Monday, 22 April 2013

REVIEW - Isuzu D-Max Utah

If you are in the market for a pickup truck then there is one name which may not immediately spring to mind. The Isuzu offering of the D-Max is a replacement for the previous Rodeo, and continues the American theme with the names. I got the chance to get behind the wheel of the most premium model- the Utah- and set about seeing what it can offer you. I do like pickups and was keen to see how the D-Max would stack up to rivals. Read on for the my findings...

Looks - 8/10

The D-Max combines the best of both worlds with its exterior design. On one hand, it is big, bold and tough. On the other there are curves and sleek lines which add a sense of style to that toughness. Being the Utah model, there was plenty of chrome featured around the exterior, and some nice alloy wheels too. From the back the D-Max looks as chunky and as practical as you would expect. You can almost feel a presence even looking at the D-Max parked up. I personally think that silver is never going to be an interesting colour, but the D-Max still looks good in this colour. I have seen a few of these knocking about in white, and they certainly look a lot more interesting.

On the inside things are a little disappointing. The material quality of the interior just doesn't stack up to expectations, and you feel like you're in a commercial vehicle. With the modern pickups being finished as nicely as luxury cars inside, you can't help but feel the D-Max is a little behind its rivals in terms of interior quality. The biggest letdown for me was the seats. The full leather seats found on my Utah were extremely comfortable, but by finishing them in brown they lost all appeal to me. It just gave the cabin a sense of bore, and coupled to the cheap plastics there is definitely room for improvement here.

Handling/Performance - 7/10

Under the extremely large bonnet of the D-Max there is a 2.5-litre turbo-diesel unit. This will offer you 163PS and a satisfying 400Nm of torque. That is enough to get you from 0-62mph, although the manufacturer specs don't tell you how long that takes. Admittedly, it doesn't really matter, and nor does the top speed of 112mph. My test car was fitted with the 5-speed automatic gearbox, and I enjoyed it. It was smooth, and delivered power well. The gearbox made more use of the engine's torque without over-revving it, because the engine is mostly all noise and no go above 3,500rpm. The D-Max is never going to be a supercar, but there is enough power to make you feel like it can shift, and it can more than hold its own on the motorway.

The handling is very much what you would expect from a pickup truck. The rear suspension is stiff to cope with heavy loads, and this makes the ride
bouncy when empty. On a country road, this leads to rather unpleasant 'wallowing' which can be upsetting for the more motion-sick individuals. On the motorway this is less noticeable but can still feature, and this is just something you get used to. Other than this, you have the higher geared steering which means you have to make more turns of the steering wheel to get the D-Max round corners, but again you get used to this. The D-Max was comfortable on long drives and body lean didn't seem too bad in the corners, unless you tried to be too brisk, and so overall the handling was good.

Economy - 7/10

As a Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV), the CO2 emissions of the D-Max do not matter, because there is a flat rate of tax which is currently £215 foor a year. Just in case you're interested, the Utah automatic emits 220g/km CO2. With this gearbox, the D-max will offer you 33.6mpg combined. Again this is average for an automatic in this class, and so nothing too unexpected there. The manual box would be a better choice if you wished to get more miles for your gallons.

Practicality - 10/10

As you would imagine, there are absolutely no issues when it comes to practicality. You can fit five adults comfortably in the cabin, and a further 10 or so in the rear bed. Sadly carrying passengers in this way would most likely get you into a spot of bother, but the point is you could. The D-Max is large, but still mobile, and you can park it (albeit with a slight overhang) in a parking space. The turning circle is actually rather good, and it doesn't feel as large once you're behind the wheel. The uses for a vehicle like this are endless, and you would be forever finding extra practicalities with a bed as large as is offered by the D-Max. As with most pickups there are load covers available which make a good buy if you want to weather-proof the rear bed, and make it more useable everyday. Without one of these I wouldn't recommend leaving your shopping in the back because it will most likely exit the carrier bags and be stolen by passers by.

Fun - 8/10

Whenever you get behind the wheel of a vehicle like the D-Max you get a certain sense of road ownership that a lot of cars don't offer. I like this, and it makes you feel good. I also like the feeling that there is nowhere you couldn't go; simply engage the 4WD and you're off through a field. If you like. The reason cars like the D-Max are fun is that you can get in, plug in your iPod and head out on the road, squashing lesser vehicles should they venture into your path.

Concluding Remarks

Overall I enjoyed my time with the D-Max Utah. There are areas that didn't suit my personal taste; most notably the interior, but I still think it has a lot going for it. The price of the range-topping D-Max Utah is £21,999 for business, or plus VAT at 20% for individuals. That means its on the cheaper side of some of its rivals, and that could make it more attractive to you as a buyer. It's definitely worth a look if you're in the market for a pickup, and it certainly has the robustness you would require. Isuzu are now offering 5-year, 125,000 mile warranties on the D-Max range, which is another plus point. Bottom line: the D-Max is a great pickup which could be easily (and wrongly) overlooked.

Total Score - 40/50

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