DRIVEN | It ticks the boxes - All-new Isuzu D-Max a major improvement over old model

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Isuzu's new D-Max is now officially available in South Africa.

The new line-up consists of 24 models, headlined by the V-Cross models.

Two turbodiesel engines power the range, with the 1.9-litre unit the new addition.

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Isuzu South Africa could finally launch the all-new D-Max in the country. After what felt like an eternity, the Japanese automaker's local arm took to the roads linking the Eastern and Western Cape to showcase the prowess of its new bakkie. Needless to say, the roads ranged from good-condition national roads, corrugated B-roads, and gravel roads - all aimed at highlighting the advancements between the new model and the old.

The new D-Max is the seventh model in a range that stretches back more than four decades. Back in 1978, Isuzu SA acquired the rights to produce the bakkie locally, kickstarting what would become one of the standout vehicles in the South African car market. Now, with the latest addition having rolled off the local production line, Isuzu is ready to put the 2019 investment of R1.2 billion into action and continue with the 40-year-old legacy.

Dominic Rimmer, senior vice-president, Technical Operations at Isuzu Motors SA, says: "Isuzu's LCV offerings have always been key players in the local market, delivering exceptional reliability and durability for our customers, whether used in hard-working commercial applications or spearheading the popular double cab segment. We are confident that the new Isuzu D-Max will continue in this proud legacy and raise the bar even higher for the brand."

The new D-Max line-up consists of 24 models, comprising single-, extended-, and double cab models. Pricing ranges from R401 700 and R814 700, and includes a five-year or 90 000km service plan, a five-year or 120 000km warranty and roadside assistance, and a five-year or unlimited km anti-corrosion warranty.

New head boy

Isuzu SA knows that the local market has shifted in its approach to bakkies, with this type of vehicle used more often for leisure purposes these days. As such, the double cab offering consists of 11 models, headlined by the V-Cross model. As the flagship model, the D-Max V-Cross is fitted with a nine-inch touchscreen that gives access to the infotainment system and various other menus of the bakkie. Dual-zone air conditioning, leather seats with eight-way power adjustment, Isuzu's latest active driving safety features, and eight airbags are also standard.

On the outside, differentiating features include the grille, fender flares, door handles, mirror caps, and roof rails, all finished in gun-metallic paint. Further adding to the V-Cross' athletic appeal is the addition of a hooped sports bar.

Priced at R814 700, the V-Cross 4x4 is powered by Isuzu's 3.0-litre turbodiesel, upgraded to now produce 140kW and 450Nm. Power is channeled to the road via a six-speed automatic gearbox. And yes, the V-Cross is available in 4x2 too, with this model retailing for R54 600 less than the 4x4.

Isuzu D-Max
2022 Isuzu D-Max 3.0 V-Cross 4x4 AT

A second engine is also available, that being a 1.9-litre turbodiesel. This unit churns out 110kW and 350Nm, also available with both transmissions and 4x4 and 4x2.

Gauging through the model range, there are more automatic derivatives than manual, with Isuzu catering to market and customer demands.

Rimmer points out that their new D-Max is now "well-positioned" in the South African market: "We have taken our proven and trusted characteristics such as power, strength, reliability and added distinctive sporty styling, significantly improved comfort, an extensive range of new technologies and trend-setting safety features to make the new Isuzu D-Max line-up well-positioned to compete in the leisure segment of the market."

Isuzu D-Max
2022 Isuzu D-Max 3.0 V-Cross 4x4 AT

Driving experience

It's been wildly assumed that the new D-Max would be endowed with the same poor ride quality as its twin, the new Mazda BT-50. The two bakkies are the end-products of the new partnership between the two Japanese giants, but the differences could not be further removed.

According to Isuzu SA, HQ in Japan gave them the option of three suspension setups - soft, medium, hard - with the local arm opting for the medium. In addition, Isuzu SA also acquired permission to amend the suspension for our market and road conditions. The result is a bakkie that rides far smoother and more comfortable than its predecessor, with road imperfections soaked up very well. On the gravel sections, the bakkie felt planted with cabin intrusions kept to a minimum.

Steering feel is on the vague side, though. At speeds of 120km/h or more, the steering requires a bit more turn to get the bakkie changing direction, and a driver caught unaware may be surprised at how much steering needs to be applied. 

Both engines exhibit some turbo lag when you punch the throttle, but they quickly get into the sweet spot to keep the momentum going.

Isuzu D-Max
2022 Isuzu D-Max 3.0 V-Cross 4x4 AT

In summary

The new D-Max is bigger than the model it replaces and comes to market with a comprehensive package. The new bakkie looks prettier - dare we say, sexier? - than before, but it could even be the most attractive one on sale in South Africa. Add to it the revised suspension and drivetrain capabilities, and it's sure to find favour with many a bakkie lover in SA.

In its sights, Isuzu has the segment leaders, the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger, and the new D-Max could offer the brand its best chance at segment honours in South Africa.

2022 Isuzu D-Max pricing

Single cab

1.9 Ddi Single Cab HR - R401 700

1.9 Ddi Single Cab HR L - R421 000

1.9 Ddi Single Cab HR L A/T - R439 200

1.9 Ddi Single Cab 4x4 L - R506 200

1.9 Ddi Single Cab 4x4 L A/T RHD - R528 800

Extended cab

1.9 Ddi Extended Cab HR - R433 600

1.9 Ddi Extended Cab HR L - R448 500

1.9 Ddi Extended Cab HR LS - R477 000

1.9 Ddi Extended Cab HR LS A/T - R496 200

3.0 Ddi Extended Cab HR LSE A/T - R595 100

3.0 Ddi Extended Cab 4x4 LSE A/T - R670 300

Double cab

1.9 Ddi Double Cab HR L - R498 900

1.9 Ddi Double Cab HR L A/T - R517 100

1.9 Ddi Double Cab HR LS - R520 800

1.9 Ddi Double Cab HR LS A/T - R537 500

1.9 Ddi Double Cab 4x4 L - R575 900

1.9 Ddi Double Cab 4x4 LS A/T RHD - R629 300

3.0 Ddi Double Cab HR LSE AT - R716 400

3.0 Ddi Double Cab 4x4 LS - R679 400

3.0 Ddi Double Cab 4x4 LS A/T - R697 200

3.0 Ddi Double Cab 4x4 LSE A/T - R771 100

3.0 Ddi Double Cab V-Cross HR A/T - R760 100

3.0 Ddi Double Cab V-Cross 4x4 A/T - R814 700

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