High Riding with the D-MAX | UTE REVIEW – Isuzu D-Max 4×2 Single Cab

The SX 4×2 Single Cab tray back is the focus for tradies. Review by Ed Higginson.

When you need a genuine workhorse, Isuzu’s D-Max range is a great place to start and to make tax time a little more enjoyable, Isuzu has dropped its prices considerably so the entry-level SX 4×2 single cab now fits nicely within the ATO’s $30,000 instant tax write-off bracket.

The two-seater D-Max SX 4×2 single-cab/chassis High-Ride, as evaluated by Delivery with automatic transmission and fitted with the alloy tray, comes in at just $29,990 drive away. If you add Isuzu’s towing kit from its genuine accessory range as fitted to our test vehicle, you’ll need to add a further $927.

Isuzu’s current D-Max has been around for a few years now, with the last major update coming in early 2018. At the launch event in Queensland on an off-road track, we were able to put the full D-Max range through its paces and were impressed with the improvements, particularly to the rear suspension which offered a much softer ride by changing the rear five-leaf spring setup to a three-leaf system.

At the time, Isuzu also refreshed the interior, increased the GVM to 2950 kg on the 4×2 and 3050 kg on the 4×4. The upgrade also added several safety improvements including trailer-sway control, while also extending the service intervals up to 15,000 km.

Isuzu is proud of its truck DNA with the D-Max claiming to be a scaled-down truck rather than an up-scaled car. This ongoing refinement has helped win many supporters and major factor in why the D-Max is positioned in second spot for the 4×2 one-tonne ute market.

So, when Isuzu offered to lend the Delivery team its latest two-seater D-Max SX 4×2 single-cab/chassis High-Ride for two weeks, it provided a great opportunity to see how the entry-level Isuzu would go in the real world, plus enabling our team members to get a few jobs done around the home.

First impressions were that the SX 4×2 is a solid ute that drives great. Those years of refinement have brought it a long way and knowing it retains Isuzu’s hard-working 3.0-litre diesel means it should be a great little work ute that will go and go.

Now Euro5 compliant, Isuzu’s 4JJ1-TC four-cylinder turbodiesel remains at 3.0 litres which will suit many, especially if you need it to cover high kilometres or pull heavy loads. With a strong reputation and used in Isuzu’s light-truck range, it’s been a smart decision rather than moving to a smaller engine like some of its competitors and then making it work harder.

Producing 130 kW at 3600 rpm and 430 Nm of torque at 2000-2200 rpm, the Isuzu always feels is has plenty of power and gets going relatively quickly. Isuzu Motors claims to have produced over 26 million diesel engines to date, for light, medium and heavy vehicles, so it’s a unit you know will go well, and it does.

Coupled to the Aisin six-speed automatic transmission, the power is delivered smoothly whilst helping keep the engine running in its sweet spot. With over 98 percent of all Isuzu models sold being with an automatic box, IUA has invested in a six-speed ‘Rev-Tronic’ automatic transmission with sequential sports mode.

Featuring an adaptive-learning function which constantly monitors brake and throttle applications, the ECU introduces parameters to control the transmission and determine the most appropriate shift points and lock-up points dependent on driver behaviour, vehicle load and speed.

A smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission is also available on selected models. But with Australia’s vehicle buying public now almost exclusively ordering an automatic option, the idea of actually changing gears manually is becoming a rare thought, except amongst the more cost conscious.

During two weeks of living with the SX, I was able to test it with a trailer loaded at around 1400 kg with 650 kg in the tray, off the bitumen and into the city. In all situations, the more I threw at the driveline the more I liked it.

The SX 4×2 is fitted with 16-inch steel wheels and Bridgestone 245/70 R16 all-terrain tyres, which work well both laden and unladen. Many would opt for the 4×4 if they plan to take it off-road, however I never felt the need and with the power being delivered smoothly through the auto there was never any concerns of being stuck.

I’d normally expect the rear to get lively in the wet when empty too, but surprisingly I never felt the rear let go which is a credit to its electronic traction control. The SX chassis helps here too.

Built on a steel ladder-frame chassis with a 3095 mm wheelbase with coil spring twin-wishbone front suspension and the much-improved rear leaf, the overall ride is comfortable when empty and loaded. The two-seater SX cab chassis fitted with the alloy tray is a genuine one-tonner with a 1075 kg capacity, so the ladder-frame copes well when loaded.

Also, with being a high-ride chassis, the suspension is set at the same height as with the 4×4, offering a 225 mm ground clearance which reduces the risk of impacting on any irregular lumps and bumps found on building sites.

Inside the cab, Isuzu’s interior is well put together, functional and easy to keep clean. It might not be the most modern styling, but for a base model work ute there are plenty of nice touches.

The SX spec starts with the leather-covered steering wheel with cruise control, audio and phone controls. It also benefits from power windows, power mirrors, central locking with keyless entry and a four-speaker infotainment system with 7.0-inch touchscreen. Isuzu’s system is easy to navigate and gives plenty of functionality, including DVD/CD/MP3/FM/AM/AUX audio unit with USB, iPod input and Bluetooth.

Importantly, everything functions well and is designed to stand up to the harsh work environments most will find themselves. With a wipe out rubber floor, it will also be easy to maintain.

For those wanting to personalise their D-Max there’s a long list of genuine accessories from which to choose, such as added toolboxes, ladder racks, rear chassis drawers, window and rear light guards plus much more. Knowing that all the accessories will also be covered by Isuzu’s 3 year / 100,000 km warranty is an added bonus.

Another great reason to look at the Isuzu range, is Isuzu comprehensive Service Plus program. Every D-Max comes with a bumper-to-bumper six year/150,000 km warranty, complimentary six-year roadside assistance and seven year/105,000 km of capped-price servicing.

In terms of economy, Isuzu claims the SX 4×2 auto returns a combined fuel consumption figure of 7.5-7.7 litres per 100 km, but this sounds a little optimistic. After covering 460 km along the highway, on country roads and in the city, both empty and loaded, the ute was nearer to 10.8.

It may not be the most economical, but it didn’t skip a beat and you know it would happily do it week after week, year after year.

When comparing the SX 4×2 to its competitors, there is a lot to like and it offers great value at this price. It’s a shame it doesn’t have navigation or reversing cameras, but all these can be added so helps to keep the base price down if that’s what you want.

In the single cab 4×2 ute segment, the Isuzu D-Max is one of the best and offers great value for money which is why it’s not surprising that its market share has risen over the years. If you are looking for reasonable comfort, safety, great reliability and intend to go onto dirt roads, tow or both without having to spend top dollars, then the Isuzu will remain a key choice.

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