In the recent years, pickup trucks have evolved from the usual workhorse into vehicles that can be used for both work and play. Case in point, just take a look at how the Isuzu pickup truck has evolved. Back then, the KB pickup, as well as the Fuego, made little effort to mask their blue collar roots. With the current-generation D-Max, it won't be out of place in the city, but, at the same time, it's still a rugged utility truck that can carry heavy loads on a whim.
What we have here is perhaps one of the more popular pickup variants of recent years, the LS 4x2 A/T. As the variant suggests, it is the two-wheel drive model, saddled by an automatic transmission, ideal for city dwellers like myself. To see how it fares as a mixed-use workhorse, we take it for a spin in the city and out of town.
Isuzu designers took a rather contemporary look for its overall style featuring chiseled and boxy elements. Most recently, Isuzu gave the D-max a minor model change. In this update, it gets a slightly revised front fascia which features a new center grill flanked by projector headlights with integrated LED daytime-running lights. The bumper also gets updated and is fitted with chrome trimmed foglamps.
The tailgate gets a slight tweak in form of a prominent spoiler-shape design where the new reverse camera is neatly integrated. Tail lamps have likewise been updated to LED illumination. A new set of six-spoke 17-inch wheels further accentuate its new updated appeal.
On to the truck bed, it measures 1485 mm long, 1530 mm wide and 465 mm tall, do remember that the protrusion of the rear wheel wells need to be considered. It may not be the largest, but it can carry quite a haul with its 1,058 kg rated payload.
Like the exterior, changes to the interior are minimal. While the cabin design is carried over from the pre-update model, Isuzu modernized the cabin with new features. These include a refreshed instrument cluster with a new multi-information display, a revised infotainment system and push start/stop ignition with smart access key. Connectivity is either through USB, AUX, or Bluetooth which allows for hands-free telephony and music playback from your smartphone. GPS Navigation is also standard.
Under the hood, Isuzu carried over their high-output 4JJ1-TC 3.0-liter common-rail turbodiesel engine which is rated at 163 PS with 380 Nm of torque. It is then is mated to a 5-speed automatic with manual mode. These figures doesn't exactly sound stellar on paper, especially compared to its competitors boasting more power and torque. However, these numbers are only half the story as it feels more capable with actual use. It pulls strongly, with the term 'there's no replacement for displacement' coming into play with that 3-liter engine. The 5-speed automatic seems to be well geared with the powerband.
Even with the impressive performance, the D-Max was still able to deliver good fuel economy. In the city with moderate traffic, we managed 8.5 kilometers per liter. On the highway with a steady pace of 90-100 km/h we achieved 13.5 kms/liter. We noticed the figure improve to 15kms/liter on the highway when speed was lowered to 80km/h.
This being a pickup, don't expect car-like cornering capabilities. Taking that into account, the D-Max takes on the bends quite respectably for a pickup. Steering however felt too light for my liking, but it does feel less tiring, especially on really long drives. Ride comfort is better than average for pickup standards. It's no crossover but it is engineered to carry heavy loads after all.
It's pretty well equipped in terms of safety equipment too. The D-Max's active safety suite consists of ABS, EBD, hill-start assist and even stability control, a feature usually reserved for top of the line model. Front driver and passenger airbags are also standard. It comes with a reverse camera, reverse parking sensors and is fitted with a rather annoying reverse gear warning akin to a 'flash news report' tone. A more subtle beep could have been utilized.
One can't help ask which pickup is the best choice with the highly competitive segment of lifestyle workhorse models. Having been in the pickup business for decades, Isuzu's latest iteration of its D-Max is definitely no slouch. The 4x2 automatic version of the Isuzu D-Max LS offers the right package at a reasonable price with a promise of proven reliability for years to come. It won't get you oohs or ahhs from enthusiasts or passers-by, it's as reliable and frills-free as a pick-up truck should be.