Isuzu has based its special edition Blade, which is available exclusively in the UK, on its premium D-max Utah and Yukon pick-up models.
The manufacturer hopes the Blade will expand the brand’s reach beyond its traditional customer base in the farming community and appeal to urban traders and recreational lifestyle users as well as those wanting a capable workhorse.
And a capable workhorse it certainly is, powered by Isuzu’s muscular 2.5-litre twin-turbo diesel engine, producing 163hp and 400Nm of torque, the Blade inherits the running gear of the rest of the D-max range and has a 1.0-tonne payload and 3.5-tonne towing capacity.
It is in its element when traversing farm tracks and negotiating steep and bumpy slopes off-road. But perhaps that is the problem. Despite boasting £5000 worth of additional equipment over the Utah, including 18-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass windows, black door and tailgate handles, black roof bars and rear bumper and heavy-duty side steps, the Blade cannot match the refinement of rivals such as the VW Amarok, Nissan Navara and Ford Ranger.
It is not for the want of trying, inside the double-cab Blade features automatic climate control and black leather seats, which are heated in the front. It also promises DAB radio and an ipod socket and gets a 6.1-inch touchscreen navigation system fitted with a rear-view reversing camera.
It comes with an under-rail bed liner and is available with a hard-top or with the Mountain Top black roller top cover that was fitted to the model we tested.
We also opted for the six-speed manual rather than the five-speed auto version that carries a price premium of £1000.
The gear change is reasonably smooth despite the long, spindly lever but while there is plenty of pull at low speeds the response in fifth and sixth gear is less than dynamic. On the motorway cruise control is operated simply from the steering wheel but wind noise was intrusive at higher speeds and the ride bouncy, although it settled down with a load in the back.
The touch screen controls for sat nav and entertainment are fine but the adjacent buttons are tiny, which means you are better off using the steering wheel-mounted controls.
Irritatingly there was no signal for DAB radio and the ipod refused to emit any sound despite the screen displaying the artwork (album cover) for the piece of music selected.
What’s more, the reversing camera does not instill confidence - it comes with an unnerving message that the image may appear upside down and there is no audible alert when you get close to an obstruction.
The Blade’s biggest appeal is its price. The six-speed manual costs £24,995, excluding VAT, £5000 cheaper than VW’s Amarok special edition, the Canyon, for example.
The Blade is a step up for the D-max range but does not match the refinement of its more expensive rivals.