THE Isuzu D-Max is a first team player in the pick-up sector.
The official supporter of the Welsh Rugby Union has gone for the niche serious off-road and utility market with its 23-strong range of mostly double-cab but also a solo single cab and extended cab models.
Isuzu dealers sell Business, All-purpose and Adventure pick-up ranges from Â£20,832 to Â£43,921. It's a very defined and targetted range which also caters to true outdoor adventurers and country dwellers and not the weekend cottage set.
Our D-Max XTR sits between the practical and the extreme off-roaders. It's very much a back to basics turbo-diesel of modest capacity but big ability nevertheless, thanks to a bomb-proof but not very user-friendly six-speed manual gearbox operated through a long-travel and weighted clutch.
I found the gear ratios were a wide mixture of short and long, so you can easily get moving with a heavy load but then find the top pair are much more long-legged to cope with motorway runs to markets and stretch the fuel out.
The main road ride is generally firm but good while secondary roads can induce a lot of bumping and jumping about underneath and it's a noisy traveller over poor surfaces.
In town you may find the turning circle an inconvenience despite the power steering but it makes more sense on open roads or in the country. Anywhere you drive, however, you'll be impressed by the tremendously powerful brakes, their progressive action and the security of the conventional handbrake.
All D-Max models come with air conditioning, LED daytime running lights, electric windows and Bluetooth connectivity. Spend a bit more and you can have yourIsuzu D-Maxwith sat nav, a rear parking camera, climate control, roof-mounted speakers and a load-bed liner.
It tows 3.5 tonnes and carries 1,161kg. The Arctic Series is the workhorse of the outdoor heavy businesses and backbone of emergency services.
Most secondary controls are on the wheel spokes and wipers/ lights column stalks, sometimes not too easy to see or use, and there are a few on the fascia and central console, which also carries the large infotainment screen on the dash. A small display between speedo and tacho shows essential data such as mileage, consumption and fuel remaining.
The infotainment system is not particularly attractive but does work well and it's easy to read. Heating and ventilation is very good with air conditioning, simple controls, large outlets and good performance, plus four powered windows. Lights are reasonable and the front wipers and screen washers do a good job.
Oddments room is very good infront with a chiller box and glovebox, door and console trays as well as a central medium sized storage box, but in the back there's just seat pockets and very small door recesses. It's well served with USB and charging points.
Behind the double cab is a long, wide and reasonably deep loadbed, but in the XTR spec its high to load and despite a loadbed liner items could slide about unless restrained or netted. Ours came with the optional Black Mountain lockable roller cover and well worth having even at £1,560.
The access to the loadbed meant you dropped the tailboard but there was no easy way to climb in and entry to the front or rear of the cabin necessitated a step on the stylish running board and pull up.
Once inside I liked the XTR seat-stitched detailing and comfort with fairly good movement to adjust and matched with the moveable steering column you could find a good position to drive. There was good legroom but not a lot of rear seat head-room and it was much the same infront.
The high riding and driving position allows excellent visibility to front and sides, helped with good lights and wipers when it's not so good weather. The deep door and rear pillars restrict what you can see around and the high tail wipes out what lies low down behind so you have to rely on the very good, wide and clear camera view so you need to keep the lens clean in the door grip but its disappointing that this price point did not include front parking sensors.
Noise levels are generally modest but rise as the engine is stretched or the road surface deteriorates and the gearbox whine is always present. Wind noise wasn't really a problem.
The overall fuel consumption was good for this workhorse and it's running costs are not high as well as getting a 125,000 miles warranty over five years.
Unlike some rivals which pretend to be what they're not, the Isuzu DMax XTR is a genuine serious 4x4 pick-up with a visible appeal to the eye as well as practical personality.
164ps, 1,898cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
5yrs/ 125,000 miles