What is it?
AT the risk of stating the obvious, it’s a pick-up truck.
If you need a more detailed response then it’s a solid, workhorse that will seat five, is generously equipped, pretty comfortable, and with a strong engine that can generate enough torque to shift a 3.5 tonne trailer and another 1100kg in the load bed.
This top-spec Isuzu D-Max Blade is Isuzu’s latest contender to take on the likes of Toyota, Nissan, Ford and Mitsubishi in the ever-growing pick-up sector.
There’s no doubting the D-Max Blade is a very practical thing. In terms of payload capabilities the D-Max is ahead of its rivals – not by much in some cases but a win is a win.
The engine is smaller than the old 2.4-litre unit that used to come in the D-Max making it a bit more economical.
It’s now got a four cylinder, 1.9-litre diesel that produces 164bhp. It’s not a lot of power and the figures reflect that fact, top speed is just 112mph and it takes around 13 seconds to reach 60mph, but that’s not the point of a pick-up truck so who cares? All that matters is whether it has the necessary pulling power to serve your business and of that you should be in no doubt.
It returns a reported 36mpg, 206g/km of CO2, and is Euro 6 emissions compliant. In other words, it may be a diesel pick-up but that doesn’t mean you have to completely ignore environmental factors.
It also means it’s relatively cheap to run and you won’t get clobbered with excessive charges should you stray into a clean air zone. In the time we have been driving the D-Max our fuel consumption has stayed pretty close to the claimed level and that’s not a bad return for what is quite a large vehicle.
This is the 2017 model of the D-Max and it has seen some improvements over the older models. A bit of a facelift, a few interior design tweaks, and updates to the equipment levels mean it’s as usable as a family vehicle as it is a rugged work truck.
What’s good about the Isuzu D-Max Blade?
- If such things are important in a working vehicle then the D-Max does look quite good. The Blade trim sits at the top of the range so you get a lot of design improvements as standard. LED running lights, gunmetal side steps, roof bars and rear style bar, and tinted windows certainly help. Our review model even boasted a set of puddle lights that project the word “Blade” onto the ground when you open the front doors. This isn’t particularly functional (or necessary) but it does appeal to the inner child in all of us and it’s a nice touch.
- Equipment levels in the D-Max Blade are surprisingly good too. Keyless entry and push button start, reversing camera, cruise control, and a six-speed automatic gearbox make it easy to just get in and drive. You also get climate control, SatNav, heated leather seats, Apple and Android connectivity, DAB infotainment system, and plenty of storage. There’s also lots of airbags and safety features that feature as standard in the D-Max.
- Switchable 4wd and a low range gearbox may not be necessary for everyone but they’re useful things to have. If you’re just driving around normally leave it in 2wd and you should find the D-Max more economical to run. 4wd gives you a bit more traction if you’re fully loaded or on a particularly muddy site. If you’re so far off the beaten track it’s more of a myth than an actual road you can fall back on the low range mode to keep you going. From behind the wheel it feels like it would take a lot to stop the Isuzu.
- Not something you can really test in the space of a few days but reliability is likely to be a key feature of the Isuzu D-Max. Put it this way, when was the last time you saw one that had broken down? Sure, you’ll see plenty that look like they should have broken down after decades of hard use but somehow they always seem to keep on going. In an attempt to prove what is an already obvious point Isuzu are offering a five year/125,000 mile warranty that reflects their confidence. As the tag line states: It just works.
What’s not so good?
- While the D-Max Blade boasts an impressive array of standard equipment the interior finish leaves a lot to be desired. The plastics are very plasticky, the buttons are a bit rattly, and there’s a sense that some bits of trim won’t last anywhere near as long as the rest of the vehicle. As a pick-up truck this isn’t particularly important as long as everything works, but if you plan to use it as a family vehicle the lack of quality may put some people off.
- The smaller engine makes sense given the power output has remained the same as with the old, larger engine. But does it have to be quite so noisy? In lower gears it screams and it rattles when it’s cold. Once it’s warmed up and you’re cruising at normal speed it settles down into the background but as soon as that changes the noise kicks off again. It’s just a little bit agricultural compared to some rival pick-ups.
- While we stand by our opinion that the auto is a better option than the manual there is a downside. The gearbox seems to suffering from a crisis of confidence – it keeps changing gear for no apparent reason other than to remind you it’s still there. When it does change the result isn’t exactly a smooth transition. Bulletproof it may be, but you could never describe it as refined.
- If you’re going to be spending your working day using your D-Max as a mobile office you’ll friend plenty of plugs and sockets to keep you connected and fully charged. What you might struggle with is the storage. There’s plenty of it but it feels like it hasn’t been thought through properly; there’s a handy storage compartment on top of the dash but the button to open it is behind the SatNav so it’s a pain to get to; putting a cup in the central cup holder obscures the button to open the centre armrest so you have to move the cup first; there’s cup holders and door pockets galore but none of them large enough to fit a 2-litre bottle. These are little things but they do make a difference.
Isuzu D-Max Blade: Our verdict
Enough nitpicking over the little details. While the D-Max Blade has some issues it’s still a solid performer, and despite what we may say about those shortcomings they are really just cosmetic. It may lack refinement and a bit of quality in the finish but the D-Max shines where it counts.
There’s more than enough power and traction to cope with pretty much anything you could throw at it. It doesn’t really matter if you’re an inner city builder or a farmer in the middle of nowhere, the D-Max will do the job. More importantly, it will keep on doing it day after day, year after year, as most current Isuzu owners will happily, and somewhat smugly, confirm.
There’s also enough in the way of comfort and convenience to make it useable as a family vehicle. It can be a bit soft and bouncy – as pick-ups are prone to be – and there’s that noise from the engine but it’s still a practical choice for non-work activities.
You get the leather upholstery, the touchscreen controls, the SatNav, and all the other bits that make life a bit easier. It’s also a cool looking thing with all the sidesteps and styling bars, and having transported a teenage daughter and assorted friends we can confirm it meets with enthusiastic approval.
There is also lots of choice in the range. Single, extended, and double cab options, five trim levels, and plenty of options. The Blade models also include the option of either a black sliding cover or colour coded Aeroklas Canopy as standard.
Where the D-Max does compare well is price. If you want a refined pick-up then look elsewhere but expect to pay a lot more for the privilege.
Rivals to the Isuzu include the Mitsubishi L200, Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux, and Ford Ranger, but to find one of those with a similar specification requires you to hand over significantly more than the £28k Isuzu will ask for.
Each of them has its pros and cons but in terms of value for money the D-Max is the clear winner. Whether you’re buying or leasing the D-Max is likely to provide the most equipment and practicality for the least amount of money.