WHAT VAN? AWARDS – WINNER'S PROFILE: Isuzu takes it to the D-max

Date: Monday, August 6, 2018

The brand is confident it covers all bases with the hardest-working pick-up truck
in the business, reports James Dallas.

This is Isuzu’s AT Stealth model – just 10 were made

In a sector increasingly dominated by ever more luxurious (and expensive) pick-up trucks, which could be accused of getting ideas above their station as they vie for attention in the so called ‘lifestyle’ sector, the Isuzu D-max offers a breath of fresh air.

It is a no-nonsense workhorse that ticks the boxes pick-up trucks were originally intended to tick, and is even available in single- and extended-cab guises.

But while undoubtedly a rugged all-rounder comfortable both off- and on-road, the D-max is not without sophistication and has a lot going for it.

Isuzu introduced the current model in May 2017 with a new, downsized engine – a 164hp 1.9-litre four-cylinder diesel replaced the old 163hp 2.5-litre unit. This delivers far better fuel economy but does not, insists the manufacturer, impinge upon its ability to put in a shift. It can still tow a joint class-leading 3.5t trailer, for example.

While the 1.9-litre is the only engine offered it can be married to either six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearboxes, and Isuzu has achieved compliance with the Euro6 exhaust emission regulations without having to resort to AdBlue – a feather in the brand’s cap as it is the only pick-up in the market to manage this and is a feature likely to go down well with the D-max’s core base of rural customers who just want to get on with the job in hand without such distractions.

While Isuzu likes to emphasise its truck’s rugged competence with the strapline ‘It just works’, trim levels are far from Spartan, and plenty of features are available to provide a comfortable working environment.

Even the entry-level Utility model comes with air-conditioning. Thereafter you follow a specification walk that takes you through Eiger, Yukon, Utah and Blade, which comes with a 9.0in touchscreen plus front and rear parking sensors.

But you don’t have to travel all the way to the top of the range to enjoy some in-cab cosseting. Utah features Bluetooth connectivity with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Also included in the deal are satellite navigation, a 7.0in touchscreen, and an eight-speaker DAB digital radio in a redesigned instrument panel with remote controls on the steering wheel.

You can order the Utility as either a 4x2 or a 4x4. Everything else comes with four-wheel drive as standard.

Isuzu continues to deserve plaudits for its provision of a five-year/125,000-mile warranty, backed up by a five-year roadside rescue and recovery scheme that includes Continental cover. The package is accompanied by a six-year anti-corrosion warranty and a three-year paint warranty.

Isuzu’s UK general manager William Brown says the market is already familiar with the D-max’s capabilities as an outstanding working vehicle but acknowledges that being crowned What Van?’s pick-up truck of the year for 2018 helped to further burnish its reputation.

“People who want a pick-up to do what a pick-up is designed to do are already aware that the Isuzu D-max is the best pick-up in the sector,” Brown claims.

“Winning the award has helped to reinforce our credentials with those in the know and increase awareness with people that are unfamiliar with what’s on offer in the pick-up sector.”

Brown says that because What Van? is a “credible and recognised voice of authority that understands the LCV and pick-up market”, Isuzu has used the award to promote the D-max across all its channels.

“It has been a key part of our marketing strategy for 2018,” he adds.

Brown also claims that in a market where Isuzu’s competitors are struggling this year, its sales are ahead of where they were in 2017.

This is not borne out by the Society of Motor Manufacturer and Traders’ figures, however, which put Isuzu down 6% in the first five months of the year on 2,022 registrations, with a poor showing in May (down 27%) largely to blame for the shortfall. It should be noted, though, that brands producing rival pick-ups, such as Mitsubishi, Toyota and Fiat Professional, were also behind in the year to the end of May.


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