The word Isuzu is familiar to those of us that know our trucks, as the world's biggest manufacturer of medium to heavy duty trucks the Isuzu brand is held in high regard around the world.
The actual Japanese word "Isuzu", however, literally means "fifty bells". The brand is named after the Isuzu River in the city of Ise, Mie Prefecture, Japan.
Like most Japanese manufacturers, Isuzu started back in the early 1900s, the idea of what was to become Isuzu trucks first came to light in 1916 and the company changed the name of its main truck to Isuzu in 1934.
Fifteen years later and the whole company itself was renamed Isuzu.
With 2009 coming to an end, Isuzu Ute is powering on in Australia for expansion. Having pulled out of the passenger car market long ago, Isuzu has come armed with the Isuzu D-Max Ute.
Before we begin, it's worth noting that the D-Max had been here all along, as the Holden Rodeo.
After the agreement between Holden and Isuzu finished, Isuzu decided to keep the Rodeo name (although chose not to use it), Holden came out with the Holden Colorado (which is essentially a D-Max at heart minus the engine) and Isuzu went to the market with its own ute.
So what have they come out with? How does the Isuzu behave in comparison to other Utes on the market? Is it worth the investment? Sure it's cheaper and has more value but how does it stack up against offerings from fellow Japanese manufacturers?
Having waited a good 45 minutes in traffic at Brisbane's Kingsford Smith drive, I finally reached Isuzu headquarters and was handed the keys to a D-Max 4x2 Crew Ute Hi-Ride LS manual, priced at $35,600.
In November 2009 Isuzu sold 478 Utes, making the month the fourth consecutive record-breaking month in Isuzu Ute Australia's record which is a sign of greater things to come for the Mitsubishi owned company.
Jump inside and the interior of the LS model is nothing to write home about, Isuzu has gone for the workhorse approach when it comes to the LS range. It ain't the best looking ute (inside or outside) but that's not the point of it. Like its GM brother it will comfortably fit four normal sized adults even for long distance drives.
The review car was even fitted with rear parking sensors which worked a treat (although they may not yet be available for dealer fitting). For a little extra you can even get a bluetooth phone system put in that will save you from having to talk on the phone illegally. The sound system wasn't exactly top notch but was more than you'd need for a workhorse.
The main competitor to the D-Max is segment leader Toyota HiLux and Isuzu Ute has brought the D-Max in at a pricing and specification level to compete directly with the big T. According to Isuzu, D-Max models are up to $10,000 cheaper than equivalent HiLux variants and up to $5,000 cheaper than similar model Holden Colorados.
Under the bonnet sits a 3.0-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder engine across the entire range. Producing 120kW at 3600rpm and 360Nm of torque (manual) between 1800 and 2800rpm. Those opting for the four-speed automatic will lose 27Nm of torque and will that delivered between 1600 and 3200rpm. D-Max returns fuel economy figures of 7.9 to 9.0L/100km (official ADR81/01 combined-cycle testing).
Under the body the D-MAX makes use of a live axle and leaf springs at the rear. Ground clearance ranges from 195mm for the base model LS 4x2 to 225mm for all other variants (the difference is due to the addition of torsion bars).
4x4 D-MAXs have a towing capacity of three tonnes of braked trailer, but even the 4x2s manage a respectable two and a half tonnes.
During the one week test I drove the D-Max from Brisbane out to Warwick, which is a good 150km each way and put it through its paces in rural Queensland.
It doesn't struggle on the highway and cruises along without complaining, overtaking is simple if you're in the right gear.
The diesel engine is not noisy but it's not exactly quite either, other Japanese makers have managed to do a better job with sound proofing the cabin.
There is sufficient space to fit most things in the tray, even four wheels.
Off-roading in one of the 4x4 variants is simple and as we tested in 2008 it easily ate up a four-wheel drive course that was set out to prove its worth.
Overall the Isuzu D-Max is an underrated entrant into the commercial pick-up and crew cap segment.
There are three different trim levels in the D-Max range: EX, SX and LS. All come with standard ABS and EBD and dual front airbags (except the farm-truck EX).
Reliability should not be an issue but for peace of mind, all D-MAX models come with a three year/100,000km warranty and backed by 24/7 roadside assistance during this period.