When automakers launch all-new models in the country, they usually tend to highlight and lend out the top-of-the-line variants that come with all the bells and whistles. From leather seats to dual-zone climate control, as well as intelligent driver aids and the latest infotainment systems, the range-topping models are jam-packed with all kinds of amenities one would ever need.
But despite being chock-full of standard equipment, they are typically not the best-selling variants. More often than not, it's the mid-range models that rake in the sales for automakers in the long run. While these may not have all the features found in the top-of-the-range variants, the removal of some amenities means brands can make them more affordable to customers.
We already got our hands on the fully-equipped D-Max LS-E 4x4 A/T last year and we were impressed by its long list of features, driving dynamics, stylish design, and intelligent driver aids called ADAS. But at PHP 1,825,000, the top-spec D-Max might be priced for many that are looking for a truck.
That's why we specifically requested a lower variant from Isuzu: the D-Max LS-A 4x2 A/T.
Before the all-new pickup was revealed last year, the LS-A variant used to be the model's top-of-the-line offering. First launched in mid-2019, it came with leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic climate control, LED headlights and taillights, as well as LED daytime running lights (DRLs).
It also had some exterior upgrades like a cargo bed extender, a special front grille finished in gun metal gray, as well as side mirror caps painted in the same color. Clearly, Isuzu has done its homework in making the pickup look sportier and eye-catching. Since 2021, the LS-E is now at the top of the D-Max lineup, but the LS-A is still there.
Immediately noticeable on the LS-A is the lack of LED headlights as it only comes with multi-reflector halogens. It also doesn't come with the LED DRLs and instead has halogen foglights that double as the car's daytime running lights. Surprisingly, the LS-A still comes with the gunmetal accents on the grille, side mirror caps, overfenders, roof rails, and door handles found on the LS-E variant.
I was also surprised that it still has the 18-inch dark alloy wheels wrapped in 265/60 series tires, the eye-catching LED taillights, cargo bed extender at the back, and step boards for easier ingress and egress. Did I mention that it still comes with a bedliner as standard? Yes, that was a surprise.
Looking at the (small) number of exterior features Isuzu removed for the LS-A, I didn't expect them to only remove the LED headlights, LED DRLs, and the LED foglights. If anything, I was expecting Isuzu to give the LS-A a more standard-looking exterior.
Climb aboard the D-Max and you'll be greeted by a predominantly black interior. From the dashboard itself, the center console, HVAC controls, as well as the fabric seats, those who love dark cabins will love the D-Max. Providing some contrast against the dark cabin are the faux metal accents placed on the aircon vents, steering wheel, center console, and door panels.
Since this is the mid-range offering, it doesn't come with a leather-padded dashboard, brown leather seats, and automatic climate control from the LS-E. However, these omitted features are those that you can live without. I didn't mind that the leather pad on the dashboard has been removed as the seats are still comfortable. Heck, the standard air-conditioning still kept the cabin cool even on the hottest of days. There were even times I had to raise the temperature (or turn off the A/C completely) just so it wouldn't be too cold while driving.
Equally impressive is the fact that the LS-A still comes with the massive 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system. With its large screen and high-resolution graphics, it was easy to pick which menus or icons to press. Technophiles will also be glad to know it comes standard with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, USB, and Aux. And should you find yourself in a place with no mobile coverage, the system comes with navigation to guide you wherever you may be.
The steering wheel has no leather wrapping but that didn't bother me since the regular urethane still provided adequate grip. Audio controls are standard which meant I didn't need to adjust the volume or skip tracks via the screen itself. I also like how Isuzu integrated the controls for the multi-info display and trip-meter on the steering wheel for ease of use.
While you might think that the second row would be bare, Isuzu actually put some niceties at the back. Not only does it get a center armrest with integrated cupholders, but there are also rear aircon vents and a USB charging port for mobile devices. With that, we can say that the second-row passengers don't get the short end of the stick when it comes to amenities.
It may seem like I'm all praises with the D-Max's interior even though they removed some amenities. However, not everything was rosy inside the pickup truck. For starters, there is the heavy use of hard plastic. While I do understand that the D-Max is still a truck that's meant for everyday use (or abuse), it wouldn't have hurt Isuzu to put some soft-touch materials on certain parts of the cabin.
There was also the matter of the handbrake which frankly surprised me and my passengers when I first used it. While it worked well, the sound it made reminded me of the handbrake of the Fuego from decades ago. Perhaps Isuzu might have taken a step back with the new handbrake since the previous generation D-Max didn't have such a ratchety sound as far as I can remember.
While it still has a 12V power socket on the center console, I was disappointed that they had removed the other 12V plug hidden in the upper glovebox. Not only did it allow you to charge more devices, but its placement inside the glovebox meant you were able to charge mobile devices away from prying eyes.
Last but not least, I wish this variant came with cruise control. While I may already asking for a rather premium feature, other manufacturers already have it in lesser versions of their pickup trucks and SUVs. If the other brands can do it, why can't Isuzu?
Since this is a pickup truck, it gets a powerful turbo-diesel under the hood. Like the LS-E we tested last year, the LS-A comes with the familiar 3.0-liter 4JJ3-TCX that pumps out 190 PS at 3600 rpm along with 450 Nm of torque at 1600 – 2600 rpm. Power is then sent to the rear wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission with a sequential manual shift.
With torque readily available at just 1600 rpm, it's actually easy to light up the rear tires if you're not careful. In fact, I accidentally made the rear tires chirp twice on two different occasions. I had to remind myself that it has more than enough torque to pull not just the pickup, but even heavy payload as well. And since we're already talking about payload, the D-Max LS-A can easily haul around 1,000 kg. The bed, on the other hand, measures 1495mm long, 1530mm wide, and has a 490mm volume depth.
With just a light tap on the accelerator, the pickup easily gains speed. It also shifted seamlessly between gears and is a smooth operator. It was doing a good job of going through each cog that I rarely used the manual mode of the automatic gearbox.
But it was out on the open road where the D-Max truly shined. With gobs of torque at the ready, overtaking other cars was a cinch. The torque curve is completely flat which meant it was able to pick up (no pun intended) the power very quickly. There was also no hesitation from the gearbox should you decide to drive the pickup spiritedly on a mountain road.
Be warned though, that this is still a high-riding vehicle so there is still some body roll. Combined with its weight, the D-Max is not particularly built for taking on sharp corners at high speeds. But then again, this is still a truck, not a low-slung sedan.
As far as fuel consumption is concerned, the D-Max sipped on diesel frugally. In light city driving, the pickup averaged around 9.0 to 10.0 km/l no problem. Out on the highway, it was able to return around 14.5 km/l at best. I won't be surprised if the D-Max can achieve better at 15.0 km/l (or more) should you take it on a long road trip.
Also great on the pickup is its brakes. Aside from the fact that they are able to stop the pickup on a dime, I was more impressed by the short pedal travel which feels car-like. On other pick-ups I've driven, the brake pedal has a longer pedal travel which is typical for trucks. Props to Isuzu for actually helping drivers brake with confidence while behind the wheel of the D-Max.
Steering the D-Max might be a workout for some drivers. Yes, it has hydraulic power assist, but it has that typical truck-like feel; meaning it's on the heavy side. Even while parking or driving around town, the D-Max's steering might surprise first-time pickup drivers. Personally, it didn't bother me as I've gotten used to the heavy steering feel of some pickup trucks.
As for ride quality, don't expect SUV-like comfort while riding the D-Max. With rear leaf springs that are designed for hauling, passengers seated at the back will have to contend with a bouncy and stiff ride. When seated at the front, however, the ride is a bit more forgiving, but you will still feel some degree of stiffness. After all, this pickup still has a ladder-frame chassis.
So the D-Max LS-A is not decked-out like the LS-E variant we got to test before. It loses some exterior features and has fewer creature comforts than the top-of-the-line model. It also lacks the 4WD system that's standard on the LS-E. However, the removal of some features meant Isuzu was able to price the LS-A more competitively, particularly for those that only want a 4x2 pickup that is still stylish and packed with amenities.
At PHP 1.390 million (which is also the same price as the previous generation LS-A 4x2 A/T), the 2022 D-Max LS-A 4x2 A/T is perhaps one of the most affordable mid-range pickups in the market today. It even has a long list of safety features like ABS, EBD, brake assist, stability control, traction control, hill-start assist, hill-descent control, dual front airbags, rear parking sensors, and a reverse camera.
Some might argue that the LS-A's lack of ADAS and 7 airbags from the LS-E will hurt its value-for-money proposition. However, those extra features add a premium to the sticker price of the D-Max. At least Isuzu had the great idea of keeping the blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert as standard on the LS-A.
If you're looking for a pickup truck that can carry cargo in style and don't need a heavy 4x4 system, the 2022 D-Max LS-A might be the truck you're looking for.
- Make: Isuzu
- Model: D-Max LS-A 4x2
- Engine: 3.0-liter DOHC 16-valve Inline-4 VG Turbo Intercooler
- Max Power: 190 PS @ 3600 rpm
- Max Torque: 450 Nm @ 1600 - 2600 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed AT with manual mode
- Price as Tested: ₱1,390,000