Derry Journal Motoring with Jim McCauley: Test drive the ISUZU D-MAX DL20

It's been around a long time, but that has simply enhanced its reputation as a powerful and rugged workhorse which has kept it top of its class in Northern Ireland. And to maintain its position, the latest Isuzu D-Max retains its 1.9 litre turbo diesel power unit introduced in 2017 providing drive through a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic gearbox.

The range features three basic body styles – Single, Extended and Double Cab all driven by the downsized 1.9 litre turbo diesel engine which maintains the vehicle's core workhorse capabilities of a 3.5 tonne towing capacity and a one tonne payload. For the latest model the engine has been updated to achieve the latest Euro 6D emission standard with a selective catalytic reduction system to reduce emission levels resulting in a requirement for AdBlue. This is an exhaust fluid, not a fuel additive, and is stored in a separate reservoir with its filler cap located alongside the fuel cap.

Producing the same 164PS as the old 2.5 litre unit and with 360Nm of torque availability, drive is via a 6-speed manual gearbox or 6-speed automatic transmission. In this DL20 manual version, the vehicle has a stated 0-62mph time of 12.7 seconds with a potential top speed of 112mph.

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The DL20 specification is the second of four trim options, adding Blind Spot Monitor, Emergency Lane Keeping, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert with rear parking sensors. This is in addition to the standard advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) standard across all models. These include Forward Collision Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Traffic Sign Recognition and Lane Departure Warning and Prevention.

All-New Isuzu D-Max.

On road, and it is important to remember that Isuzu regard the D-Max as a vehicle “For those who work in acres, not hours.” The new smaller engine is more refined than the older and larger unit, but its primary function is as a reliable workhorse. The 6-speed manual gearbox tackles the challenge well, after moving off in a low 1st gear. Once on the move, the gearchanges become more relaxed and refined with pace quickly increasing. Drive choices can be selected ‘on the fly’, providing two- and four-wheel drive as well as low ratio four-wheel drive. Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control are standard on all variants as is Trailer Sway Control on all four-wheel drive models.

Driving only with an empty load box, ride remains smooth with secure cornering and an overall more car-like response than its predecessor. Speed sensitive steering is light at lower speeds with an excellent lock of 12.5 metres for tight manoeuvring, aided by rear parking sensors. A rear diff lock is now standard on DL20 models and above.

As all variants of the Isuzu D-Max weigh under 2,040kg, Extended and Double Cabs are subject to normal passenger car speed limits. Many double cab pick-up trucks exceed this weight limit so must comply with goods vehicle speed limits which are 10mph lower on single and dual carriageways.

While the range starts with a good level of specification, this DL20 offers heated front seats and power lumbar adjustment on the driver’s. Instrumentation is clear white graphics on black dials with a 4.2-inch multi-information display between the main analogue speedometer and rev counter. At night, automatic LED headlights with high beam assist provide excellent spread and range while front fog lights also feature on the DL20 trim.

All-New Isuzu D-Max interior.

The infotainment display however retains a compact screen for the DAB radio, with Bluetooth connectivity, and includes a CD player. There are USB ports front and rear.

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Occupant safety is also well catered for with height adjustable seatbelts and dual front, side, and curtain airbags on all models. This latest Double Cab model also get a driver’s knee airbag and a centre airbag between the front seats.

The load bay width is just over 1.5 metres at its widest point while length varies from 2.3 metres on the single cab model to 1.8 metres on the extended cab model and 1.5 metres on the double cab.

In terms of running costs, the new D-Max shows improvements over its predecessors with better fuel economy and lower emissions. This 4X4 Double Cab manual model has an official combined fuel consumption of 33.6mpg (WLTP) and with relatively gentle use I recorded 34.0mpg over a week’s driving. With a CO2 emission of 220gms/km, the model is liable for first year road tax towards the top of the VED scale and is in Group 50D for insurance.

All-New Isuzu D-Max.
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This all-wheel drive DL20 Double Cab with manual transmission is priced at £27,749 exclusive of VAT, with the 6-speed automatic version adding £1,500. Most paint finishes add £600. Underlying the reliability of the vehicle, Isuzu offer it with 125,000 mile / 5-Year warranty and 5-year UK and European roadside assistance. It has been available on the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) affinity programme since 2015.

Winter Safety tips

When a journey is essential, the following tips can help drivers to stay safe on the road:

Only set off once there is full visibility inside the vehicle (including windscreen, windows, mirrors and lights).

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Reduce speed and leave as much room as possible to the vehicle in front, to account for reduced tyre grip and longer stopping distances.

When going downhill, drive in a lower gear and avoid unnecessary braking.

Accelerate, brake, steer, and change gear as slowly and smoothly as possible.

If you encounter a skid, turn the wheel in the direction you are sliding in and do not remove your hands from the steering wheel or slam on the brakes.

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Use dipped headlights when driving in heavy snow.