2015 Isuzu D-MAX Review : 4x2 SX High-ride cab chassis

Rating: 7.5
$14,890 $17,710 Dealer
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When it comes to tools of the trade, simple is often best. We throw a tonne of bricks at the simple but effective Isuzu D-Max 4x2 Cab Chassis.
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The Isuzu D-Max 4x2 SX High-ride Cab Chassis is one of 13 variants of the workhorse ute offered by the resurgent Japanese brand.

Seeing overall vehicle sales growth of just over 63 per cent between 2013-2014, Isuzu Ute’s considered push in Australia sees the D-Max Ute holding its own in a competitive marketplace of established brands and models.

The 4x2 range made up ten per cent of the brand’s total sales in 2014, with the single-cab chassis leading the charge.

Somewhat of a hammer when it comes to being a tool of the trade, the cab-chassis is a no-nonsense workhorse. Some hammers might be fancier than others, but they uniformly have a job to do, and, well, the Isuzu D-Max knocks in a nail like the best of them.

Plus, as style is important, this hammer can be had in eight fashionable colours ($330 for everything but white).

Available in a single mid-level SX trim, the 4x2 D-Max High-ride looks like its 4x4 counterpart — with 225mm of ground clearance — but weighs 100kg less due to the lack of a front diff.

The added 35mm height over the Low-ride Isuzu D-Max not only looks better, but gives easier articulation over curbs and uneven ground, without needing full-time four-wheel-drive. This means there is also added space under the tray for toolboxes and storage without compromising any clearance.

Built in Thailand, the D-Max shares many components with the Holden Colorado, but features Isuzu’s own 130kW/380Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel instead of the Holden’s 147kW/500Nm 2.8-litre Duramax diesel.

The Isuzu engine is renowned for its strength and reliability and pulls smoothly and reasonably quietly... for a ‘truck’ engine. The five-speed automatic is smooth and, more often than not, selects the right gear at the right time. There's also a manual-shift sport mode should you need to force the D-Max to hold a gear.

The ‘office’ is comfortable and airy but not particularly exciting, featuring inoffensive cloth seats and hardwearing plastics in a non-descript bluey grey colour.

Storage is good, with twin glove boxes and a deep centre console bin, as well as cubbies on top of the dash and below the air conditioning controls. The D-Max knows its usual occupants well and includes a pair of cup holders in the centre and a retractable holder below both driver and passenger side vents - meaning on a hot day, the air-con can keep your drink cool. The door pockets are big too and will easily hold a 500ml water bottle.

Creature comforts are quite impressive for a basic commercial ute, offering Bluetooth phone and audio streaming with steering wheel controls and excellent air-conditioning (we had the D-Max over a couple of mid 30-degree days and it was always quick to cool).

While the D-Max’s four-speaker audio system is pretty basic, phone pairing is fast and simple, and certainly more reliable than the high-spec system in our long-term Toyota Kluger Grande.

The D-Max SX also includes a one-touch auto-down driver’s power window function and power mirrors. Safety is impressive, with six airbags, requisite traction and electronic stability controls, plus an electronic brake distribution system that will adjust braking force to the wheels that need it most, depending on the load you are carrying.

There are 12V charge points in the console and glove box, but no standard USB points. The stereo offers a mini-USB connection point, which meant my standard iPhone cable wouldn’t fit — something I’m sure you’d easily address if you owned one, but a bit annoying when jumping in and out of various cars (with a near flat phone).

On the road the D-Max offers good visibility, although the mirrors could be bigger. There are no reverse parking goodies, so you have to parallel park the old fashioned way — the upside being you can always lob it in a loading zone.

Empty, the cab chassis feels very firm and a bit unsettled over speed humps and larger imperfections in the road. It’s never unnerving, but we were keen to test it with load.

So we put 1000kg of bricks in the back of the D-Max’s 2550mm long, 1778mm wide heavy-duty aluminium tray (a $2277 option) and the ute immediately felt better and more planted over the same test roads. You notice the extra weight, but the diesel never feels under pressure and still managed to return just under 9.0 litres per 100km consumption for our urban test week — not bad given its 7.9L/100km claim. Freeway cruising proved easy and comfortable with or without the load.

Fair to say too, that the factory tray is a great size – more than enough space for two palettes and well… even a Smart car.

Fuel economy is core to Isuzu’s value proposition, though, with its claimed combined cycle figure making the 4x2 High-ride SX 10 per cent more efficient than the Ford Ranger and Holden Colorado — which, provided you can hit those numbers, equates to a saving about $130 worth of diesel every 10,000km.

Priced from $30,500 (without a tray) the Isuzu D-Max 4x2 cab chassis is $90 and $240 less than its rear-wheel-drive Colorado and Ranger High-rider equivalents, respectively. However, both rivals offer larger payload ratings and a 3500kg towing capacity — the Isuzu topping out at 2500kg.

The market-leading Toyota Hilux can’t be had as a RWD High-rider, but the less powerful 110kW Mazda BT50 and 100kW Mitsubishi Triton are available for about $2000 less than the D-Max.

The Isuzu D-Max 4x2 cab chassis is a well-equipped and smart looking commercial proposition with strong and reliable power. The Ranger and Colorado add a bit more muscle, but the Isuzu’s efficiency makes the D-Max a solid challenger in this high-stakes, high-vis segment.

As an added bonus, at the time of writing, Isuzu is offering driveaway deals that put the automatic D-Max on the road with a tray for just over $30k, which in our book, when combined with the standard five-year warranty and roadside assist program, represents pretty outstanding value.

Click the Photos tab for more images by James Ward and Tom Fraser.