Road test: Hairy-chested Isuzu D-Max delivers on heritage
UTES like the Isuzu D-Max have come a long way.
Not so long along utilities were confined to tradies and those on the land. Yet nowadays they're often used as family haulers for those who head bush on weekends, or just to tow the boat or caravan.
Add the likes of Holden's SS Commodore and Ford's XR derivatives, which are really just coupes with big boots.
Isuzu has been around for 100 years, but it wasn't until 2008 the ute arm of the famed truck company gained its own presence in Australia.
For a fair time Holden had rebadged the D-Max a Rodeo and then a Colorado, although the two have parted company and the only thing shared now is the platform.
Given the proliferation of utes on the market, we took a chance to jump into the D-Max Space Cab. Isuzu was actually a trailblazer in this genre, laying claim to the first ute of this shape in 1982.
Built for work, the Isuzu has no pretences about its intentions. The cabin is functional yet simplistic.
Like many others in this realm, hard plastics are the primary material. Black finishes are broken up with some silver highlights on the fascia and doors, while the steering wheel is leather wrapped and has useful functions like Bluetooth phone connectivity and cruise control at your thumb tips.
There are two bottle holders in the centre, two pop-out cup holders from the dash and spots for another bottle in each door.
Storage spaces are thoughtful, with a centre console, small spots in front of the gear shift and under the steering wheel, while you also get a dual glovebox.
Both front seats offer good support and proved comfy even on some long highway hauls.
Jump seats in the back are not designed for regular use. Small cushioned seats fold down from a vertical position and are only suited to small adults or children who don't need a booster or their own chair.
Accessing the rear is made easier by two "suicide" doors, but the running boards are vital for easy entry and exit.
On the road
Robust and burly, the D-Max matches its hairy-chested exterior with the driving experience.
It's surprisingly easy to drive and ultra-settled even on the highway - impressive given its truck credentials. At 100kmh, it cruises at about 2000rpm, drinking only about six litres every 100km.
Don't be fooled by the statistics - 130kW and 380Nm - which are shy of many competitors but this is a strong hauler. It can handle just about anything you throw at it.
There's 235mm of ground clearance, and switching between two-high, four-high and four-low is done by a dial on the console. In slippery conditions on bitumen it's best to switch into four-high as the back does like to step out.
Parking can be a challenge in tight metropolitan car parks given its large footprint and parking sensors would be a handy addition.
What do you get?
Don't expect to be seating in the lap of luxury and you won't be disappointed. Standard gear includes Bluetooth phone connectivity, air conditioning, CD stereo, 17-inch alloys, cruise control and power windows.
Six airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control are standard, but the D-Max only has a four-star safety rating. Expect that to change later this year when further updates are introduced. There is a range of accessories, and we'd opt for the hardy rubber mats.
Not all marques have a enlarged cab option like the D-Max, but others worth a look are the Mitsubishi Triton Club Cab (from $38,990), Toyota HiLux Extra Cab (from $39,990), Mazda BT-50 Freestyle Cab (from $40,740), Ford Ranger Super Cab (from $44,390), Nissan Navara King Cab (from $44,910) and Holden Colorado LTZ Space Cab (from $47,490).
Rarely do modern cars meet the official average touted at launch. But the Isuzu did, and by a reasonable margin. We managed 7.8 litres for every 100km, and that was a mix of highway and metropolitan driving along with a few short off-road stints.
Servicing and insurance shouldn't be expensive, while there is a solid warranty and roadside assist package.
There's no doubting the D-Max's grunt, it has a 3000kg braked towing capacity and the tray has a 1000kg payload.
While the Space cab has a back seat, it's really for emergencies only. Those who want to take passengers should step up to the dual cab.
It's not daring in the looks department, but the intention is function over form. The D-Max maintains a strong presence dictated by its large frame.
Isuzu has about 5.6% market share … it has a target of 6.8%.
The brand is building awareness and its history for reliability is undeniable.
With a product update on its way, and hopefully a five-star safety rating, the D-Max should be on ute-buyers' hit list for analysis.
Model: Isuzu D-Max Space Cab LS.
Details: Four-door, four-wheel drive space cab utility.
Engine: 3.0-litre in-line four-cylinder turbo diesel generating maximum power of 130kW @ 3600rpm and peak torque of 380 Nm @ 1800-3000rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed manual.
Consumption: 8.3 litres/100km (combined average).
Towing: 33000kg (braked), tow ball maximum 300kg.
Bottom line: $43,700.
What matters most
The good stuff: Quality and longevity reputation, outstanding fuel economy, easy to drive.
What we'd like to see: Five-star safety, but that's on the way, additional hooks in the tray.
Warranty and servicing: Five-year/130,000km warranty with five years roadside assistance. Servicing is every six months or 10,000km.