When it comes to shopping for a pick-up truck, unless you’re a contractor that hauls machinery every now and then, it is unlikely you’ll be considering the Isuzu D-Max.
The reason is simple – those who desires a lifestyle pick-up truck would have selected the Ford Ranger or Mitsubishi Triton, not the Isuzu D-Max.
But we firmly believe that the D-Max does have some redeeming features that could position itself as a worthy lifestyle truck alternative.
Exterior - Slight difference, but largely identical
At a glance, you would think that the updated D-Max looks identical to the facelift that was introduced back in 2016, but that is not the case.
Look closely and you will notice a restyled front grille with chrome trim pieces that extend into the headlights. Below that are new, thicker chrome trim pieces on the edge of each front fog light.
The 1.9-litre-equipped D-Max models also feature 1.9 BluePower decals on the sides and rear of the truck.
Build quality is consistent, as panel gaps around the truck did not deviate more than 0.5 mm on average. Paint thickness is also rather consistent between panels, as it ranged from mid-60s micrometers to mid-80s.
Interior - Still utilitarian, but now with soft touch materials
Another reason why buyers naturally sway towards the Ranger and Triton is because of their interior.
Compared to the other two trucks, the D-Max’s interior is far more utilitarian, thanks to a generous dose of hard plastic throughout the cabin, which looks like it will withstand the test of time with relative ease.
The range-topping Premium variants of the D-Max get soft touch materials parts of the dashboard, which helps to improve perceived quality.
Premium variants of the D-Max also receive an 8-inch Android-based touchscreen infotainment system that is clunky at best.
Sound quality and user interface are average at best, as it feels like the entire system was lifted off an old Android tablet.
Furthermore, the system lacks Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support.
Driving Performance and Handling - Sufficient grunt for daily use
Driving performance is not something that is associated with a bone-stock D-Max, as it only outputs 150 PS and 350 Nm. With these figures, the D-Max has sufficient grunt to propel it to highway speeds, but certainly won’t outrun the other trucks.
Our own tests indicate that the D-Max completes the 0-100 km/h sprint in 12.7 seconds. The 0-100-0 km/h is done in 17.2 seconds.
Parking the D-Max is another challenge, as the steering’s weight is on the heavier end of the scale, making maneuvering tight turns a chore.
The new 6-speed automatic in the D-Max may not offer shifts as quick as other trucks, but shifts are smooth and barely noticeable. Kick-down is responsive enough, but with just 150 PS on tap, accelerating does take a while.
Ride Comfort - Decent comfort levels, but noisier than the Ranger
While the D-Max may not be an outright performance pick-up truck, it does drive reasonably well.
The suspension is tuned on the softer side, allowing the D-Max to soak up most road irregularities with ease, but we noticed that the ladder frame had a tendency of flexing.
At 110 km/h, we recorded the cabin noise level to be at 70 dB. At idle, the cabin registers just 46.5 dB, with the air-conditioning turned on.
By comparison, the Ranger’s cabin registered 63 dB while cruising at 110 km/h and 43 dB when idle.
Fuel Economy - Where it reigns supremacy
After covering roughly 250 km with a mix of urban and highway driving conditions, the Isuzu D-Max returned 8.0-litre/100 km, making it one of the most fuel-efficient pick-up trucks we’ve experienced to date.
This is achieved by its new (actually it's not so new, available in Thailand since 2015) smaller capacity 1.9-litre Ddi BluePower engine that is 62 kg lighter than the previous 2.5-litre unit, but makes 14 PS and 30 Nm more. The new engine also boasts a 37% reduction in internal friction, further aiding fuel economy.
Conclusion - For those who seeks a durable and reliable pick-up truck
The Isuzu D-Max isn’t the most exciting-to-drive pick-up truck, nor is it the most comfortable one around.
But where the D-Max truly shines is fuel efficiency, as the new 1.9-litre turbodiesel mill transforms the unassuming D-Max into a fuel-sipping truck. The D-Max is also the first pick-up truck in Malaysia to receive the Energy Efficient Vehicle (EEV) certification.
Isuzu has also detuned their engines for maximum reliability, in order to cope with our poorer fuel quality or maintenance habits. But if more power is needed, the Thais have managed to squeeze well over 300 PS out of the little engine.
It is also worth mentioning that because Isuzu’s main business is selling heavy duty lorries, it is much harder to locate Isuzu dealers within the city and you will need to drive into a lorry service centre when you need to send your Isuzu in for maintenance.
If you’re waiting for the all-new D-Max, don’t hold your breath for Isuzu Malaysia to introduce the all-new model here soon, as some some lead time is needed before local assembly can commence.