Isuzu got it all right this time with D-Max bakkie

Automatic gearbox takes too long to shift while the manual is more engaging.

The bakkie segment in South Africa is awash with models that offer it all in terms of looks and driveability.

In about a year, I have had the opportunity to get behind the wheels of some of what I would like to call the strongest contenders in the segment, such as the Amarok V6, Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi Triton, Isuzu X Rider and the new Mercedes-Benz X-Class.

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All made light work of whatever was asked of them, yet it all depends on their appeal to certain owners and what their intended application is.

So it’s a case of up your game or face downward sales. I was a bit disappointed with a few things in the outgoing Isuzu KB 250 X-Rider, like the lack of a decent infotainment system and park distance assist.

But it did not take long for the Isuzu team to introduce an updated KB bakkie – and they got it all right, this time.

Now known as the D-Max, we bid farewell to the KB nameplate. With the new name comes a new six-speed manual and sixspeed automatic gearbox from the mu-X for the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel LX derivatives.

Depending on how you like it, you can have your D-Max either in 4×2 or 4×4 variant. Inside, a new optional dashboard and nine-inch infotainment screen, borrowed from the mu-X SUV which was a pleasure to use, are offered.

The fully featured system incorporates the display for the rear-view camera and facilitates Bluetooth hands-free cellphone use and audio streaming.

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At the launch, I got to drive the D-Max 300 LX 4×4 Double Cab manual and auto with 130kW of power and 380Nm of torque. Both made the self-drive in the Kruger National Park a pleasure.

On the outside, there is a new chromed radiator grille that dominates the front fascia, along with new chromed accents that extend across the L-shaped headlight clusters.

There are new projector-type BiLED headlamps and LED daytime running lights for the extended and double cab models. Driving the D-Max 300 LX on some serious off road, the bakkie felt at home. Isuzu says the automatic D-Max remains the buyer’s favourite.

It takes care of its duties in the most exciting way on and off the road. However, the gearbox tends to take too long to shift.

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The manual version remains my favourite as I found it to be more engaging. Driving on gravel, it is comfortable and the tyres provide optimum grip.

The load bin tends to jitter with no load, something I have also noticed in competitors. I did not try to drive economically, but Isuzu claims the automatic can return 7.8l/100km with 8.0l/100km for the manual.

For the record, Isuzu has revised the one-ton bakkie range which now comprises 30 models for SA and 13 for export markets covering the needs of commercial and leisure-oriented customers.

The extended cab models include the 2.5-litre Hi-Rider, two 3.0 LX models, with a choice of six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes, as well as a 3.0-litre 4X4 LX manual.

The Hi-Rider and LE models can be equipped with an optional tow-bar package rated to tow a braked trailer up to a maximum load of 2.1 tons, while the standard heavy-duty unit on the 3.0-litre 4X4 LX derivative comes standard and is capable of hauling 3.5 tons.

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Safety comes from airbags, ABS, BOS for all D-Max LX, ESC, HAS, HDC, trailer sway control.

All Isuzu D-Max models are sold as standard with a comprehensive five-year/120 000km warranty and roadside assistance, as well as a five-year unlimited distance anti-corrosion warranty.

A five-year/90 000km service plan is included in the purchase price, with service intervals scheduled every 15 000km or annually.

Likes

  • Great improvement.
  • Stylish.

Dislikes 

  • Automatic gearbox not my pick.

Verdict 

  • The direction in which Isuzu is heading to with their D-Max is interesting and ready to fight in the stiff segment. Well done Isuzu.

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