least costly D-Maxes are the SX models (and the basic EX farm truck). All run on 15-inch or 16-inch steel wheels and have vinyl floor coverings and cloth seats. Spend more for a D-Max LS-M and you get nicer looking 16-inch wheels made of aluminium alloy. Headlamps are a brighter, projector type, taillights are illuminated by very long-lasting LEDs, and there are foglights in front. An overhead console in the cabin has map-reading lights and space for your sunglasses. Spend more again on an LS-U and you get in addition an 8.0-inch touchscreen that can play DVDs, a better sound system, and a reversing camera. There is carpet on the floor, and the air-conditioning maintains a set temperature. Side steps make it easier to enter the vehicle. Wheel diameter grows to 17 inches, for a more fashionable look. The most expensive D-Max, the LS-Terrain, has leather seats, with powered seat adjustment for the driver. A proximity key allows you to unlock the doors and start the car with the key safe in a pocket or bag, and roof rails make it easier to fit luggage systems. Automatic transmission is standard.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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Going from a Single-Cab D-Max to either a Space-Cab or a Crew-Cab reduces both the length of the tray and how much weight it can carry. The better equipped D-Max 4x4s and most 4x2s do not have the heavy-duty suspension fitted to other models. That makes them more comfortable but reduces the weight you can carry. Choose the most expensive D-Max, the LS-Terrain, and you lose the option of specifying manual transmission. It is auto-only. Every colour except for white is an extra-cost option.

How comfortable is the D-Max?

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The D-Max is roomy and comfortable inside. The dash presentation looks old-fashioned, however, and lacks harmony. Some audio controls are unusually fussy to operate. The D-Max drives as utes generally do. With only passengers on board, the ride can be uncomfortable. Very smooth roads are fine but everywhere else you know you are in a ute. That is mainly because the rear springs are stiff, so that they can support heavy loads. Some cargo in the back always settles the rear, for a more comfortable and better balanced ride. Many D-Maxes come with heavy-duty suspension, which makes the ride even firmer. The exceptions, which ride more comfortably, are the LS-Terrain Crew-Cab, the two LS-U 4x4s, and all but one 4x2 (the SX Single-Cab chassis Low Ride). The engine responds well in most driving situations and has good power at low speeds. It is however relatively noisy. The five-speed automatic gearbox is smooth and fuss-free.

What about safety in a D-Max?

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Standard stability control and six airbags contribute to a safety rating of at least Very Good for all Isuzu D-Maxes. The LS-U and LS-Terrain rate as Excellent thanks to the addition of a reversing camera. (To see a full list of the safety features on any model, select the vehicle and look under the features tab. Safety-related features are listed in red.) The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has awarded all D-Max Crew Cab 4x4s and Crew-Cab High-Ride 4x2s its maximum five stars for safety.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

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Utes aren’t designed as drivers’ cars and the D-Max is only a mid-fielder in driving enjoyment, even by ute standards. The steering lacks precision and the handling does not inspire the confidence you would experience in, say, a Volkswagen Amarok or a Ford Ranger. Pressed hard on the highway, up hills and when overtaking, the D-Max is slower than most alternative utes. Keen drivers should go for the manual gearbox, as the automatic becomes indecisive when driven hard. D-Max 4WD models have decent off-road ability but won’t go as far as some other utes. That is partly because they do not have a rear differential lock, either standard or as an option, which can greatly improve drive in low-grip situations.

How is life in the rear seats?

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Crew-Cab models have a three-person rear seat that’s spacious and comfortable by ute standards. Compared with popular cars and SUVs there is good width and leg room but a more upright backrest. Crew-Cabs also come with three child-seat anchor points. The Space-Cab models have two small, folding jump seats that are suitable only for children and small adults, and over short distances.

How is it for carrying stuff?

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Good, of course. It’s a ute! And the D-Max is also suited to towing. How much you can carry depends on which D-Max you get. Fewer seats in the cab means more length in the tray – and the longer trays accept more weight (because there’s less weight in the cab). Legally, a D-Max can carry about as much as any other ute. Even the D-Max with the least capacity – the LS-Terrain Crew-Cab – can carry 800kg in the tray (40 bags of cement) and a driver and passenger, and still be legal. In practice, if you load 800kg into the tray of a D-Max Crew-Cab its robust chassis feels stable and secure on the road but the diesel engine starts to feel the weight, especially on hills. It still does the job, but not as easily as some other utes. All four-wheel drive D-Maxes are rated to tow a braked trailer weighing 3500kg, which is as much as any similar ute. That’s like towing a robust 20-foot tandem-axle off-road caravan, or a three-horse float with the horses on board. Two-wheel drive D-Maxes are rated to tow 2500kg, which is more like a loaded two-horse float or an 18-foot tandem-axle light-duty road caravan. In practice, the D-Max’s chassis tows 3500kg well but the engine struggles with that much weight behind. Any D-Max is much better matched to a 2500kg trailer, the limit for 2WD versions. In any ute, extreme care should be taken when carrying or towing big loads.

Where is the D-Max made?

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All Isuzu D-Max utes are made in Thailand.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

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Some alternative utes run more smoothly and comfortably, accelerate faster, and feel more secure and responsive in corners – the Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger, for example. If you like driving off-road you might wish for a rear differential lock. The Amarok, Ranger and Mazda BT-50 have one as standard, as do most Toyota HiLuxes and some variants of the Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton. Perhaps better compatibility with your smartphone – through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, for example, which are supported by the Holden Colorado. The Colorado also supplies a forward collision warning and lane departure warning on its most expensive variants, and the Ranger offers these active safety aids as extra-cost options.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

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As a family car you can’t go past the most expensive D-Max, the LS-Terrain. It represents good value given the level of luxury and convenience that’s on offer. However if you don’t need leather seats, and especially if you are happy to change gears yourself, an LS-U 4WD Crew Cab will save you several thousand dollars while retaining a reversing camera for safety in driveways.

Are there plans to update the D-Max soon?

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This generation D-Max arrived in Australia in 2012 and won’t be replaced in the near future. About August 2016 LS-U versions gained a touchscreen and reversing camera, and satellite navigation was dropped from the LS-Terrain. A mid-generation facelift is expected in 2017.