As Isuzu itself points out, the D-Max pickup is marketed primarily as a workhorse rather than a dual-purpose vehicle, but two versions are fitted with rather more equipment as standard than the others. One of these is the Utah, which unlike anything cheaper in the range comes with satellite navigation, DAB digital radio, leather upholstery, heated front seats, rear parking sensors, automatic air-conditioning, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Blade tested here is more or less the same thing as a Utah, expect that it also has tinted windows, puddle lamps, front parking sensors, a 9″ touchscreen, tailgate locking and either an Aeroklas canopy or a sports bar.
It’s available only with a Double Cab body and four-wheel drive (there are other possibilities further down the range) but you do get a choice of six-speed manual or, as here, automatic transmission.
In 2017, Isuzu replaced the 2.5-litre diesel engine of the D-Max with a 1.9-litre version which produces almost the same maximum power but gives better fuel economy and CO2 emissions, at least on the EU test cycle.
It’s not especially refined. If you ask it to do anything as energetic as pull away from a parking spot before it’s up to operating temperature it makes a noise like a chainsaw with a bad cold, but the sound level is always acceptable for this type of vehicle at tickover and when the engine has warmed up.
As a working vehicle, the D-Max has a lot going for it. I didn’t give the test car anything really difficult to do, but on last year’s UK press launch I drove other examples through rivers and over off-road courses, and at one point drove one stacked with hay bales and towing a trailer on which had been placed another D-Max.
The towing was entirely uneventful. This would not be much of a recommendation if I had a long history of towing things without incident, but you’re talking to the guy who once spun a car and trailer on a straight piece of dual-carriageway just outside Belfast. If I can successfully tow things with a D-Max, so can you.
With the Blade, though, competence in extreme situations is not enough. There is no point in paying well over £30,000 for a D-Max unless you intend to use it as an ordinary road car at least part of the time.
As mentioned above, the noise can sometimes be close to unbearable, and you have to accept that pickups in general are far less relaxing to drive than almost any conventional car. That said, I quite enjoyed my time with the D-Max. The ride was okay, the handling was acceptable, and the only piece of awkwardness was a small tail slide (corrected by straightening the steering rather than applying opposite lock) at the exit of a roundabout when the outside temperature was only two degrees above freezing.
I was in rear-wheel drive at the time and thought it judicious to select high-range four-wheel drive at this point. There were no further incidents on that journey, nor when I went back to rear-wheel drive in warmer conditions the following day.
By the time the D-Max was taken away from me I had grown to like it very much. I had even got to the point where I didn’t mind that I wasn’t driving a Ford Ranger or a Volkswagen Amarok instead, something I hadn’t expected to think when the test began.
Price £34,739.80 including VAT
Engine size 1898cc
Top speed 112mph
0-62mph 13.0 seconds
Fuel economy 36.2mpg combined
CO2 emissions 205g/km
Towing capacity 3500kg (braked)
Euro NCAP (2012) Overall 4 stars Adult occupant 83% Child occupant 67% Pedestrian 51% Safety assist 71%
Information correct at publication date