Last year Isuzu Philippines Corporation launched the next generation D-Max, the latest player to arrive in the fast growing and increasingly competitive pick-up truck segment.
IPC was a little late to the party, given how they are only one of two assemblers of pick-ups in the Philippines; so it's understandable that they held on to the previous generation D-Max for a few more years after Thailand (the D-Max's biggest market). This D-Max, like its predecessor, is proudly assembled at Isuzu's plant in Santa Rosa, Laguna despite the handicap that carmakers usually incur when they assemble here like the high cost of electricity, and higher labor costs.
Last time we tested the top-spec 4x4 LS 5-AT version of Isuzu's pick up, and we liked its no-nonsense approach to the classic 4x4 truck. Now we're trying out the more affordable brother, the D-Max 3.0L LT 4x2 5-AT.
Can it deliver the goods? Pun intended... a little bit.
Like we said before about the 4x4 version, the new D-Max has a rather interesting approach to the exterior, particularly the front end. We like the stretched treatment that the headlamps get, giving the D-Max a unique and prominent look. The ride height of this 4x2 LT is quite high; actually it's the same as its 4x4 brother, so you shouldn't have any problems quashing through puddles or the knee deep floodwaters that parts of metro get during this season.
This D-Max now measures 5,295mm long, 1,860mm wide and 1,795mm tall. The wheelbase has also been stretched quite a bit to 3,095mm long.
The interior of the D-Max is a nice mix of gray and black hues. The steering wheel does feel nice and the dashboard layout feels very modern; just like the exterior. If you've noticed, this is also the same dashboard as the one on the Chevrolet Colorado as they are platform brothers. Like the D-Max 4x4 that we tested before rear legroom and hip room is good. There's also a good array of storage options with a variety of compartments, pockets and trays all around. There's even a little compartments under the rear seat for tools and such.
Being the top spec of the 4x2 D-Max, the LT 5-AT gets pretty much the same features as the 4x4, except for the 4x4 knob. The usual features such as power windows, mirrors and power steering are all standard, though the driver's seat is still a manual adjustment affair. An AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system is standard and it comes with an Aux-in port and a USB-port.
There are a two little issues that I have with the audio unit, and that's the USB and the Bluetooth. The USB port is one of those Mini-USB types, and that makes it tricky to plug anything in there as you need a special cable for it. Sure, CD-R King has them (sometimes), but you really shouldn't have to go there to get an accessory for a PhP 1.2M vehicle. Also the Bluetooth gets a little tricky to use because it doesn't allow for music playback (i.e. via iTunes) and the microphone is located on the far side of the center panel; you would have to raise your voice to be audible.
Powering the Isuzu D-Max 4x2 LT is a 3.0 liter 4JJ1-TC engine; the venerable engine found in the previous D-Max as well as the Alterra. We really wish that Isuzu brought in the more powerful TCX variable turbocharger variant of the 3.0L Isuzu engine, but based on the way this 146 PS, 294 Nm diesel engine drives, it's really not an issue. Also the 5-speed automatic is smooth in the city and on the highway.
For city fuel economy in moderate to heavy traffic the D-Max 4x2 LT was able to deliver a decent 8.1 km/l (19 km/h average). On the highway that goes up to 13.3 km/l (94 km/h average); slightly less than the 4x4 LS with the 5-speed manual that we drove before.
The suspension's manners are also geared for handling weight; the essential duty of a truck. As it turns out we were able to fully test the capacity of the truck bed with 5 fully loaded balikbayan boxes. No problem carrying it for the suspension (even with a cabin with 5 people) and the engine, and that's the whole point.
Carmakers nowadays are marketing pick up trucks as lifestyle vehicles that you can use everyday with fancy new features and other bits. That's fine as it opens up a once purely utilitarian class to a new, more discerning market. Once in a while, however, it's nice to drive a truck like the 2014 Isuzu D-Max 4x2 LT that, while not ultimately the class leader, knows what its purpose is and what it's supposed to do.