In Australia, the sales charts are dominated by the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger, and I am not talking just about the ute segment. I am talking overall.
If you look at the top five vehicles sold in Australia during October, the HiLux and Ranger, combined, outsold the remaining three vehicles in the form of the Toyota RAV4, Toyota Prado and Toyota Corolla.
I guess what I am saying is, firstly, this is an important segment for Isuzu to crack. Secondly, when you launch a new ute in this segment, it is going up against the most popular, well-established vehicles in Australia.
So, with its update, has Isuzu done enough with the 2021 D-Max to put it up the top of the pile?
What we tested: 2021 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain
Our test vehicle was the top-of-the-line X-Terrain model. While you can grab a new D-Max for as little as $32,200, the model pictured is priced at a drive-away cost of $62,990.
You get a number of additions that set it apart from the rest of the D-Max range:
- X-terrain decals
- Flared wheel arches
- Roof rails
- 18-inch alloys with a unique design
- Side steps
- Remote start and keyless entry
- Leather-accented seats
- And more
You'll have no problem spotting an X-Terrain on the road. The external kit sets it apart from the range and, in my opinion, it looks impressive.
What is the Isuzu D-Max like inside?
Inside the cabin, things have really been stepped up a notch. From a personal point of view, we have had an MU-X in the family for a number of years, so from first-hand experience, it really is a case of chalk and cheese.
The X-Terrain gets leather-accented seats and soft-touch surfaces throughout. They both add a more premium element to the interior in terms of finish quality that you can't fault.
Up front, there is a good amount of storage, with door pockets and centre bins a good size. You also have the glove box, two cup holders and some space underneath the central switchgear to store things like phones when they're wired up to the single USB port.
The new infotainment system has had some love. Isuzu fans and consumers will be happy to see that it comes with Apple CarPlay (wirelessly too!) and Android Auto. You can access digital radio and satellite navigation through the 9.0-inch touchscreen as well, but I found myself switching to Android Auto for directions.
I couldn't quite wrap my head around the functionality of actually setting the destination. It wasn't as simple as competitor systems and will require some getting used to, so make sure you have a play around with this if you go on a test drive.
The system is hooked up to an eight-speaker sound system with two surround sound speakers mounted to the roof. All up, the system packs some punch.
Below the screen, you have the switchgear for the dual climate control system – all of which felt sturdy.
Jump in the back and legroom is respectable for a dual-cab ute. I could fit behind my driving position (I'm a smidge over 6 foot) with a bit of clearance to spare in terms of knee and headroom. Directional air vents will keep rear passengers at temperature and there is a single USB port for the kids to fight over.
There is no shortage of storage space in the back either. Along with the two cup holders in the fold-down armrest and door storage, you can lift the base of the rear seats to find two further storage areas. Usefully, the rear seats will fold down if you aren't carting anyone around and need additional space.
It can also be justified as a sensible option for use as a family car too, with the 2021 D-Max having two ISOFIX mounting points in the back row for securing child seats.
The tub on the X-Terrain model measures 1,570mm in length and 1,530mm in width and comes with a tub-liner as standard. To keep your tools and valuables safe, it also comes with a lockable, roller tonneau cover.
Load it to the hilt and it will carry just shy of a tonne, with the payload rated at 970kgs.
A 3,500kg braked towing capacity also means that when you hitch up a trailer or loaded caravan, it should be able to pull it along without trouble.
What is the 2021 Isuzu D-Max like to drive?
Starting under the hood, the Isuzu D-Max gets a new 3.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel engine. It is good for 140kW and 450Nm, but if you have been researching utes, you'll see this is lower than competitors like the Ford Ranger, which produces 147Kw and 470Nm from its 3.2-litre turbo diesel unit or 157Kw and 500Nm from Ford's wound-up 2.0-litre BiTurbo unit.
The recently updated Toyota HiLux has also had a power boost to 150Kw and 500Nm from a turbocharged 2.8-litre diesel engine.
Even though the D-Max bit down on power, it has enough grunt for everyday life. You can access the power down low too, so it is fairly spritely off the mark. Bury your foot hard enough through the floor and you may even get a little wheel spin.
The six-speed automatic we tried is set up in such a way that it gets the most out of this engine easily and it goes about its business without fuss.
You can tell that Isuzu has put a big focus on how the 2021 D-Max rides on those everyday-life trips. The reality is that on the road, in traffic, is where it is going to spend most of its life, with some weekend warriors taking it off-road occasionally.
The results are proof of this. It isn't as comfortable or soft to ride in as a Ranger Raptor, but it is one of the better rides in the segment – right up there with the Ranger Wildtrak. It will handle those daily trips without being uncomfortable. Plus, there's the added benefit of being able to get off-road when called upon.
It is worth noting that the turning circle is 12.5-metres, so it could make things a bit tough for those inner-city residents. With that being said, the steering is quite light, so making a turn that has several points isn't going to be as hard a task as it is in, say, a Nissan Navara.
Turning circle comparison:
Heading off-road, it is quite accomplished too. While we didn't do anything too tough or terrifying, with its locking diff and low-range engaged, it handled everything we threw at it. On unsealed roads, it was quite accomplished too, handling corrugation and loose surfaces well.
Along with the locking diff, you get hill descent control, a 30.5-degree approach angle and 24.2-degree departure angle (on the X-Terrain model) as well as a ground clearance of 240mm.
Approach angles across the range differ by just under a degree with the SX single cab being able to approach at 29.6 degrees. In terms of departure angle, the SX single cab is rated at 28.9 degrees.
Accessorising a 2021 Isuzu D-Max
If you think something is missing as standard on the X-Terrain, keep in mind that Isuzu offers an extensive accessories list, with over 50 available directly from dealers. Accessories include towbars, tonneau covers, toolboxes, electric brake systems and more. Option a bull bar on your new ute and you can rest easy knowing that they will work with all the active safety systems, like AEB and adaptive cruise control.
How safe is the 2021 Isuzu D-Max?
Safety is another area where Isuzu has really stepped it up a notch, with the new D-Max now boasting a safety suite comparable with the best of them. Throughout the cab, you get eight airbags as standard, and in terms of tech, the following systems will do their best to keep you and your passengers safe:
- Autonomous emergency braking
- Forward collision warning system
- Adaptive cruise control on automatic models (which we had)
- Traffic sign recognition
- Lane departure warning
- Lane keep assist
- Turn assist
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
There are many more safety systems beyond what's listed above that are standard across the range, too. As we had the D-Max X-terrain for our review, we also had front and rear parking sensors.
Isuzu offers a 7-year, capped-price servicing plan with service intervals falling every 15,000kms or 12 months, whichever comes first.
Having a look through the Isuzu website, servicing prices are as follows:
The total price is $3,373 over the course of those 7 years.
Fitted with a 76-litre fuel tank, and taking the average price of diesel in New South Wales today into account ($1.18 a litre), according to Fuel Check NSW, the 2021 Isuzu D-Max will cost $89.68 to fill to the brim.
In recent years, the Isuzu range is one that I have had a soft spot for.
Despite their simple and, frankly, cheaper interiors, making truck engines is second nature to Isuzu. You get an honest, workhorse-like vehicle that is as reliable as they come these days.
I am a big fan of the new D-Max, and in my opinion, if you are looking at a new 4x4 ute, this is certainly worth a look. In my view, and those of many others, it is right at the top of the segment pile.
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