Isuzu shows how pick-ups have shifted upmarket

Some little time ago, pick-ups became trendy. And because they were designed to appeal to style-conscious motorists, they suddenly became refined, well-equipped and comfortable – not phrases that sprung to mind with the early versions in the 1960s and 1970s.

By Steve Teale
Saturday, 9th April 2022, 10:39 am
The D-Max
The D-Max

They used to be crude in design and spartan on the equipment front. If you bought one, it was because you wanted to chuck – rather than place – heavy gear in the back. Fanciness such as radios, heating and road manners were surplus to requirements.

Not today, though. Your average pick-up driver in 2022 will find a decent stereo, a willing but smooth engine and all the warm pleasantries you might find in a decent family saloon.

Choose the D-Max DL40, and you might discover leather upholstery, alloy wheels and reversing cameras. Pick-ups are no longer blue collar motors, it seems.

Sign up to our daily Halifax Courier Today newsletter

It has a huge loadbay

This is the D-Max from Isuzu, one of the lower profile manufacturers, but it is making a name for itself with its pick-ups which are increasingly being seen as sturdy and good value.

D-Max is selling well. In 2021, they rose by 16.9 per cent which is not a bad annual increase, even if it is from a lower than expected base.

Isuzu UK recorded 3,688 sales of the D-Max pick-up at the close of 2021. December provided a strong finish to the year for the brand with 320 sales, an increase of 70.2 per cent over the previous December.

Overall, the pick-up market in the UK ended 2021 19 per cent up on the previous year with 42,488 registered in the segment across all manufacturers.

The D-Max interior is a match for many luxury cars

D-Max was launched to critical acclaim and has seen a significant shift in sales mix within the Isuzu D-Max range. Double-cab automatic versions increased sales by 47.9 per cent over the previous year, with the range-topping Isuzu D-Max V-Cross automatic becoming the brand’s best-selling model.

Customers, we’re told, have recognised the significant improvements over the previous generation and the increase in demand reflects this. Also, given the supply constraints in 2021, the brand’s overall performance has been limited.

D-Max range caters for every need and is available in single, extended or double cab body styles, further building on the appeal and flexibility of the versatile pick-up truck.

The Utility features wipe-clean vinyl floor covering, hard-wearing cloth upholstery and automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, whilst the DL20 adds features such as heated front seats, rear parking sensors and 18in alloy wheels.

Tested here is the DL40 which adds items such as a keyless entry and push-button start system, dual-zone climate control and reversing camera, with the top end of the range the V-Cross further adding a 9in multimedia system including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility along with an eight-speaker sound system and distinctive gun-metal grey exterior styling cues.

The most important feature for me is the way this model rides and handles. I expected a pick-up to be rugged and frankly agricultural because even premium brands have struggled to create an upmarket feel.

But this model is exceptional. It is surefooted and smart and rides well at motorway speeds, but it is also a proper 4x4 which can cope with the rough stuff.

It comes as a Utility (from £21,999), DL20 (from £26,999), DL40 tested here (£30,849) and V-Cross (£32,349). This model is in Valencia Orange, which might not suit all vehicles but it works well on this model.

It has a good array of kit such as chrome styling, silver side steps, 18in alloy wheels, leather upoholstery and heated front seats, plus 7in colour touchscreen and dual zone climate control.

It has a reversing camera and, to prove it’s a proper off-roader, a rear differential lock. There is also a six-speaker stereo and a raft of driver assistance systems to keep you on the straight and narrow.

Rivals for Isuzu D-Max include Toyoya Hilux, Ford Ranger and SsangYong Musso but the range of pick-ups has shrunk in recent years, so it’s an interesting time for Isuzu to launch this new model. This Mk3 model arrived in 2021 and gets a much more modern look than its predecessor, along with excellent levels of kit and appealing low prices.

So reviewers say the engine is on the loud side but I found it reasonably quiet for a 1.9 litre diesel.

If you are interested in an Isuzu – or, frankly, any other new vehicle – you have to be patient. Along with the entire automotive industry, Isuzu UK is faced with unprecedented and complex conditions, due to a worldwide shortage of key components, semi-conductors and materials, which is having an impact on production.

Isuzu says production and shipping challenges are resulting in longer than normal waiting times for new vehicles.

Alan Able, Brand Director, Isuzu UK said “As the Pick-Up Professionals, we are committed to providing the most transparent sales process possible and urge any customers who may wish to purchase a D-Max later in 2022 or perhaps into 2023 to start discussions with their local Isuzu dealer as soon as possible.

“Although not impacted as severely as many other manufacturers, we are still working tirelessly with the vehicle production facility in Thailand to minimise customer waiting times and we will provide as much information to dealers as we can to ensure our customers are always on the fastest route possible to a new Isuzu D-Max.”

One neat feature is that it has front and rear USB ports, which are a must for family cars or crew vehicles.

The safety systems are remarkable, too, with adaptive cruise control, intelligent speed limiter, lane departure alerts, lane keep assist and rear cross traffic alert, which is useful for such a bulky vehicle.

It also has a shift-on-the-fly 4x4 system, traction control and trailer sway control.

If you think Isuzu is new to this market, think again. It is a long-established brand and has been been named Best All-terrain Workhorse at the Fleet News Awards 2022 with the award being presented during the awards ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on March 16.

The judges said “This go-anywhere vehicle has excellent cost of ownership, strong residuals, outstanding reliability and comes with a market-leading warranty. And with excellent payload and towing capability, it is the clear workhorse winner for fleets.”

Isuzu D-Max DL40 Auto

Price: £32,349. It costs £30,849 as a manual

Engine: 1.9 litre turbodiesel engine generating 164bhp through four wheels

Performance: Top speed 112mph and 0 to 60mp[h in 13 seconds

Costs: 30.7mpg combined

Emissions: 241g/km

Warranty: Five years, 125,000 miles