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Max ute review: Not pretty, but it’s tough

Time:2018-07-06 16:36Turbochargers information Click:

Isuzu D-Max ute load area line

Its heavy-duty ladder chassis has no less than seven cross members and there is heavy-duty double-wishbone front suspension. There are overslung rear leaf springs for greater clearance and improved stability, especially when towing (up to 3500kg).

The four cylinder engine (130kW/380Nm) has a cast iron block, alloy head, robust but low-friction internals and a long piston stroke for good low-end pulling power.

The variable geometry turbo gets it on boost quickly with help from a large capacity front mounted intercooler.

Transmissions are five-speeders, manual and optional auto. The latter is one ratio short of the norm these days but Isuzu went for durability. Both gearboxes have carefully chosen ratios to exploit the handy torque.

The transfer case is likewise no fuss with 2H, 4H and 4L selected via a dial near the gearshift. It will change from 2WD to 4H at up to 100km/h.

With 225mm ground clearance, the D-Max won’t tangle with obstacles too readily and off-road work is aided by the high-profile all terrain tyres on 16-inch steel wheels and metal underbody skid plates.

Isuzu went for disc front brakes and rear drums, which still have a place in off-road driving for serviceability reasons.

2016 Isuzu D-Max SX.

2016 Isuzu D-Max SX.Source:Supplied

The SX model tested is towards the bottom of the D-Max range but scores a five-star ANCAP safety rating. There’s plenty of kit including vinyl floor mats, fine-particle pollen filter, cruise control, aircon, Bluetooth phone and audio, numerous storage compartments in the roomy five-seat cabin, a load guard frame behind the rear screen, four tie down hooks in the tub and 1100kg load rating (other D-Maxes rate higher).

Claimed fuel economy is a decent 8.1L/100km and the D-Max’s 76L tank points to a decent range between fills.

DRIVING

We hooked up the D-Max to a dual-axle trailer with a small car on it for a total towing weight of about 2.0 tonnes, the tub held about 500kg of tools, spares and fuel, there were two in the cabin so gross was about 4.5 tonnes including the ute.

Freeway fuel consumption went up quite a lot to about 12.0L/100km.

Performance was still pretty good considering the weight and it kicked down to fourth or third only on steep inclines.

Even when it’s unladen you can hear the engine working, but that’s the nature of the beast. The auto turns out to be a good choice for the D-Max as you get longer runs through the (fewer) gears than you would in a six, seven or eight-speeder.

Comfort? It might be described as reasonable with a range of adjustments for the driver’s seat, a few “luxury’’ features and good ride quality. The sea of hard grey plastic in the cabin is not pretty to behold.

Exterior styling on the SX is a bit underwhelming — higher-grade D-Maxes have splashes of chrome, alloys and higher spec lights.

The test model’s lack of a reversing camera was quite annoying, given the towing duties. A load area liner would be a handy inclusion — even the tailgate gets knocked around as soon as you start loading the vehicle.

VERDICT ★★★

Not bad overall with a few glaring omissions. Not as handsome as the Ford Ranger but, subjectively, not as ugly as a Mitsubishi Triton or Holden Colorado. The D-Max is a better working proposition than most thanks to its truck engine and overall toughness.

AT A GLANCE

PRICE $42,800

WARRANTY 5 years/130,000km

CAPPED SERVICING $2275 for first 6 services

SERVICE INTERVAL 6 months/10,000km

SAFETY ★★★★★

ENGINE 3.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 130kW/380Nm

TRANSMISSION 5-speed man; 5-speed auto; RWD/4WD

THIRST 8.1L/100km (auto)

DIMENSIONS 5190mm (L), 1860mm (W), 1785mm (H), 3095mm (WB)

WEIGHT 1925kg

SPARE Full-size

LOAD AREA 1485mm (L), 465mm (D), 1105mm (W, min)

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