Long Term Test: Isuzu D-max

Date: Monday, February 25, 2013

Isuzu has upped its game with its new pick-up – adding refinement to its traditional toughness – and it now has sector leadership in its sights. James Dallas reports

During the past couple of years competition in the pick-up sector has intensified with the arrival of a raft of new models, including heavyweight contenders such as the VW Amarok and new Ford Ranger as well as the debut of Chinese brand Great Wall at the budget end of the market with its Steed. Established players such as Toyota and Mitsubishi have also kept themselves in the frame by freshening up their respective Hilux and L200 ranges.
It is all the more intriguing then to note Isuzu’s bold ambitions for its latest pick-up, the D-max, which launched in the second half of 2012 as a replacement for the Rodeo. Starting with projected sales of 3500 in 2013, the manufacturer makes no bones about the fact that its target is to become number one in the UK pick-up sector.
Isuzu reckons the D-max Yukon, which sits below the Utah flagship model and above the Eiger and entry-level D-max in a line-up of four trim levels, will be the best seller, so we decided to enlist one onto our long-term fleet.
Like the rest of the range, the Yukon is powered by Isuzu’s 163hp 2.5-litre diesel engine, and we plumped for the six-speed manual version. The Yukon manual does not lack brute strength – a 3.0-tonne towing capacity and maximum payload of 1072kg are testament to that – and the vehicle lopes along the motorway with plenty in reserve. Its official combined cycle fuel consumption of 38.2mpg is only bettered by the Hilux and CO2 emissions of 194g/km are on a par with the Toyota truck.
With a pre-VAT price tag of £19,499 the Yukon is extremely competitive for a mid- to high-level specification pick-up. The Ford Ranger Limited, which occupies the same position in a four-strong trim line-up, starts at £22,040, while the mid-range VW Amarok Trendline is closer, at £19,995. Toyota offers less choice in terms of trim, but its 2.5-litre double cab Hilux is priced from £17,866 while the 3.0-litre is £20,700. Nissan’s Navara Tekna starts from £21,870 and Mitsubishi’s L200 Warrior is £19,675. Great Wall’s Steed has a top price of £15,998, but while this puts it on a par with some of the other brands’ entry-level models, it is more likely to find its niche by offering customers looking for a used pick-up the chance to buy a new one.
Although the D-max range marks a step up in quality from its workhorse predecessor, the Rodeo, the challenge for the newcomer is in matching the refinement of its rivals.
Our Yukon will spend a lot of time in urban environments and loads are likely to include camping equipment, travel bags, kids’ toys and possibly the odd dog as well as household and garden waste. To best cater for these requirements we’ve had it equipped with a parking camera and a Truckman cover for the load bay.
Initial impressions are that the gear change can be notchy under stop/start city driving conditions, while the vehicle’s sheer bulk means routes have to be planned with care. But excellent wing mirrors and a reasonable rear view through the tailgate made reversing less hazardous before the camera was fitted.
Out on the open road the overall handling has a chance to impress and the steering is reassuringly steady. One member of our team has already put the Yukon to work over a weekend in lugging a load of old broken-up window frames to the municipal dump. He was impressed by the Yukon’s rugged looks and the precision of its satnav. His son is a fan too. So much so that the Yukon, under his insistence, has now completed its first school run.


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