WITH more people turning to pick-ups as a lifestyle choice, renowned car makers have the unenviable task of designing practical, workhorse vehicles that can put in a day's graft while still delivering on the refinement front.
That's the problem Isuzu faced when developing its all-new second-generation D-Max. But the answer was actually quite simple - produce enough vehicles in varying shapes and sizes with different levels of luxury to keep everyone happy.
As a result, new D-Max is available in single, extended or double cab body styles with two or four-wheel drive, plus a choice of six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes. There is just one engine powering the vehicle, a 1.9-litre, 164ps diesel unit delivering 360Nm of torque and prices range from £25,144 to £39,244 including VAT.
Customers can select from three ranges called Business, All-Purpose and Adventure with four trim levels named Utility, DL20 (DL refers to the Differential Lock), DL 40 and high-end V-Cross. This means the entry-level models will appeal to the people who choose Isuzu for its 100-year-plus history of developing hard working vehicles while, at the other end of the scale, the V-Cross is ideal for the more lifestyle-generated market.
The D-Max has a fresh new look with smart light clusters including Bi-LED headlights and daytime running lights on higher trim levels. Utility models feature lots of hard-wearing plastic decals, DL20 gains body-coloured bumpers and door mirrors, DL40 features more chrome detailing and V-Cross has a distinctive appearance thanks to gun metal finishing touches.
We opted for the top-of-the-range D-Max V-Cross Double Cab with automatic transmission as it is expected to attract the most attention from buyers. Priced at Â£39,244, this model was kitted out with all the bells and whistles with leather upholstery, an eight-way powered driver's seat with heating, dual-zone climate control, a nine-inch colour touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, a CD player, DAB radio, an eight-speaker sound system, plus front and rear USB ports.
We put the vehicle through its paces on the open road and also around a quarry where the full 4x4 credentials were tested. There are three 4WD configurations - 2H for rear wheel drive, 4H provides drive to all wheels in a high gear ratio for slippery surfaces such as grass or mud, and finally 4L that provides drive to all wheels in a low gear ratio for more extreme off-road challenges.
Our model, on standard tyres, coped admirably as it clambered up steep climbs, waded through water obstacles (it can wade up to 800mm deep), dropped down tricky slopes with the Hill Descent Control activated and leaned at death defying angles along the way.
Then, out on the faster country lanes, the D-Max is certainly more refined than its predecessor although the engine still gets quite vocal under heavy acceleration and there is a fair amount of wind noise from the large mirrors. The road holding is good and the acceleration through the automatic gearbox nicely timed with 25 per cent quicker gear changes on the latest vehicle. It could reach from 0-62mph in 13.0 seconds and topped out at 112mph while delivering a combined 30.7mpg with carbon emissions of 241g/km.
The D-Max's wheelbase has increased by 30mm which results in extra space inside the cab. Back seat passengers have ample room to stretch out with 60:40 split-folding rear seats that are nicely angled for comfort and can be dropped completely flat to the floor. Additional storage space can be found beneath these seats with the jack and tools being moved to behind the seats on the new model.
Elsewhere there is a double glovebox, 10 cup or drinks holders, a deep central cubby box, sunglasses holder and a small compartment near the driver's door.
The D-Max can carry a payload that ranges from 1,070 to 1,205kg depending on body style and it can tow a trailer weighing up to 3,500kg.
It's worth noting too that the heaviest D-Max model - the V-Cross - weighs in at 2,030kg. This is quite significant as any vehicle weighing above 2,040kg must be driven at goods vehicle speed limits which are 10mph slower on single and dual carriageways. This catches a number of pick-up drivers out when the get the speeding notification through the post.
All models get upgraded lumbar support for extra comfort and the vehicle also features an improved, stronger chassis with updated suspension system for added refinement. There is the latest speed sensitive electronic power steering which is nice and light at low speeds offering good agility, but gets weightier when driving on faster roads.
It's good news on the safety front too with the D-Max being awarded the maximum five stars when tested for its Euro NCAP rating. Features include forward collision warning, lane departure warning, autonomous emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and eight airbags as standard on double cabs with seven on the single cab models.
All in all, the latest Isuzu D-Max is a fabulous pick-up with models to suit all budgets and requirements. And sales are proving so successful that all the vehicles destined for the UK have already been pre-ordered. That means new customers will need to wait until the end of the year for their vehicle.