Capable and comfortable base-spec pick-up

The popular Isuzu D-Max pick-up received a refresh last year which included revised styling and an improved interior. The biggest changes affected the base Utility version, and Farmers Guide has been putting it through its paces. David Williams reports.

Isuzu D-Max pick-up
Farmers Guide put the latest 2023 Isuzu D-Max Utility double cab pick-up through its paces during a week-long test.

The D-Max entered the market in 2012, replacing the Rodeo, and quickly became one of the UK’s best-selling pick-ups. In 2021, a completely new generation of the D-Max was announced sharing the same 1.9-litre diesel engine across the range but offering a wide selection of specification and equipment options. A minor refresh of the whole line-up in 2023 added some quite significant additional improvements, especially to the base Utility version.

Model choice

Isuzu groups its D-Max pick-ups into several ranges: The Business range includes the base Utility version; the All-purpose range includes mid-specification DL20 and DL40 models; and the Adventure range features the top-spec V-Cross variant. All models have load bed capacity exceeding one tonne and towing capacity up to 3.5t, apart from the Utility 2wd which can pull trailers up to 2.5t. Unlike most other 4×4 pick-ups, all D-Max models have unladen weights below 2,040kg, which means that extended and double-cab versions share passenger car speed limits on single and dual carriageways.

Depending on the model variant, a choice of single, extended or double cab body options are available, with manual or automatic transmissions and with 2wd or selectable 2/4wd.

The base Utility is offered with a single, extended or double cab, and with 2wd or selectable 2/4wd and with a manual 6-speed transmission only.

The DL20 is available with an extended cab and manual transmission, or with a double cab and choice of manual or auto transmission.

The DL40 and V-Cross come only in double cab format, with manual or auto transmissions.

Latest entry version

The model provided for the week-long Farmers Guide test was the base Utility double cab. We tried the previous Utility version soon after the range was revised in 2021 but felt that the equipment level at that time was too limited, even for vehicles spending most of their working lives on farms. So, we were particularly keen to find out whether the recent model upgrades would change our opinion. With prices starting at just £28,599 on the road, the Utility double cab saves £2,300 compared to the DL20 version.

The revised styling is attractive, and Utility models are identifiable by their black bumpers and door handles where on the rest of the range these share the main body colours.

Huge improvement

Isuzu D-Max pick-up
The Utility model has benefitted significantly during Isuzu’s recent product refresh, gaining improved seat fabrics and a new centre console which greatly improves the driving experience.

The interior is very different. The practical fabric seats are restyled and are more comfortable although the cloth is easily cleaned. The floor is covered from each side of the centre console to the doors in thick rubber matting, making it easy to sweep out or wash.

Apart from the upholstery, the other big change is a new centre console housing the gear stick and providing extra storage. A DAB radio is standard, and where the previous hands-free phone system was very much an afterthought and incredibly fiddly, the new built-in arrangement is tidier and works well.

For a base version the equipment level is ideal now. Driver aids include automatic headlights as standard, as well as high beam assist which proved reliable during the test, selecting high beam as soon as the road was clear ahead, and dipping the lights in time to prevent dazzling oncoming traffic. The windscreen wipers are automatic, and the power steering is speed sensitive providing plenty of feel at higher speeds while reducing effort when manoeuvring.

The D-Max Utility also comes with autonomous emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, an intelligent speed limiter and lane departure warning. Rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring and emergency lane keeping are standard features on all double cab models.

At the same time, the Utility avoids unnecessary expense and complications with its manual air conditioning, lack of heated seats and basic cruise control as well as functional steel wheels rather than more vulnerable alloys.

Well designed and comfortable

The new centre console is well laid out with large switches and controls capable of being operated while wearing gloves. Rather than a central LCD screen, there is a large Pioneer radio/CD player with a clear display. The steering wheel is chunky and allows a secure grip. There is plenty of additional storage space for drinks and smaller items including a box with a removable tray and a lid, in the console.

D-Max interior
The new centre console and dashboard arrangement is significantly improved, and useful extra equipment has been added.

Additional front storage includes a tray on top of the dashboard, a small drawer in front of the driver and decent sized pockets in the doors. All available space in the glovebox is taken up by the thick operator’s manuals.

At the rear, there is a small cubbyhole at the back of the centre console and drinks holders in both rear doors. The rear seat base is split 60/40 allowing access to concealed storage beneath.

The front seats are comfortable, and legroom proved adequate for a 6ft 3in tall driver. There is less legroom at the back, but three adults can travel in relative comfort even on longer journeys. The two front doors open wide providing good access, but the rear door openings are smaller, although decent grab handles make it easy to get in and out.

Other interior equipment includes separate interior lights above the front and rear seats, making it easier to find items stored at the rear of the cab.

Functional controls

Four-wheel drive is selectable on the move at any speed using a rotary switch on the dashboard. Low range is selected with the vehicle stationary, by depressing and rotating the 4wd selector switch an extra quarter of a turn.

The test vehicle also had an optional rear differential lock, selected by a button in front of the main gearstick. It is only available in low range and can be selected at speeds below 5mph. A separate button selects hill descent control.

The view all around is good. The external mirrors are practical and large, with electric adjustment as standard.

Practical and capable

As expected of a D-Max, the rear load bed is practical and rugged. Latest models incorporate a step in the rear bumper making it easier to climb in and out. The tailgate is heavy but spring assistance makes it easy to open and close.

D-Max load bed
The practical load bed.

The internal bed length is 144cm, and maximum width is 146cm. There is a 110cm gap between the wheel arches. The tailgate opening is 136cm wide and the load bed base is 81cm above ground level. There are eight strong tie-down points inside the bed, and a durable plastic bed protector is standard.

The test vehicle had a towbar, and it handled a two-tonne trailer on and off-road with ease. The manual six-speed transmission provided a good opportunity to test the 1.9-litre engine’s impressive torque, and constant cruising speeds were maintained in fifth and sixth gear while towing the trailer up some reasonable slopes.

Off-road capability

Isuzu D-Max engine
The 1.9-litre 4cyl engine develops 164hp, but more importantly 360Nm of torque – making it extremely flexible on- and off-road and superb for towing.

The D-Max has excellent off-road credentials including 240mm ground clearance, and approach and departure angles of 30.5 and 24.2 degrees respectively. The maximum wading depth is 800mm. The test vehicle was shod on Dunlop Grandtrek 265/60R18 wheels and tyres which gave a good, quiet ride on the road but provided plenty of grip on wet grass and deep rutted mud tracks.


Recent updates to the D-Max line-up have improved what was already a good vehicle. Where use is primarily for family and long-distance travel, then higher specification DL40 and V-Cross models will be preferred. but for those looking for a functional, cost-effective farm pick-up the D-Max Utility has become a more attractive proposition. It comes with just the right level of equipment. It is quiet, comfortable, handles well and tows large trailers safely and with ease.

Back-up in many areas is through established agricultural machinery dealers who understand farmers’ requirements, and all D-Max pick-ups come with the reassurance of a 125,000-mile, five-year manufacturer warranty.

Dealer view

Mark Weatherhead Ltd
Mark Weatherhead Ltd Isuzu sales manager, Jonathan Copeman.

Long-established agricultural dealer, Mark Weatherhead Ltd represents Isuzu from its depot at Hardwick, near Cambridge. Isuzu sales manager, Jonathan Copeman (pictured) says D-Max pick-ups are extremely popular with members of the agricultural community including farmers and dealers, as well as those in other industries. “We are very proud to be able to offer our customers the multi award-winning Isuzu D-Max,” he said. “Not only do we supply these vehicles, but our dedicated team of keen and experienced individuals in our sales and service departments keep them in tip-top condition. As well as the rugged build quality and great reliability which we believe is largely due to Isuzu’s strict manufacturing policy using only components designed for commercial use, attractive key features include the 5* NCAP Euro safety rating and 5-year, 125,000-mile warranty and, of course, the great resale values that help minimise costs of ownership.

“The D-max is versatile and an ideal work horse with ample space to transport the family in comfort too. We believe it’s the best pick-up on the market, and once someone has bought their first D-Max, then they tend to remain very loyal to the brand.”

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