While last year wasn’t a boomer for the market, for obvious reasons, Toyota’s HiLux and the Ford Ranger were solid winners. Utes and SUVs of all types claimed some three-quarters of showroom deals.
It seems many still need van-towing ability, perhaps more went out to explore the country’s backyard in lockdown days, and maybe some wanted a go-anywhere vehicle in troubled times.
And while HiLux and Ranger had a stellar run, a new machine which arrived mid-year has the potential to give them a run for their money – the latest Isuzu D-Max ute has stepped up in all areas.
It is now a more sophisticated, more comfortable ute for all manner of work, from heading north with van in tow, up the beach for a spot of fishing or out to building sites.
This latest D-Max range has a bigger body, more power and more comfort. There are 13 all-new models from two-wheel drive, two-door versions to the hero four-wheel drive dual cabs.
It’s those latter machines, the dual cabs, which highlight improvements over the previous D-Max; those were solid performers if a little old-school.
This new generation Isuzu is dressier with broader market appeal, with retail prices for four-wheel drive versions from $40,200 through to $62,900.
All run the trusted 3 litre diesel engine, now with 10kW of extra power for 140kW and 450Nm of torque, delivered through six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The all-new body – wider and a tad shorter – has better aerodynamics for better fuel economy. Auto D-Max should return around 8 litres per 100km according to the factory. That attention to aerodynamics, new suspension, stronger chassis plus improved sound deadening brings a quieter cabin.
It is also a more refined, more comfortable cabin with less hard plastic surfaces and, among specification changes, there’s both reach and tilt adjustments for the steering wheel, something not always found in our utes.
D-Maxs arrive with a touchscreen for phone connection and audio plus Apple Play and Android Auto functions, plus there’s a comprehensive list of safety equipment.
Added to the utes’ eight airbags is Isuzu’s Intelligent Driver Assist System where, among a swag of assistance measures, cameras and sensors help out with the likes of crossing lanes unintentionally, braking the vehicle if closing on a drama, monitoring blind spots, settling it down if a trailer sways and recognising speed signs.
The only whinge here is the instrument panel with graphics sometimes hard to read, but there are few complaints about the D-Max’s road manners or off-road abilities.
Ride and handling are more composed than before and match most of today’s main rivals. There can still be some bump-thump on uneven surfaces but there’s now more suspension control and less rear-end skip over corrugations, plus Isuzu’s electrically-assisted steering provides good feel from parking speeds to dirt road cruising.
This is a well-sorted dual cab utility better suited to today’s workhorse-come-lifestyle needs, especially for long hauls.
It remains – and now with the addition of a locking rear differential – a very good off-roader.