Good Looks And Sharp Price – Same Isuzu Toughness
Reputations aren’t five minute affairs and Japan’s enormous Isuzu conglomerate built its first ute back in 1922. Isuzu has been Australia’s best-selling medium truck brand for some 23 years.
So launch of Isuzu’s all-new D-MAX ute range commands attention amongst those who use their pickups for work or play.
Boasting modern good looks, advanced safety (six airbags standard) and enhanced passenger and cargo space, the all-new Isuzu D-MAX joins its cousin the Holden Colorado plus the Ford Ranger-Mazda BT50 duo in tackling the market dominating Toyota HiLux and Nissan Navara.
Handily priced from $27,200, as you’d expect from Isuzu, the all-new D-MAX comes to market ticking all the boxes demanded by ute buyers, including a towing capacity up to 3.0-tonnes.
2012 Isuzu D-MAX Overview
A much bigger range this time from Isuzu with the all-new D-MAX launched in five specification levels and three body configurations. Importantly for many commercial and fleet customers, the extra body type is the ‘Space’ cab with small rear ‘wing’ doors providing load versatility and pillar-less entry convenience over the regular single-cab.
And a new range-topper joins the Isuzu D-MAX range in the form of the ‘LS-Terrain’ (LS-T). Expected to sell well with tradesmen and miners, the Isuzu D-MAX LS-T is generously equipped with LS-U model specifications plus leather seats (electronic adjustment for the driver), touchscreen satellite navigation (loaded with over 10,000 off-road destinations), reversing camera and 60kgs capacity roof rails.
The full range is:
4x2 Single Cab Cab Chassis SX Manual $27,200
4x2 Crew Cab Ute SX Manual $33,200
4x2 Crew Cab Ute Hi-Ride SX Automatic $36,300
4X2 Crew Cab Ute Hi-Ride LS Manual $38,800
4x2 Crew Cab Ute Hi-Ride LS Automatic $41,000
4x4 Single Cab Cab Chassis EX Manual $33,400
4x4 Single Cab Cab Chassis SX Manual $36,400
4x4 Single Cab Cab Chassis SX Automatic $38,600
4x4 Space Cab Cab Chassis SX Manual $39,100
4x4 Space Cab Cab Chassis SX Automatic $41,300
4x4 Crew Cab Cab Chassis SX Manual $41,300
4x4 Crew Cab Cab Chassis SX Automatic $43,500
4x4 Crew Cab Ute Hi-Ride SX Manual $42,000
4x4 Crew Cab Ute Hi-Ride SX Automatic $44,200
4x4 Crew Cab Ute Hi-Ride LS-M Manual $44,000
4x4 Crew Cab Ute Hi-Ride LS-M Automatic $46,200
4x4 Space Cab Ute Hi-Ride LS-U Manual $43,700
4x4 Space Cab Ute Hi-Ride LS-U Automatic $45,900
4x4 Crew Cab Ute Hi-Ride LS-U Manual $45,500
4x4 Crew Cab Ute Hi-Ride LS-U Automatic $47,700
4x4 Crew Cab Ute Hi-Ride LS-T Manual $49,500
4x4 Crew cab Ute Hi-Ride LS-T Automatic $51,700
2012 Isuzu D-Max Engine
Isuzu has enhanced its 4JJ1-TC 3.0-litre, in-line four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine which now delivers 130kW of power at 3600rpm and peak torque of 380Nm from 1800rpm. While currently compliant with Euro4 emissions standards, with exhaust C02 rated as low as 211g/km, Isuzu says Euro5 compliance is relatively straight forward and will happen during this model life.
Among the internal changes for this model are a new combustion chamber, new intake manifold, new pistons and a larger intercooler (the latter also re-positioned in order to improve pedestrian protection).
Paul Vuko, Isuzu Ute’s sales and dealer operations boss says that in developing the improved 3.0-litre engine, reliability is still everything for Isuzu. Hence (for example) the engine still uses chain-driven camshafts and was tested over no less than 4,000,000kms – that’s the equivalent of 100 global circumnavigations!.
Drive is via new five-speed manual and automatic transmissions – the auto with sequential manual mode, adaptive learning electronic control plus hill descent and ascent modes.
Four-wheel-drive models go to the new ‘Terrain Command’ select dial (also in Holden Colorado) which permits switches from 2WD to 4WD and back at speeds up to 100km/h.
2012 Isuzu D-MAX The Interior
Isuzu’s Ichiro Murato, chief engineer for the D-MAX visited Australia to present the new lineup. For the interior, ‘Murato-San’ said his targets were: ‘Quiet,’ ‘Space’ and ‘Comfort’.
Like its cousin, the Holden Colorado, there is certainly a feeling of spaciousness when you climb into the Isuzu D-MAX. Isuzu says front shoulder room is 1460mm and as large blokes frequently occupy utes, that’s one dimension which will certainly be appreciated.
Also like the Colorado, the 24-degree recline for the rear seat back in Isuzu D-MAX Crew Cab models - plus extra footwell space - will score points amongst those riding in the second row.
Compared to the previous model Isuzu D-MAX, the A-pillar is 100mm further forwards and is more raked – this combines with larger, wider-opening doors to provide easier access. Once seated, driver and front seat passenger enjoynew-design seats with noticeable extra bolstering for extra comfort.
We liked the new Multi Information Display with various readouts including fuel consumption displays, the slick designs for the gear levers and the nice three-spoke steering wheel (leather-wrapped in some models) – although only rake adjustment is provided.
2012 Isuzu D-MAX Exterior & Styling
Compared to its predecessor, the all-new Isuzu D-MAX takes a much more aggressive form – the sloping bonnet/front grille and prominent roof line give an almost wedge-like look which is certainly more athletic and muscly than previous Isuzu designs. It’s also more aerodynamic with a drag cD of 0.47 which is five per cent more slippery than the superseded D-MAX – as tested by the Japan Railway Technical Research Institute, the organization responsible for the Shinkansen Bullet Trains…so they’d know a thing or two about aerodynamics!
Some models gain projector headlights, but regardless of the grade, from the front, Isuzu D-MAX has a commanding presence.
Side view is highlighted by the flared wheel-arches (nicely formed in steel rather than plastic).
2012 Isuzu D-MAX On The Road
Isuzu Ute Australia’s management team isn’t lacking in confidence regarding the new D-MAX and we were dispatched on a challenging mixture of highway roads, fast dirt and very challenging off-road sections between Port Douglas and Mount Molloy in tropical North Queensland.
The ‘Elephant In The Room’ for the all-new Isuzu D-MAX is of course direct comparison with the Holden Colorado – so let’s nail that immediately.
Most obvious is the different gearing and acceleration of Isuzu’s 3.0-litre turbo-diesel which felt more lively at low speeds. Suspension too has different calibration with the Isuzu D-MAX a tad softer over the bumps (Holden’s suspension tune a little more sporty).
Isuzu’s off-road track was genuinely challenging compared to the less adventurous route chose by Holden for the Colorado launch and the D-MAX delivered a top-notch performance. Particularly impressive was downhill control with our automatic transmission Isuzu D-MAX ‘walking’ down the rutted, steep hills with impressive control.
Overall refinement levels were impressive with quiet operation of Isuzu’s diesel and little intrusion of wind or road noise on the coarse chip highways common in North Queensland.
2012 Isuzu D-MAX Challenges
Lots to like about the all-new Isuzu D-MAX – now modern and contemporary wherever you look. Except the transmissions – the all-new model deserves six-speeders.
2012 Isuzu D-MAX Verdict
A competent all-rounder just as you’d expect from Isuzu. From a looks perspective, again our favourite is the ‘Space Cab’ - but really the styling job of all versions scores big points.
Nice to drive and smartly equipped, the all-new Isuzu D-MAX makes a bold challenge in a segment populated with great vehicles. Beyond a doubt, Isuzu D-MAX is one of the best of the new generation.
2012 Isuzu D-MAX The Competition
Most direct rival for the all-new Isuzu D-MAX is its cousin, the all-new Holden Colorado. Apart from the bare chassis, the only shared components are the roof and door panels.
Holden Colorado’s DX Cab Chassis entry-level model marginally undercuts the Isuzu D-MAX $26,990 to $27,200 but of course the Holden employs the 110kW/350Nm 2.5-litre engine to the D-MAX’s 130kW/380Nm 3.0-litre.
Ford’s locally-developed Ranger has earned its plaudits – Ranger looks good inside and out, drives great and is sharply priced. Same for Ranger’s cousin the Mazda BT-50.
Of course the shadow of the market-dominating Toyota HiLux looms large over the ute segment. Toyota’s recent changes have kept HiLux fresh and sharpened pricing pencils means the all-conquering HiLux is now better value than ever.