Isuzu D-Max is one of the toughest and most off-road-capable old-school pickups for any amount of money. It is definitely not the most luxurious feeling pickup, though, but that’s not what the D-Max is about.

More recent models have gained some premium features that older model years lacked, like leather seats, a reversing camera and smartphone pairing tech, but the main reason why you’d want to buy one is to really use it either doing serious off-roading or for towing as it does a great job at both.

Its noisy and not very refined 2.5-liter twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel was replaced along with the truck’s recent refresh by a slightly less noisy 1.9-liter which makes the same power as the old unit, but slightly less torque.

There’s also plenty of flexibility in terms of body and drive alternatives - Isuzu offers the D-Max with either 4x2 or 4x4 drivetrains, as well as several cab variants too. And there is quite a bit of visual differentiation between utilitarian examples just meant to work, and more luxurious trimmed ones used more as family cars - the basic, single-cab model comes with a non-painted front bumper, steel wheels with no hubcaps and a spartan interior completely devoid of toys.

Blade top trim level adds nice alloys, leather seats, a touchscreen infotainment system, a decent six-speed automatic transmission, and climate control. The most capable D-Max on sale now is the D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35, a specialist-modified model with upgraded suspension, wheels complete with flared wheel arch extensions.

Exterior

2018 Isuzu D-Max
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The basic D-Max still looks good, whichever one you choose, although you can only get all the options on the double-cab.

Aesthetically, it’s in line with the Nissan Navara or the Mitsubishi L200, although its bold and quite aggressive front fascia does help it stand out.

Around the sides, it could literally be any other similarly sized pickup, and the same story goes for the rear end where a large D-Max badge and smaller Isuzu badge on top remind you what you’re looking at. Open up the bed, and you will be greeted by a much larger Isuzu script, molded into the plastic on the back of the cab.

Higher trim level vehicles may come with different larger rims, sticker packs and there are even special versions of the vehicle - mostly in Asia where the D-Max is most popular. Isuzu even sold a V-Cross special edition named after the late 1990s VehiCROSS two-door SUV it tried to sell in Japan and America.

Interior

2018 Isuzu D-Max
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The D-Max is not a luxurious pickup truck by any means - there is not a single soft surface on any of the trim materials inside - it’s all hard plastic and there aren’t any color touches anywhere. But it certainly looks durable and is actually surprisingly practical with plenty of storage spaces, large door bins with cup holders - it also feels quite spacious an airy inside.

Models with leather-wrapped steering wheels and leather seats certainly feel more inviting, and the climate control and touchscreen further add to the ambiance.

Overall comfort levels are about average, and since it has leaf springs at the back, the rear will sometimes skip over bumps if there isn’t anything in the bed to weigh it down. But the driving position and the seats themselves are quite good, and many miles can be covered with minimal backache in the D-Max.

Drivetrain

2018 Isuzu D-Max
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The new 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine that replaces the older 2.5-liter diesel in the D-Max isn’t much more refined. It may make the same 163 metric horsepower as the old one, but it also loses 40 Nm (29 pound-feet) of torque, yet even, so performance doesn’t appear to have taken a significant hit.

There’s also a larger 3.0-liter diesel on offer for some markets, but it doesn’t make any more power than the 1.9-liter.

For Ecuador only, there was also a 2.4-liter gasoline on offer.

Launched in 2012, this generation D-Max first came with five-speed manual or automatic transmissions but is now offered with six speeds for both. There’s also a low and high ratio function for four-wheel drive models, and it is rated as being able to tow a 3.5-ton (7,716-pound) trailer.

Out on the road, the D-Max drives pretty well for something its size and with clear purely utilitarian roots. But it holds the road well enough, and while there is lean through the corners, it can be driven swiftly fairly safely.

Prices

2018 Isuzu D-Max
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In Europe, the D-Max can be had from as little as €22,500 ($25,836), but for that, you get a basic single-cab example. A fully-loaded double-cab one, with automatic gearbox, is over €33,000 ($37,900) and there are still options that can be added - that D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 mentioned in the intro is €44,000 ($50,560).

Competition

Nissan Navara

2015 Nissan NP300 Navara High Resolution Exterior
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Arguably the D-Max’s archenemy, the Nissan Navara brings to battle an interior that is far better than most vehicles in the class, unmatched refinement and ride quality, as well as plenty of tech too. It also looks quite handsome in its latest generation too, and it fights for the title of most car-like to drive pickup in the segment.

The extra refinement also comes courtesy of a quieter drivetrain and for automatic-equipped models a smoother shift as well. However, it doesn’t feel as punchy as the D-Max on the move, the manual gearbox really isn’t precise by modern standards, and the whole package just lacks a bit of finesse. Pricing for the Navara kicks off at just over €30,000 ($34,400).

Read our full review on the 2018 Nissan Navara

Volkswagen Amarok

2018 Volkswagen Amarok High Resolution Exterior
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Before the Mercedes X-Class brought a premium badge into the market sector, the VW Amarok was the luxury pickup of choice. It feels as well built and has the same level of perceived quality as any VW product, and with the later 3.0-liter diesel engine it also has performance to match the premium feel.

The most powerful version of the engine has 268 metric horsepower, and it really helps it move, however, its maximum rated weight for a braked trailer is just 3.1 tons, versus the 3.5-ton capability of the Navara and D-Max. Amaroq prices start from €34,200 ($39,280).

Read our full review on the Volkswagen Amarok

Mitsubishi L200

2018 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian SVP II
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Mitsubishi has been making the current L200 (also known as the Triton) since 2014, and in Europe, it is powered exclusively by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder turbo diesel engine. Like the D-Max, it too suffers from having a less-than-luxurious feeling interior made up only of hard plastics, but like with the Isuzu, it too feels well built and durable.

It’s also somewhat more stylish than the D-Max inside, but the aftermarket touchscreen infotainment really dates the cabin. But at least performance is brisk from the 178 metric horsepower diesel which capable of pushing the L200 to 62 mph or 100 km/h in 10.4 seconds. Pricing matches the affordable D-Max too, as you can get a base L200 for €24,000 ($27,500).

Read our full review on the Mitsubishi L200

Conclusion

2018 Isuzu D-Max
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The Isuzu D-Max is reasonably priced, it drives decently for what it is and with the new 1.9-liter engine improves overall refinement. Its interior is not the best in class, but with the latest touchscreen infotainment, it definitely looks modern by current standards.

It also has quite a wide array of body choices that cannot be matched by rivals - no fewer than five different versions. And they cater for a wide spectrum of buyers, from those looking for an affordable but capable hauler to those looking to use it more as a daily driver for areas where roads are often unpaved.

Then there’s the undeniable cool factor of the Arctic Trucks AT35 model, which is an official model sold by Isuzu, with warranty and everything. It grants extra credibility to the rest of the range since any D-Max can be turned into that car with some additions and modifications.

  • Leave it
    • Interior not as good as rivals’
    • Engine could be more refined

Further reading

2012 Isuzu D-Max Exterior
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Read our full review on the previous generation 2012 Isuzu D-Max.

When it comes to getting the job done, there’s no vehicle more suitable than the Isuzu D-Max – a rugged all-rounder that just works. Master of all trades and the perfect blend of rugged capability whether off-road or load-lugging; paired with performance and comfort.

For the new generation D-Max; the biggest change is under the bonnet. A brand new 1.9 litre turbo diesel engine has been fitted, which produces 164 PS and 360 Nm of torque. The engine builds upon D-Max’s workhorse character and retains the 3.5 tonne towing capacity and over 1 tonne payload whilst providing a quieter, more refined and economical driving experience. Another key benefit is that the new engine meets Euro 6 standards without the need for the addition of AdBlue.

As per previous D-Max models, Shift-On-The-Fly 4x4 is a key feature of the 17MY truck. The rotary dial allows the driver to select four-wheel drive on the move and is also equipped with low range gears.

The range-line up from the much-loved D-Max is retained; Utility, Eiger, Yukon, Utah and Blade with a range of single, extended and double cab variants available.

The entry-level Utility D-Max, priced from £15,749 (CVOTR) comes equipped with LED daytime running lights, Hill Start Assist, Variable Hill Descent Control, Bluetooth® connectivity, power windows and air conditioning.

Eiger double cab (from £20,499 CVOTR) adds a reversing camera, 16-inch alloy wheels, body coloured bumpers, audio system with CD player and 6 speakers.

Yukon (from £20,499 CVOTR) adds 18-inch alloy wheels, silver side steps, new 7-inch multi-function touchscreen, LED rear lights, Cruise Control, rear load liner and a leather steering wheel.

Utah (from £24,149 CVOTR) takes comfort up a notch with keyless entry and push button start, Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™, satellite navigation, DAB digital radio, roof bars, leather upholstery with heated front seats, rear parking sensors and automatic air conditioning.

The range-topping Blade (from £26,999 CVOTR) adds tinted windows, 9-inch multi-function touchscreen, remote locking lower tailgate, Blade puddle lamps, front and rear parking sensors, and a colour-coded Aeroklas canopy or sports bar with roller cover.

Finally, the D-Max comes with a five-year / 125,000-mile warranty, and was the first pick-up in the UK to be offered with such a comprehensive peace-of-mind package. Running costs are kept down by 12,000-mile or 24-month service intervals, five years’ roadside rescue and recovery including European cover, a three-year paint warranty, and a six-year anti-corrosion warranty.

Design

Exterior Design

Isuzu’s 4x4s and pick-ups have always had an understated but purposeful appeal and the D-Max is no exception, with a strong road presence and subtle mix of car-like detailing and rugged style.

The key design changes include a new front bumper, bonnet, grille and headlights with LED daytime running lights to create a more masculine, sporty and powerful presence.

The front of the pick-up has a wedge-shape which delivers a more aerodynamic silhouette and the roof has been designed to reduce drag by 0.4% versus 15MY D-Max by directing airflow over the tailgate. This improves fuel economy, performance and level of cabin noise.

The wedge-shape is enhanced by muscular front wings which flare at the wheel arches, giving the D-Max an imposing front view. Reinforcing the pick-up’s tough look is a purposeful grille, shrouding a large Isuzu badge.

D-Max is equipped with LED daytime running lights mounted in the front bumper. The upgrade to LED DRLs ensures high-level response and better light distribution for improved visibility. An added benefit is LEDs consume less power and are more durable than standard lamps, so replacement is less likely.

At the rear, the tailgate has been reshaped with a spoiler design moulded into the top section and features a newly designed handle.

The Utility D-Max is equipped with either 15-inch steel wheels (4x2 single cab) or 16-inch steel wheels (4x4 single, extended and double cab). In the premium range, the Eiger rides on 16-inch alloys, the Yukon and Utah models are fitted with 18-inch alloys and the Blade flagship has 18-inch Shadow grey alloys. A full size spare wheel is now standard on all versions, previously optional on Double Cab models.

In keeping with the D-Max’s tough image, the Yukon, Utah and Blade models feature a stylish non-slip side step to aid entry and exit, while also protecting the lower-body paintwork from stone chips.

Three body styles are offered: single, extended and double cab derivatives.

The extended cab variant, available in Utility and Yukon specification levels, was designed from the ground up as an open-cab pick-up, with a second-row, rear-hinged door, also known as the side-access panel (SAP) on each side of the vehicle. To ensure maximum strength and safety in the event of a collision, the engineers incorporated a one-piece B-pillar into the leading edge of the side access panels.

The panel allows uninterrupted access to the side of the cabin, ideal when loading large items behind the front seats. The side access panels can be opened from both inside and outside the vehicle.

Available colours

Obsidian Grey has been introduced for the new-generation D-Max and completes the range of eight colours. Splash White is the standard colour on Utility, Eiger, Yukon and Utah models; whilst Cosmic Black is standard on Blade.

Interior Design

The interior of the new-generation D-Max has also been updated to provide a more comfortable and refined experience.

The instrument panel has been redesigned with an updated central display and clearer font. Manual transmission models also come equipped with a gear shift indicator to assist drivers with achieving optimal fuel economy.

Additional USB ports have been added to the lower centre dash and rear of the centre console across the range (except Utility).

A new embossed woven seat fabric that breathes for added comfort has been added to Eiger and Yukon models whilst Utah models come equipped with textured leather. The range-topping Blade comes equipped with an upgraded premium leather trim with orange Blade design.

Soft pads have been added to the front centre and side armrests across the premium range for increased comfort and a refined feel.

Extended and Double Cab variants are equipped with flexible rear seats that have a folding base, fold flat and also split 60/40. Extended Cab versions also have under seat base storage.

Engine & Transmissions

The engine and transmission options are the key changes on the new generation D-Max. The engine has been downsized to a new 1.9-litre turbo diesel engine which produces 164 PS and 360 Nm of torque.

A choice of new 6-speed manual or automatic gearbox options are available, specifically developed for the new D-Max.

Engine

A 1.9-litre engine has been selected for D-Max because development simulations showed 1.9-litre to be the optimum size to blend efficiency and achieve the torque necessary for D-Max to retain its core workhorse capabilities of a 3.5 tonne towing capacity and 1 tonne payload.

Another key benefit is that the new engine meets Euro 6 standards without the need for the addition of AdBlue.

The cylinder block is cast-iron with induction-hardened bore and the engine also features high efficiency combustion chambers, graphite coated pistons, ceramic glow plug, inlet manifold with swirl control valve and a variable geometry turbocharger.

The induction hardening process uses melt-in liner technology to bond the molecular structure of the metal inside the cylinder bore, resulting in a stronger cylinder, prolonged life and eliminating the need for cylinder liners.

The newly designed combustion chambers achieve the most efficient mixture or air and fuel as well as optimised swirl which reduces pumping losses.

These design features contribute towards improved fuel consumption and emissions figures versus 15MY D-Max.

Transmissions

Automatic Transmission

The new 6-speed automatic transmission fitted in D-Max features gear change control learning. This feature adapts gear changes to suit driving circumstances.

Drivers can also drive in manual mode using the sequential shift stick, creating a slightly more sporting experience.

Manual Transmission

The new 6-speed manual transmission has been fitted with closer ratio gears which allow the engine RPM to be kept in a lower range which improves towing performance.

A triple cone synchronizer has been fitted at 1st and 2nd to 3rd gear along with a synchronizer on reverse. This makes gear selection easier and prolongs the life of the transmission.

Safety

D-Max is packed with a raft of active and passive safety features.

Pedestrian safety has been improved by re-designing the front bumper and bonnet to absorb impact energy in the event of a collision with a pedestrian. The bonnet has also been designed to bend if struck from above, whilst the distance between the bonnet and engine has been increased creating a crumple zone for the bonnet to fold into.

In conjunction with four-channel anti-lock braking (ABS), electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), a Traction Control System (TCS) and engine management system. ESC applies the brakes to one or more wheels and/or reduces engine power to help the driver stay on course.

The EBD feature is especially important on a pick-up which has to cope with a wide range of laden and unladen payloads. The D-Max’s EBD compensates for the front and rear load differences during braking – before the ABS intervenes – preventing rear wheel lock-up, which can affect some pick-ups.

The TCS system applies smooth braking force to the rear wheels if they are rotating faster than the front wheels. This limits wheel spin and ensures power is distributed to the wheels with the most traction.

The D-Max is equipped with a range of passive safety features that protect occupants in a collision. Fitted with six airbags – front, side and curtain – D-Max provides excellent protection in more severe accidents.

Equipment

All models across D-Max come with a high level of specification, with some new equipment across the range for 2017.

Two new pieces of equipment are Hill Start Assist and Variable Hill Descent Control. Hill Start Assist applies the brakes for 1-2 seconds while the driver moves from the brake to the accelerator pedal, preventing the car from rolling back on a hill start. Hill Descent Control is a system that controls the brakes maintaining a consistent low speed when descending steep, slippery slopes, allowing the driver to concentrate on steering a safe course. It is also variable, allowing the driver to adjust the speed of decent.

All models are fitted with new audio systems. Bluetooth® Connectivity is standard on all models whilst Yukon and Utah models are fitted with a 7” multi-function touchscreen audio system. Blade models are equipped with a 9” multi-function touchscreen system. Utah and Blade models feature DAB digital radio, Apple CarPlay™, Android Auto™ and satellite navigation as standard.

Yukon models can be upgraded to the same audio & satellite navigation package as Utah by adding the NAV+ pack.

Specification Overview

The entry-level Utility model comes equipped with LED daytime running lights, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, Bluetooth® connectivity, power windows and air conditioning.

Eiger double cab adds a reversing camera, 16-inch alloy wheels, body coloured bumpers, audio system with CD player and 6 speakers.

Yukon adds 18-inch alloy wheels, silver side steps, new 7-inch multi-function touchscreen, LED rear lights, Cruise Control, rear load liner and a leather steering wheel.

Utah takes comfort up a notch with keyless entry with push button start, Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™, satellite navigation, DAB digital radio, roof bars, leather upholstery with heated front seats, rear parking sensors, automatic air conditioning.

The range-topping Blade adds tinted windows, 9-inch multi-function touchscreen, remote locking lower tailgate, Blade puddle lamps, front and rear parking sensors, and a colour-coded Aeroklas canopy or sports bar with roller cover.

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