Isuzu show why we all want a workhorse
Sales aren’t just holding steady, they are positively rising, which is amazing considering the pressures that the motor industry – and business in general – is under.
So far this year, 14,963 pickups have been sold compared to 12,587 in the same period last year – a rise of 18.9 per cent.
Many of these buyers are tradespeople, of course. But a good few are simply people with active lifestyles: campers, surfers and equestrian types.
And after a week at the wheel of an Isuzu D Max Arctic, I can see why. These rugged, go-anywhere vehicles aren’t as spartan as I remember they once were. Instead, you get a cultured drive in a well-equipped vehicle.
It looks fabulous – chunky, stylish and well proportioned – and it is a very capable machine. But it is also comfortable and easy to handle around town.
Tested here is the AT35 version. This is the product of link between Isuzu and Arctic Trucks (hence AT) which specialises in creating upmarket versions of pick-up trucks.The 35 refers to the huge 35in tyres.
AT35 is packed to the gills with extra features – some cosmetic, some functional. It has sports bars. Laser lights and a roll-top for the loadbay, plus a load liner.
No wonder legendary motorcyclist Carl Fogarty – seven-times world champion – drives an AT35. He is an Isuzu and Arctic Trucks brand ambassador and says the vehicle suits his hobbies of fishing and cycling.
The AT35 also sees improvements to the body, frame, suspension, drive train and tyres.
Its specification includes a nine-inch infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, as well as an eight-speaker sound system. There’s also leather upholstery, wireless smartphone charger and a premium carpet mat set.
D-Max is now established as one of the leading pick-up trucks and has been around since 2012.
Isuzu is pretty confident about hitting 10,000 sales by 2025 – around double what it sells at the moment. And with manufacturers such as Mercedes, Mitsubishi and Nissan all pulling out of this segment in the UK, that might just be possible.
Isuzu has its core customers that buy the D-Max for its off-road and towing capability, so this new model aims to leave those aspects unchanged, instead focusing on giving its truck a more upmarket finish.
That’s why you get a far more premium – but no less sturdy – interior, as well as the same level of technology you’d expect to find on a car, with the array of driver assistance features impressing in particular. There’s also a rather imposing new front end to make the D-Max stand out on the road.
Critics say the D-Max has always been one of the more agricultural-driving options in the pick-up class, but I must say this model has improved.
The diesel engine sounds more refined than I expected and once up to speed it settles down to become quite a relaxed cruiser. Here it’s also helped by the various driver assistance technologies fitted – not least adaptive cruise control, which remains a rarity in the pick-up world.
Possibly the biggest step up on the D-Max is its interior, which makes a step upmarket compared to its predecessor. With the addition of soft-touch materials, it helps the D-Max’s cabin to feel closer to that of a car, while still feeling sturdy and durable.
From DL40 upwards, models also get a new seven-inch touchscreen, and though not at the cutting edge of multimedia systems, it does everything it needs to without fuss. If you’re looking at a double cab version, a longer wheelbase affords it more space in the rear seats than before, while wider opening back doors make it easier to get in and out of as well.
On a more practical note, the D-Max also offers up a maximum payload of 1,120kg, while having a towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes.
Isuzu has revealed a range of new accessories and three new accessory packs for the D-Max.
Alongside these new additions, a brochure has been produced detailing every genuine accessory available on the D-Max, with more than 160 individual parts included.
The new High-Line pack is being offered on the V-Cross model and includes a canopy with an added water defence and a rug for the load bed. Exterior enhancements include roof rails, an over fender extension set, towbar and 13-pin electrics, while lighting improvements come from a roof bar and front grille set from Lazer.
Inside, there’s a rear-view mirror camera kit that improves visibility out the back. The pack costs £5,250 plus VAT, representing a saving of £250 over buying each part separately.
The Mid-Line Pack for All-Purpose models has a colour-coded CMX Commercial Canopy, which has solid sides and lift-up gullwing doors, an under rail load liner and a water defence kit. It also gets the front grille lights from Lazer and over fender kit, as well as a 3D mat set.
This set costs £4,150 plus VAT, which is a saving of £100.
Finally there’s the new Start-Line Pack for the DL20. It has a Keko tonneau cover and sports style bar with a bed liner, and adds the remote tailgate locking and rubber floor mats. A towbar, 13-pin electrics, quick hitch socket, and Lazer grille lights are also included, with the total price of £1,375 plus VAT representing a discount of £100.
Isuzu D-Max AT35
Price: £47,999. The automatic adds £2,000
Engine: A 1,898cc diesel engine producing 162bhp
Performance: Top speed 112mph and 0 to 60mph in 12.7 seconds
Costs: 30.7mpg average
Warranty: Five years, 125,000 miles warranty