First Drive

2016 Isuzu D-Max Double Cab review

The Isuzu D-Max pick-up truck is a capable hauler, but it's missing the luxury touch of some competitors

Words ByWhat Car? team

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The pick-up market is a congested one, with the likes of Nissan, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, Ford and Toyota all offering trucks that have been refreshed recently.

In spite of their workhorse underpinnings, most buyers are shunning the utilitarian variants for better-equipped, more luxurious ones, designed to work hard and play hard. This brings us nicely to the Isuzu D-Max Blade.

Its Japanese maker claims that the range-topping D-Max Blade is the premium pick-up of choice, with enough luxury features to stand out from the crowd; a strong statement for a pick-up that has been on the market for four years. Let’s see how this range-topping double cab compares with newer rivals.

What’s the 2016 Isuzu D-Max Blade like inside?

On opening any of the doors, it's immediately obvious that the D-Max Blade isn’t short of space inside. The rear seats have enough head and leg room to accommodate three adults in comfort despite the high-set floor. Three burly adults sat next to each other may struggle for elbow room, however.

All the seats on the Blade are swathed in leather and are easy to get comfortable in. While the dashboard is dominated by hard, unappealing plastic, it feels built to last.

The dials by the instrument cluster feel dated, compared to the colour displays available on the Nissan Navara and the Ford Ranger. On the entertainment front, the D-Max Blade has a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system fitted with sat nav and DAB. This has been outsourced from Pioneer and proves unintuitive, slow and with cluttered menus.

It is not all bad news as the D-Max wins some points back with its class-leading payload and braked towing abilities. That said, it shares those honours with the fresher-feeling Navara.

What is the Isuzu D-Max Blade like to drive?

The highlight is the twin-turbo 2.5-litre diesel engine, which gives plenty of grunt from low in the rev-range and allows the D-Max to haul itself up to speed swiftly enough. However, it isn’t without its flaws. The clattery unit sounds strained when pushed, although at a cruise it fades into the background, with wind and tyre noise drowning out the agricultural sounding motor.

Although there's plenty of thrust low down, it quickly peters out - this means you're constantly shifting gears to keep the D-Max’s momentum going. With the gearbox having a long throw, it feels more workmanlike than the Ranger’s slicker manual β€˜box.

The ride isn't comparable to the Navara’s coil-sprung multi-link rear suspension, but compared with the conventional leaf-sprung Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi L200, it isn’t far off the pace. It can feel very bouncy over big bumps in the road, making the rear feel rather skittish and unstable, though. Speed bumps cause the rear of the D-Max to thud heavily thud, leading to uncomfortable reverberations being sent through the cabin.

The Isuzu is far more comfortable on the open road, something that's most telling in town because the heavy steering makes negotiating tight streets and car parks a chore. Unfortunately, this also makes the D-Max feel larger than it is; quite some feat as it already overhangs most parking bays.

Thankfully you get big windows and mirrors and a clear reversing camera to improve visibility; that should be enough to ensure you don't park on top of someone else's car.

Should I buy one?

The Isuzu D-Max certainly offers impressive carrying capacity, a spacious interior and the ability to tow a heavy trailer. However, given the quality of the competition, it's difficult to overlook the cheaper Nissan Navara Tekna or the more powerful Ford Ranger Wildtrak. Both are better equipped, more refined and feel more sophisticated than the D-Max Blade.

Both the Nissan and Ford also offer similar load-lugging ability despite feeling a little more like a conventional SUV. If you're considering a pick-up as your main family car, we'd suggest either would be a better bet than the D-Max.

Hemal Mistry

What Car? says…

Rated 2 out of 5


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Rivals

Nissan Navara Ford Ranger Toyota Hilux

Isuzu D-Max Blade Double Cab manual

Engine size 2.5-litre twin-turbocharged diesel

Price from Β£31,141

Power 160bhp

Torque 295lb ft

0-62mph 13.0sec

Top speed 112mph

Fuel economy 38.7mpg

CO2 192g/km