WITH escalating costs of 4x4 cars and sports utilities it's little wonder that edgy pick-ups have cornered the market, and one of the most popular is the Isuzu D-Max.
here are Utility, DL20, DL40 and V-Cross derivatives built on the same chassis, using the common powertrain and nearly all are 4WD, but their cab space varies along with payload so buyers have maximum choice of model for any particular purpose.
Our top of the range V-Cross has been introduced to satisfy the growing adventure leisure sector anticipated to take between a quarter and third of registrations in future.
Standard equipment includes gun metal detailing to front and sides, bigger alloys, with nine-inch multifunction touchscreen, CD player and eight speakers, auto headlight levelling and tough leather upholstery and it tows up to 3.5 tonnes.
The familiar but developed 2.0-litre diesel engine is not the quietest on the market with 16-valves and four cylinders pushing out 360Nm up to 2,000rpm and up to 164ps at 3,600rpm but it is more acceptable in the upper ratios of the six speed automatic we experienced.
The new auto transmission has quiet changes and they are now quicker than before without losing their smoothness whether going up or down the box. It also gets fuel-saving stop&start ignition.
Really excellent enlarged brakes do a good job underfoot and inspire confidence when the loadbed is laden. They are sufficiently sensitive to ease to a halt if necessary and the parking brake is strong.
I liked the feedback through the steering, which was not too insulating, and its ease of operation but would have welcomed a tighter turning circle, particularly in an urban environment.
Secondary controls were all close to the driver's hands and fingers and operated with a satisfying action. The touchscreen worked well but it's not very large and navigation may be an issue for some relying on a mobile phone link to use.
The V-Cross is packed with a lot of driver aids and enhanced comfort features including very bright headlights, lane assist, parking sensors and reversing camera, heated front seats and rear heating ducts, powered driver's seat, dual zone climate control and folding, heated mirrors, keyless entry with button start/ stop. So it's not really lacking anything you're likely to need or appreciate for an adventurous weekend away.
The seats front and back were comfortable and fairly supportive with plenty of room for four/ five while access was easy.
In the cabin there is not a lot of oddments room but the heating and ventilation did a very good job along with the heated front seats.
Visibility is enhanced by the reversing camera while forward and side sightlines are very good and the wipers are big and come with a powerful washing system. I liked the lights illumination beams but several times thought they may have dazzled oncoming traffic which ‘flashed' us.
Generally the V-Cross had a very absorbent ride and only really bad bumps could be felt but then you knew about it. The improved front suspension has firmed up the handling and reduced body roll while keeping the wheels better fixed on the road surface and for a pick up it really handled well.
Piling into the loadbed was straightforward once the tailgate dropped and the integrated step in the bumper has helped loading and reaching item which can be secured by eyelets. Our test model came with a loadbed liner and this is recommended to minimise damage and keep up residual value.
It's little wonder the Isuzu D-Max has picked up industry awards for its all round competence and is a favourite with those who live, work and play in the countryside. The newest models will surely build on that solid reputation and reliability.
£32,759 exclduing VAT
164ps 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo-diesel engine driving all four wheels via 6sp automatic transmission