|  First Published: February 2012

The Isuzu D-Max utility is a workhorse with a refined character, thanks to its high degree of ride comfort, roomy interior and a smooth, tractable diesel engine.

It is available in either manual or auto transmissions, two or four wheel drive, in fact there is an amazing thirteen variants throughout the range to choose from and all benefit from the Isuzu heritage of high quality build, strong yet frugal diesel engine plus a reputation for reliability.

The Isuzu D-Max is a fifth generation 1 tonne ute, with emphasis moving from its predecessor’s role as a pure work horse to a vehicle with comfort, refinement and plenty of features. The D-Max can still function as a work horse, albeit a comfortable one, thanks to a suspension that offers a combination of 1 tonne load carrying ability plus a well controlled ride.

easy to drive

The cherry red (actually Tornado Red Mica, from the brochure) LS 4x4 Crew Cab ute reviewed was a manual unit powered by the standard 3L four cylinder sixteen valve DOHC common rail turbo diesel engine. It develops 360Nm of torque, 120kW of power and is the self same unit fitted to the Isuzu 2 tonne truck!

The engine features a stainless steel timing belt – designed to last the entire life of the engine – to operate the double over head cam shafts and comes with Isuzu’s hi-tech variable vane turbo geometry system for maximum output and reduced turbo lag.

A stint behind the wheel showed where the D-Max engine really shines – the distribution of 360Nm of torque. All that pulling power is handy at the boat ramp, pulling a van, or slogging up the beach. The engine comes in from 1800rpm through to 2800rpm in the manual, from 1600rpm through to 3200rpm in the auto, which means that there’s virtually no turbo lag in either transmission mode.

I noticed that as the clutch was let out – it was light but with a fairly long throw – the engine’s power and torque could be felt from the outset and made for easy city driving, or very enjoyable country road work. Overtaking slower vehicles on long uphill straights was never an issue, and in most instances there was no need to drop back a gear.

While the Isuzu five speed gearbox had a fairly long throw between gears it was easily mastered. I found the ratios were well spaced with no chance of a mix up.

Overall, the D-Max was a very easy drive with its high seating, good all round visibility and excellent braking from the discs front, drums rear set up.

Convenience and safety

Driver and passengers won’t find too much lacking from the interior of the D-Max. Wide, supportive, bucket style seats provide comfort for the driver and the front passenger with another three smaller persons seated behind.

Key operated remote door opening, air conditioning, electric operation for most functions including exterior wing mirrors, a large roof console, plenty of side and other pockets plus cup holders provide most of the comfort and convenience.

Cruise control was also featured in the SL version along with a five function trip computer. The sound system came with a CD/FM/AM radio and additional MP3 player all linked to six speakers for best distribution of sound. A leather trimmed steering wheel and gear change knob added a touch of class. Night driving was enhanced by the ute’s projector head lights which added a high degree of low beam vision.

The four wheel drive selection is through a dash mounted selector that works virtually as soon as the switch is operated.

Isuzu have certainly not overlooked additional safety features either. ABS and EBD are standard in the LS, as are dual front air bags, an energy absorbing nose section linked to a rigid cabin cell, plus side energy anti-intrusion bars within all doors.

On and off the road

A combination of city and country driving conveyed an impression of steadiness and comfort throughout. The D-Max is still a work horse but with a definite feel of quality. The engine couldn’t be heard at any normal cruise speeds and it didn’t display any harshness associated with a heavy duty ute.

Off road work will impress too. A decent approach and departure angle mated to ample ground clearance and low range capacity ensure easy going on the beach and on bush tracks, all while towing a boat.

Tow capability is 3 tonnes for a braked trailer and 750kg for an unbraked trailer. Fuel consumption during a combined test run with two aboard and a fair load tucked into the 1460x1380 rear tray, was 10.4L per 100km. The fuel tank capacity is 76L.


In a highly competitive niche market the Isuzu D-Max can hold its own with its proven ability to work through the week and play hard on weekends. Warranty is 100,000km or three years, which ever comes first. Price of the LS Crew Cab as supplied by Nundah Isuzu was $42,990

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