Isuzu D-MAX Dual Cab

words & photos - Matt Brogan
Isuzu's trade tough D-MAX is one slick bit of kit... and with at least 10 direct rivals, it has to be!

Isuzu D-MAX Dual Cab
Road Test

Price Guide
(recommended price before statutory & delivery charges): $24,990 - $49,300
Options fitted to test car (not included in above price): Metallic Paint $300
Crash rating (ANCAP): Three-star
Fuel: Diesel
Claimed fuel economy (L/100km): 9.0
CO2 emissions (g/km): 237
Also consider: Ford Ranger, Great Wall V240, Holden Colorado, Mahindra Pik-Up, Mazda BT-50, Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara, Ssangyong Actyon Sports, Toyota HiLux, Volkswagen Amarok

Overall rating: 2.5/5.0
Engine/Drivetrain/Chassis: 2.5/5.0
Price, Packaging and Practicality: 3.5/5.0
Safety: 2.0/5.0
Behind the wheel: 2.5/5.0
X-factor: 2.0/5.0

About our ratings

Sharing its origins with the Holden Colorado (nee Rodeo), the Thai-built Isuzu D-MAX entered the commercial market locally around 18 months ago after Isuzu's split with GM gave the Japanese company an opening for independent franchise.

Available in single, space and crew-cab formats, with tray and utility bodies and in two- and four-wheel drive guise, the Isuzu D-MAX is powered exclusively by a 3.0-litre common-rail turbodiesel engine available with manual or automatic transmission for a total of 34 distinct configurations, or 36 if you count the new limited edition D-MAX Farm Mate.

The somewhat boisterous but capable intercooled direct injection four-cylinder mill provides a total output of 120kW/360Nm (or 333Nm when optioned with an automatic transmission). There is an electronically controlled four-speed Maximatic III automatic transmission and push-button four-wheel drive, or a five-speed manual also with push-button all-paw instigation.

With adaptive grade logic locking the torque converter on 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears, the four-speed automatic transmission is quite capable both on and offroad and will hold 3rd gear on steep descents or when moving from standstill on slippery ground.  4L also equips D-MAX with idle speed crawl for controlled progress over uneven terrain while the selection between 2H and 4H can be done on-the-fly at speeds up to 100km/h.

If you require a little more pace, are towing, or carrying any substantial payload, the automatic's switchable 'POWER DRIVE' function holds gears longer for improved stride. In all, passage in D-MAX is relatively brisk given its commercial orientation with fuel consumption an acceptable 12.9L/100km for a week's travel through mostly urban terrain.

We also spent some time testing the five-speed manual and this too was a tidy transmission. While the clutch could have been tuned for a more intuitive uptake in the pedal's arc of travel, the gear ratios are well spaced to ensure good drive at most road speeds. The shift mechanism felt a little agricultural, but not overly heavy. It never missed a gear between gates and the manual provided the D-MAX with impressive grunt.

Riding on a full chassis the D-MAX is quite tough underfoot, which is understandable given its intended market. This does however translate to a slightly firm yet curiously underdamped ride. To improve carrying capacity the body is suspended by leaf springs at the rear and a double wishbone arrangement sprung by a torsion beam up front (coils up front for 4x2 models).

For those serious about offroad use, D-MAX is available with a 'high-ride' pack that elevates ground clearance from 195 to 225mm. All models feature a live rear axle with limited slip differential aided by a snorkelled breather to increase wading depth and reduce the instances of mud ingress.

The all important geometry stats see D-MAX 4x4 models offer break over, approach and departure angles of 21.0, 34.6 and 23.3 degrees respectively.

Payload allows a maximum carrying capacity of 980kg while towing is rated up to 3000kg when trailer brakes are fitted (2500kg on 4x2 models).

Manoeuvring around town is easy enough and excusing D-MAX's obvious proportions, the combination of a 13 metre turning circle and well-assisted power steering with 3.2 turns lock-to-lock make parking or reversing a trailer a relatively straightforward task. Stopping the D-MAX are vented discs up front and solid disc rears. ABS with EBD is offered on all models except the entry-level EX. Stability control, increasingly common in many of D-MAX's adversaries, is not offered anywhere in the range.

For safety's sake, D-MAX is fitted with dual front airbags and chassis rails designed specifically to minimise cabin intrusion in the event of a frontal collision. A plastic fuel tank also helps contain spills when deformed while at the same time saving weight. D-MAX scores a three-star ANCAP safety rating.

Inside, the cabin's dull but durable interior is well screwed together, though night dimming of the dashboard leaves a lot to be desired. The instrument cluster lighting is adjustable, as are the HVAC controls (albeit via seperate switches). The radio, obviously an afterthought, is constantly illuminated in the one, annoyingly bright orange hue.

Front seat cushioning is on the soft side and lacks adequate lateral support. That said it's ample in proportion while head and legroom are generous throughout.

Up back, the rear bench is offered with lap sash seatbelts in all three positions but omits a head restraint for the centre passenger. Like many crew cab utes, the second row's back rest is quite plumb making it less than ideal for longer trips. On the plus side, all outboard seats (front and rear) feature adjustable shoulder height control.

Depending on variant, the D-MAX is offered with power windows and mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control, remote central locking (includes tailgate) and a four-speaker single-CD tuner (no iPod or auxiliary connection is offered, ditto Bluetooth). For reference, FM reception is rather average.

From the outside, the new more 'feisty' appearance (as Isuzu puts it) includes an aggressive chrome finished grille with prominent horizontal cross bar and 'sabre tooth' details flanked by effective projector-style headlamps. Some versions also gain double spoke alloy wheels for a slightly tougher stance.

With so much choice around (we counted 10 direct rivals) D-MAX is clearly one of the better options available when selecting your next trade-tough truck, and like most of its commercial rivals is backed by a three year / 100,000 kilometre factory warranty.

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Published : Friday, 28 January 2011
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