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Review: Isuzu D-Max Auto Plus 1.9L 4x2 - The urban motoring man's power tool

Dinesh · Oct 9, 2023 08:14 AM

Review: Isuzu D-Max Auto Plus 1.9L 4x2 - The urban motoring man's power tool 01

Man and power tools cannot be separated, in the same line as Taylor Swift and songs about ex-boyfriends or on a more relatable note, Alfa Romeos and unreliability. If you’re wondering why that is, there’s a simple reason behind it and what led to the Isuzu D-Max 1.9L 4x2.

Let’s hark back to the times of Neanderthals and the first rudimentary tools created. It was an expression of a man’s potential. Generally, as the tools evolved into more complicated variants, the potential expounded as well.

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Eventually, it grew into something with an engine in the front, a bed in the rear and raised ride height. Yeah, it basically became a pick-up truck. Now, don’t get us wrong. A pick-up truck will always be among the essential tools in a society’s arsenal but as the man itself evolves, the tools do so as well.

That’s how the utilitarian pick-up that had to be robust and generally with four-wheel drive has now evolved into a variant that’s now required with just the rear wheels driven, or 4x2.

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Now, the 4x2 pick-up isn’t new at all but in the current Isuzu D-Max line-up, it’s a new addition and probably one that’s brought about by necessity. As man itself evolved into a more urban environment, the need for an city hauler was brought about. It needed to haul minor cargo like bicycles and light camping gear, project a tough little image and run till the world ends but god forbid, there was no need to go off-road.

Enter the lifestyle pick-up truck, and for Isuzu, it’s the perfectly positioned Isuzu D-Max 1.9L 4x2. While the Toyota Hilux fills the void for a tough-as-nails pick-up and the Ford Ranger tickles the insecurities of someone that wants to look tough but still requires a unibody sedan’s comfort, the D-Max has been quietly rising through the pick-up ranks.

Also Read: Here's everything that's improved with the 2023 Isuzu D-Max range in Malaysia

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Isuzu D-Max Auto Plus 1.9L 4x2 specs:

  • Price: RM 105,499.20
  • Engine: RZ4E-TC 1.9-litre 16-valve DOHC Commonrail Direct Injection turbodiesel
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Power: 150 PS and 350 Nm of torque
  • Origin: CBU Thailand
  • Warranty: 5 years / 150,000 km

Exterior

Cosmetically, the facelift of the current D-Max for the 4x2 is limited to a new front grille and new wheels. That’s all there is to it. It was always a good looking pick-up before and the refinement of the grille is welcome but the wheels are subjective.

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There’s a new shade for this variant in the form of Biarritz Blue but our test unit came in the more striking Valencia Orange that we recommend over any other colour.

The rest of the exterior however isn’t anything to write home about apart from the Bi-LED Projector headlights. In fact, even the sports bar in the bed is optional and let us tell you, any pick-up looks naked without it in the rear.

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Interior

Part of the refresh included new fabric seats and we’ll be the first to admit, the front seats in the D-Max are one of the comfiest in its segment with very supportive foam. Being a dual cab, two adults will easily fit in the rear with a third squeezed in between without any complaints. Legroom isn’t even up for debate with its generosity.

Over its predecessor, the current D-Max is a huge leap forward in terms of cabin design and quality but make no mistake, it’s still very much a sea of hardy black plastics across the dash and doors. Unless you splurge on the X-Terrain, this is the norm.

Also Read: The 2023 Isuzu D-Max line-up bumps up its equipment and price, electronic rear locker for all 4x4 variants

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There is however an e-Lumax instrument cluster with a 4.2-inch LCD multi-information display that’s easy on the eyes.

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On the driver’s side, the steering wheel adjusts for rake and reach although the latter is a little limited, just a hair’s width of the perfect adjustment. However, the plethora of bins and pockets for stashing all your junk could distract you from it.

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At first glance, the entertainment might seem like a large screen that’s about to blow your mind but don't let the large black panel fool you as there’s a much smaller 7.0-inch screen housed within that void. Nonetheless, there’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as well as the usual Bluetooth, MirrorLink and Miracast which is always appreciated. Furthermore, the sound quality is pretty impressive as well from the 6-speaker system.

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Safety

It’s the usual safety suite here with the likes of dual airbags, ABS, EBD, BA, stability control and traction control. You’ll also find hill-start assist as well as hill-descent control. All the basic pick-up features covered then.

However, you’ll notice the lack of Advance Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) but in a fairly entry-level variant this is something to be expected.

Also Read: The new Isuzu D-Max is winning hearts, awards and might just steal your girl as well

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Powertrain and fuel consumption

Isuzu’s 1.9-litre turbodiesel engine was a revelation in the industry and continued to carry their ethos of being fuel efficient, robust and powerful. The lack of displacement was never up for debate, a 150 PS and 350 Nm of torque mixed in with a 6-speed auto will always be enough.

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It’s lighter, cheaper and with the lack of a front drivetrain, much more fuel efficient. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that the 1.9-litre engine is right at the limit of being adequate, barely feeling underpowered but never overwhelming with it either.

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For the urban motorist, the impressive fuel consumption would be very welcome. Isuzus’ in general are renowned for sipping fuel, having made their way from Bangkok to Singapore on a single tank and that’s with the 4x4 variants. Carrying less weight with no front driveshafts, this 4x2 could very well complete that drive with a lot more left in the tank, quite literally.

Also Read: 8 reasons why the Isuzu D-Max makes a better 'Hailak' for Malaysians

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During our time with the D-Max, we managed a generous 9.9l/100km over a distance of about 250 km that comprised a 60:40 split of city and highway driving. Isuzu claims the 1.9-litre engine is 12.5 percent more efficient than the 3.0-litre engine and regardless of if you’re a private or business owner, savings of anything over 10 percent is worth its weight in gold. Furthermore, we covered the 250 km distance with only a quarter of the tank used up.

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Driving Impression

Thus far, our experience with the D-Max range has solely been with the flagship X-Terrain that’s painted a prettier picture than the rest of the variants. Once we got into this 4x2 trim, the typical ladder frame driving feel was ever present.

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That’s to say it very much feels like a truck with harsher damping and a less forgiving rear for the occupants there. Of course, to say it will never feel like a passenger car seems like an understatement but some of its rivals (that Ranger) has proven it’s very much possible to get a pick-up closer to a unibody than anticipated before.

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Nonetheless, the D-Max is one of the more comfortable pick-ups on the market now, only displaying the depth of its weaknesses with the yellow strips on roads.

Planning to use it as a daily car in the city? You won’t break anything but there will be times regret sets in, few and far between as they are. On the whole, it was very manoeuvrable in an urban environment and felt much smaller than its dimensions would lead you to believe.

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Lastly, it’s worth noting that the 1.9-litre engine is a little on the loud side. Not withstanding jokes about your friend’s mother, any sort of load more than necessary will generate quite a din through the firewall. Perhaps it won’t interrupt your streaming via Spotify, but it’s loud enough to carry a mention.

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Conclusion

Sorry to say, it’s no Ranger. If you’re after a pure urban pick-up, there’s only one obvious answer. However, the Ranger is also the Dyson of power tools, meaning it looks prettier than necessary, or it simpler terms, putting form over function.

The D-Max on the other hand is about as well balanced as you can get. Pretty to look at? Yes. Will it handle a little workshop hardship? Absolutely, and probably like it along the way.

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There aren’t a lot of 4x2 pick-up options in the market and that’s also part of the charm here, it knows what it needs to be and does that without any pretension.

You love in the city and don’t see a mound of dirt but want to look like you can still build a front deck for your house? Get the D-Max. You’ll look like you can handle a power tool.

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Dinesh

Writer

“Better late than never.” Some despise it, others begrudgingly agree with it but he swears by it… much to the chagrin of everyone around him. That unfortunately stems from all of his project cars not running most of the time, which in turn is testament to his questionable decision-making skills in life. A culmination of many wrongs fortunately making a right; much like his project cars on the rare occasions they run, he’s still trying to figure out if another project car is the way to go.

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