Isuzu Ute continues to set sales records.
There’s a lot to be said for knowing the history of a brand, especially when considering the purchase of a new ute with your own money.
It’s now 10 years since Isuzu Ute Australia took responsibility for marketing the D-MAX to the Australian market. In that time the brand has gone from zero sales to break the 100,000 barrier, ending 2018 having retailed a total of 112,536 D-MAX models, aided and abetted by sales of the MU-X SUV that have now reached 35,284 units.
In that decade of growth, the D-MAX has maintained its reputation as the ute that engineers and mechanics prefer above all comers. As one experienced independent local mechanic told Delivery; “The Isuzu people design and build trucks, and have transferred their technology and reliability downwards into a ute. Other competitors that manufacture utes start from the other end of the spectrum and try to turn a car into a ute.
“If you are looking for reliability, strength and longevity, go for the D-MAX,” he added.
Throughout the past decade, Delivery has owned three D-MAX models, starting with a single cab tray back that was subsequently replaced by a 2012 space cab tray back and a 2015 crew cab that remain in the fleet today.
Delivery, therefore, has first-hand experience of the reliability factor; and apart from body damage resulting from animal strikes while operating in the rural area around Scone, in NSW, any mechanical concerns have been confined to general servicing, plus one steering rod ball joint and an EGR valve replacement.
From a heritage perspective, Isuzu Trucks − the parent company of Isuzu Ute − this year will celebrate its 30th consecutive year of commercial vehicle market leadership in Australia.
When you look at the way the D-MAX is designed and manufactured, you can appreciate the strength built in to the product.
It starts with the chassis − a ladder-frame style with six cross members on the standard range, increasing to seven cross members on 4×4 and 4×2 Hi-Ride models.
The front suspension on all models is independent, using coil springs, upper and lower wishbones and a stabiliser bar. The rear suspension on 4x4s uses a conventional solid beam axle mounted on semi-elliptical leaf springs. The steering system is by rack-and-pinion with engine-speed-sensitive variable power assistance.
The heart of any ute is its engine, and we reckon that Isuzu has the strongest of any model on sale in Australia. From day one the power and performance has come from a 3.0-litre, in-line four-cylinder turbocharged diesel with a double overhead camshaft design and 16 valves.
With chain-driven overhead camshafts you don’t have to worry about breaking rubber V-belts, the valve design features roller rockers, and the combustion chambers have a variable swirl system to improve combustion. The turbocharger is a variable geometry unit and the fuel injection system uses the latest high pressure, common rail design.
We are yet to find an unhappy Isuzu Ute engine owner and it’s got all the right recommendations by way of support. The big difference, though, is how the engine delivers its power and torque. It feels tougher than anything else on the market and its strength enables it to hold a ratio longer on a steep climb. It also shows this ability at low speeds when off-road, and carrying a full payload.
Isuzu fits something it calls first gear stall saver, which brings in electronic engine control when in first gear, low range and with the manual gearbox. Ease your foot off the clutch and the engine just idles the ute up from wherever you happen to be, climbing the steepest gradients, never seeming to miss a beat or stall. It works really well, even when fully laden, and is streets ahead in delivering engine torque to all four wheels compared with the competition in this category.
Slight increases in power have seen the output grow to 130 kW at 3600 rpm, with a rise in torque rating to 430 Nm at 2000 to 2200 rpm, then reducing to 380 Nm. Transmission choice is now either a six-speed manual or automatic. Fuel economy is a claimed 7.2 L/100 km, ranging up to 8.1 L/100km for the ADR combined cycle, from its 76-litre tank.
During 2018, Isuzu UTE Australia established a new annual sales record of 27,640 vehicles — successfully growing the two-car brand by 7.1 percent year on year. Its highest-ever December sales result, 3244 vehicles, was an increase of 10.5 per cent on the previous year. It ended the year in 4th position in its class, outselling the Holden Colorado (18,301), Nissan Navara (16,469) and Volkswagen Amarok (9,290).
“The Australian market is unique, with over 70 automotive brands bidding for a spot in customers’ garages nationwide.” said IUA Managing Director, Hiro Kuramoto. “However, the sentiment towards utes and SUVs has never been stronger and are the leading segments within the market — the exact segments the D-MAX and MU-X sit — and in 2018 we witnessed our strongest result in 10 years, with more customers choosing an Isuzu than ever before.”
As the culmination of a decade of effort, Isuzu Ute Australia last year added improvements to its product and service offering by confirming a five-year warranty, five- year roadside assistance and five-year capped price servicing package. The dealership network was further refined, with support provided through 149 outlets across all states and territories in Australia.