Isuzu’s D-Max pick-ups have become a frequent sight on UK farms, appealing for their competitive price and functionality. David Williams tried the latest version.
Visit any dealer open day or farm sale and Isuzu pick-ups will feature heavily in the visiting vehicle line-ups. In many areas the D-Max is supplied and supported by main brand machinery dealers, making the purchase process easy and providing reassurance regarding back-up.
For the Farmers Guide week-long test drive, the latest top specification D-Max Blade 4×4 Automatic was put through its paces during 500 miles of on and off-road driving, from lengthy motorway journeys to rough farm woodland tracks. The Blade gains styling and comfort upgrades over the base Utility plus Eiger, Fury, Yukon and Utah variants, also adding more than £9,000 over the entry-level version.
All D-Max models share the same 1.9-litre diesel engine, producing 164hp and 360Nm of torque between 2,000–2,500rpm. There is a choice of single, extended or double cab accommodation and manual or automatic transmission. Only the base Utility model is available with 2wd; all the others with selectable 2wd or 4wd and high and low range as standard.
Performance on the road is good with plenty of power to keep up with other traffic even when loaded, and the D-Max cruises comfortably at 70mph. Gear changes from the 6-speed automatic transmission are smooth and barely noticeable unless accelerating hard. The test drive included operation on minor and major roads as well as farm tracks and fuel consumption averaged 32–37mpg, but would probably improve as the vehicle loosens up as it had covered only 1,000 miles on arrival.
The Blade’s heated leather seats are comfortable with plenty of manual adjustment and ample leg-room for taller drivers. Controls are well laid out and meaty enough to use with gloved hands. The dashboard has large, clear dials and a highlight for Blade drivers is a huge 9in touch-screen which would be at home in a high specification tractor. It’s used for navigation, media and telephone as well as the reversing camera and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included, allowing a copy of a smart-phone screen to be displayed and control functions to be duplicated. Compared with other displays the Isuzu’s is particularly easy to use and a significant benefit for Blade drivers.
Visibility is very good all around and large mirrors, which fold in at the touch of a button, make it easy to keep an eye on tight gateways and shed doors. The Blade supplied had an optional LED light bar below the radiator grille which provided the best main beam performance of any pick-up or 4×4 tested to date. By contrast the dipped beam performance was poor, an issue highlighted by the LED-assisted main beam.
Convenience features include plenty of storage for larger items in the double glove box and centre console with additional space for smaller items in the front door pockets and elsewhere on the dashboard. There is little storage for rear seat passengers, but the seat base hinges upward to accommodate bulkier items.
Getting in and out of the pick-up in the dark is made easier by bright puddle lights, which project the word Blade onto the ground.
Versatile load carrying
Load carrying capacity is superb, and the functional double-skinned 1.48m long load bed can take more than 1.1t. The test vehicle had a locking load bed roller cover which was rugged and practical, but partly restricted access as the roller housing takes up useful bed length at the front. There are only two accessible internal tie-down points, both at the rear. The tailgate is strong enough to rest loads without fear of buckling or hinge failure.
The test vehicle had no tow bar so towing performance couldn’t be assessed, but the D-Max is rated at 3.5t, making it ideal for livestock trailers.
Off-road there is plenty of ground clearance and the 255/60R18 wheels and tyres gripped well, steering easily in and out of deep ruts. Low range wasn’t needed but, like 4wd, is selected by a twist dial near the gear range selector.
Ride comfort is good, even when unladen, despite the heavy-duty rear springs which provide the impressive load carrying capacity. There is little body roll on corners and at high speeds the ride is comfortable, assisted by the large tyres and decent seats.
Steep North Yorkshire slopes gave the Hill Descent Control feature a fair test, and when the brake pedal was pressed gently to prevent speed increasing, the system could be felt taking over, controlling the speed while the slope angle altered and allowing the driver to concentrate on the road and other traffic.
Routine maintenance is easily carried out and apart from checking the engine oil and filling the windscreen wash there is little needs doing. The engine meets the latest emission regulations without Adblue which means only diesel is required, but a downside is that regular regeneration of the diesel particulate filter is needed. This occurs automatically and a monitor within the trip computer displays filter state and regeneration progress.
For the most part the D-Max has become known for superb reliability, but a 5-year, 125,000-mile warranty provides confidence, and 5-years’ UK and EU roadside assistance is standard.
Hard to beat
The D-Max is a highly competent farm pick-up and hard to beat for transporting people and materials. Lower spec versions offer everything needed for occasional use and shorter journeys but the flagship Blade version provides greater comfort and additional features which will be welcomed by those spending more hours in the seats.
The Blade looks smart too, and is just as comfortable transporting the family to a wedding reception as it is at the local livestock market.
At £29,800 before discounts are negotiated the Blade isn’t cheap but the generous and useful specification should help maintain resale values and reduce ownership costs. In our view it’s well worth a look.
D-Max Blade FACTS
Format: Double Cab
Load capacity: 1,111kg
Towing capacity (braked): 3,500kg
Engine: 4-cyl, 1,898cc
Power & torque: 164hp @ 3,600rpm, 360Nm @ 2,000–2,500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual or auto
Ground clearance: 235mm