Off-road Isuzu is having it large

IF ISUZU is not a brand which has flashed across your automotive radar then you are probably not an off-roading/heavy-duty driver who wears boots and rolled up shirt sleeves to work.

It is a Japanese manufacturer which can claim to be the world’s largest maker of medium to heavy duty trucks. Its other claim to fame is its production of millions of diesel engines which other manufacturers use.

The one vehicle you are likely to see in a number of guises on our roads is the D-Max pick-up truck which has been on sale here for a couple of months.

Available in four trim levels - D-Max, Eiger, Yukon and Utah - standard kit includes day-time running lights, air-conditioning, electric windows, 15-inch steel wheels for the single-cab and 16-inch steel wheels for the double cab, front/side/curtain airbags and CD/radio.

Prices start at £14,499 for the single cab 2WD derivative and includes a standard six-speed manual gearbox - add another £1,000 for the automatic transmission. Bear in mind non-business users will need to add VAT to that.

The Eiger double cab adds 16-inch alloys, iPod/USB/Bluetooth connectivity, remote central locking, heated and folding door mirrors while the Yukon gets 17-inch alloys, six-speaker audio package - which includes one in the roof - LED rear lights, cruise control and steering-wheel-mounted controls. The extra trim and cab space puts the Eiger starting price up to £18,499 and the Yukon to £18,999.

The top-spec Utah double cab features climate control, electric seats, leather upholstery, heated front seats, electrically powered driver’s seat, roof bars and parking sensors, five-speed automatic transmission and a price of £21,499. Clearly, the pick-up workhorse has come a very long way in the past few years.

On the practical side, buyers can choose single, extended or double cab and either 2WD or 4WD which includes a new ‘shift-on-the-fly’ system which allows the driver to adjust between 2WD and 4WD drive modes while travelling at speeds of up to 60 mph.

In either mode it has a three-tonne (braked) towing capacity and a payload capacity of 1,000 kg.

After that, options are very limited. There’s only one engine - a 161bhp 2.5litre twin turbo diesel. Former owners will note that that is a 20per cent increase on power over the previous 2.5litre diesel of the Rodeo - which the D-Max replaces. CO2 emissions are rated at 194g/km and average fuel economy is 38.2 – a 10per cent improvement on the old model - and top speed 112mph.

The Yukon tested has heavier steering than some of its rivals - which many pick-up drivers prefer. The six-speed manual transmission needed some swift working through the lower gears in the initial stages as there is not a huge amount of torque at the bottom end - the key is not to stay in first for more than a few moments; once up to speed the D Max bowls along with ease.

Off-road is a different story altogether with plenty of pull across the low ratio range which is activated via a dial between the two front seats.

For those who are serious about these things the approach angle is 30°, the departure angle 23° and the ramp angle 22°.

The five-seater cab has plenty of room for three fully inflated adults and their boots in the back. The low flat transmission tunnel means no-one sits with their knees up. All round storage is excellent and the fact that the rear seats split 60:40 added to the D-Max’s already capacious load carrying ability.

The dash is very clearly laid out with nothing to confound or confuse. The hooded instrumentation panel behind the large steering wheel has a useful digital readout between the dials.

On the road, without a load in the back, the suspension was a little lively but once piled up with some weighty recycling all smoothed out considerably. It was recently awarded a four star rating by EuroNCAP.

All in all the D-Max is the perfect vehicle for anyone needing to combine work and family driving on a grand scale.

As with the Rodeo, Isuzu expects to sell around 2,500 of these pick-ups in the UK alone.