Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Discussing the choice of engine for the Isuzu D-Max doesn’t take long because there’s only one: a 162bhp 1.9-litre diesel. That might not sound like enough, but even in its bulkiest double cab form, you have a better payload than an equivalent Ford Ranger.
Assessing performance is a bit more nuanced, because while the D-Max has plenty of pull to get itself and whatever you’re hauling rolling, it quickly runs out of puff afterwards. That's especially true of the manual version because you spend very little time in first gear before second is required.
First gear in a D-Max is designed for crawling slowly over off-road obstacles, rather than car-like tractability. Going for the six-speed auto removes this responsibility from you, but you’ll still need to put your foot down hard if you need anything more than sedate acceleration – something you don't need to do in the Ranger.
At least you’ll be allowed to drive the D-Max at the same speed limits as every other car because all models weigh less than the 2040kg weight threshold for dual-purpose and light commercial vehicles that requires you to drop your speed by 10mph on dual and single carriageways. It just takes you a while to get there.
Fortunately, the ride in the D-Max is much more sophisticated than pick-ups of 10 years ago. Indeed, it's better than key rivals such as the Toyota Hilux, which has very stiff rear suspension in order to cope with heavier loads, and can feel quite bouncy when going over speed bumps.
The D-Max can still carry a one-tonne payload like the Hilux, but it deals with rough roads far better (even when empty), putting it right up there with the Ranger for comfort.
You’ll never mistake the D-Max for a nimble sports car, but it goes where you point it without complaint. That’s helped by easy-to-use steering that responds faithfully to your inputs at speed, yet doesn’t require you to have the upper body strength of a pro wrestler to guide it into a parking space.
Engine refinement is never the strong suit of a pick-up, and the Isuzu D-Max is no exception. Any demands for a bit more speed result in a cacophony of noise that no amount of impassioned match day commentary on Radio 5 Live could possibly drown out.
Happily, there are no nasty vibrations from the engine coming through the pedals or steering wheel, and you're isolated from unpleasant suspension thunks really well – even better than in some near £200k Bentleys.
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