By Steve Berry
SALES of pickup trucks are on the rise and when you consider that the likes of the Isuzu D-Max can now offer supreme practicality alongside family comfort, then you can begin to see why.
The Isuzu D-Max has always had a great reputation for robustness, with owners swearing by their reliability. Now that robustness can be had with a touch more luxury because alongside their Utility range Isuzu are offering four models designed to attract those wanting a more cosseting, SUV-feel.
The Eiger, Yukon, Utah and Blade are all available as double-cab and four-wheel-drive. They also share the same engine – a new 1.9 diesel unit – making the new D-Max not just lighter but more economical too while keeping the same power at 164 PS.
On-The-Road prices for the double-cabs start at £25,749 for the six-speed manual Eiger (or £21,509 bought as a commercial vehicle) – add around another £1,200 for the six-speed automatic gearbox.
It’s pretty well-equipped with electric windows, air- conditioning, 16in alloy wheels, folding and heated chrome door mirrors. You also get hill start assist, hill descent control and a reversing camera. Entertainment consists of an RDS Radio, Bluetooth connectivity, CD player, six speakers and USB ports both front and rear.
The Yukon (£26,949) adds a 7in touchscreen, eight speakers, a multifunction display, leather multi-function steering wheel, 18in alloys, front fog lights, a rear load-liner and silver-coloured side-steps, while the Utah (£30,129) also gains Sat Nav, keyless entry and push-button start, DAB radio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, leather upholstery, heated front seats, automatic air-con, roof bars, rear parking sensors and a remote-locking tailgate.
Top-of-the-range Blade (£33,549) also gains a bigger 9in touchscreen, front and rear parking sensors, tinted glass, gun metal side-steps, illuminated aluminium door sills and footwells, colour-coded Aeroklas canopy, heated rear screen and a roof spoiler.
I’ve been driving an automatic Utah model which proved to be not only comfortable but also an absolute godsend during one of the snowiest weeks of the year.
The leather upholstery adds an upmarket feel and the dials and buttons all feel robust enough without appearing utilitarian. It’s a pity the steering wheel has no reach adjustment though.
It’s a pleasant place to sit with comfortable, supportive seats and great visibility. The cabin looks and feels modern, with plenty of storage space.
The cabin feels airy enough with plenty of room up front and even those over 6ft tall shouldn’t have any problems getting comfortable. Two adults in the rear will be very comfortable but anyone in the middle seat won’t want to be travelling too far as there is less headroom and foot placement is a little awkward due to the transmission tunnel.
The new, lighter engine means the max payload for the new D-Max 4×4 Double Cab has increased to 1,091kg and that 1,552mm x 1,530mm load-bay can comfortably take a Euro pallet.
The Utah is capable of towing up to 3,500kg (braked) and although the torque is slightly down from the older model, new gearing means you will never notice the difference.
I tried the D-Max Utah off-road and on some slushy and muddy B-Roads around the Peak District and it didn’t struggle at all. The chunky Bridgestone tyres helped here but so did the D-Max’s 4×4 low-range capability.
Switching drive modes can be done on the move and while I didn’t notice any problem with 2WD when selected, I spent most of the week in 4WDH due to the poor weather.
Back on the tarmac, the D-Max Utah drove as expected for an unladen pickup truck – a little bouncy over badly pockmarked surfaces but generally comfortable.
Due to the weather, I wasn’t inclined to throw the D-Max Utah around any bends but I thought body-roll was well within acceptable limits and grip-levels were very good with four-wheel drive engaged.
The auto gearbox coped fine with changes in speed but it was notably quicker when changing down rather than up.
Road and wind noise is a little more intrusive than you would find in your average family-SUV but it’s nowhere near a problem. The 1.9 diesel unit gets a little vocal toward the top of its rev range, but again, not really a problem and once it reaches cruising speed things settle down.
Steering feel is good with the weight loading up nicely at higher speeds and I certainly didn’t feel the D-Max was wandering on the motorway.
Parking is easy on the arms but you’ll be glad of the reversing camera and sensors that come as standard – at 5.3 metres long the D-Max is a bit of a beast.
The Isuzu D-Max faces some stiff competition from the likes of the Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi L200 and the Toyota Hilux but it manages to hold its own. It should definitely be on your shortlist.
AT A GLANCE: Isuzu D-Max Utah, Double Cab Auto
OTR Price: £26,159
Engine: 1.9 turbo diesel
Power: 164 PS
Transmission: 6-speed Auto
0-62mph: 13.0 secs
Top Speed: 112 mph
Combined Economy: 36.2 mpg