THE tradesman utility vehicle, or tradie ute for us true blue Aussies, is an often disputed corner of the Australian vehicle market. But the 2021 Isuzu D-MAX SX Single Cab Chassis 4×2 brings a fresh look and feel to the table to challenge Toyota’s HiLux monopoly.
The base spec usually fetches $38,513 (drive away), but Isuzu’s current offer will let you take the SX spec D-MAX home for $29,990 (drive away).
It’s a touch pricier than it’s Toyota counterpart, but with some of the factory features included in the D-MAX, it may just be enough to tip the scales in favour of the Isuzu.
First and foremost, the D-MAX’s power plant is a bold and gritty 3.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel motor, which makes 140kW and 450Nm of torque.
It certainly performs well whether the tray is laden or unladen, being able to push the ute regardless of elevation change or surface without any issues.
The 6-speed manual gearbox, which unfortunately is the only spec of transmission offered at this price, is smooth and very forgiving in the lower gears, as is the clutch, all thanks to the huge amounts of available torque.
Fuel economy has been sacrificed a tad, with Isuzu claiming a range of 8.0-litres/100km. We weren’t too far off with a final figure of 8.8-litres/100km, loading up the tray twice by the time we returned our test vehicle.
Unladen, the D-MAX drives well, accelerating without any issues even allowing takeoff from higher gears. The suspension set up when unladen causes your backside to feel as if you were falling bottom-first from a short height, but we’ll get to that a bit later.
The interior is comfortable and spacious, and a massive improvement over previous generations. The seats are ergonomic, the steering wheel isn’t too thick or thin, and sits comfortably in your hands, with plenty of access to features across the face of the wheel.
Storage within the interior is plentiful, with the above-dash space becoming lid-less, two glove boxes in front of the passenger seat and a multitude of cupholders.
Our D-MAX came with the heavy duty tray which includes a locked toolbox and a hand washing/sanitizing station, which is very appropriate thanks to this ongoing pandemic.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard. The 7.0-inch infotainment display is simple yet a little disappointing because of the extra size of the surrounding fascia, leaving you wondering where the rest of your infotainment screen went.
For load testing purposes, we assisted the fine crew at RL Pro Car Care in their move from workshop to workshop. Unfortunately, we only loaded the D-MAX with approximately 550kg of wooden floor boarding, which is only about half of its maximum capacity.
We strapped the load in using the load rails along the sides of the alloy tray. Loaded with wooden floor boarding, the rear barely squatted down and drivability was barely affected.
The tray can carry 1,305kg before the D-MAX hits its gross vehicle mass of 3,000kg, but what makes the Isuzu special is its ability to tow an extra 2,850kg while fully laden thanks to its 5850kg gross combination mass.
As expected when laden, the suspension in the rear became more forgiving and more bouncy, rather than stiff, as that’s what it was designed to do, even over bumps and dips in the road.
We even tested taking off on an uphill slope while laden and were able to successfully take off in second and third gears, although we would recommend utilising first when the tray is at capacity.
The real show stopper in the D-MAX is the safety tech, and it’s all standard across the entire D-Max range. Considering the SX is a base-level entry model, the included safety features put a few other manufacturers to shame.
Featuring autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, lane departure assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, the D-MAX’s 5-star ANCAP safety rating should be no surprise because you won’t find a lot of these features in other utilities.
We did find the autonomous emergency braking system a touch intrusive at times with it suddenly slamming the brakes on. We understand that this intrusiveness may be the difference between life and death, but it’s all a little too much.
The rear cross traffic alert system worked a treat though and the resolution on the reverse camera is good.
Overall, the new D-MAX is spectacular, and yes the price tag has come up small amount, but its justified by the inclusion of a lot more technology, especially on the safety side. Let’s face it, what brand new car nowadays isn’t fetching more than its predecessors.
Thanks to the beefy 3.0-litre turbocharged four banger, the huge torque figures and the forgiving gearbox, any tradie would be out of their mind if they didn’t consider the SX D-MAX as their next work vehicle.
It might be a bit pricier than other utes of similar spec, but think of the safety features included in the D-MAX when you’re test driving similar utes from other manufacturers.
Our 2021 Isuzu D-MAX SX Single Cab Chassis 4×2 was supplied by Isuzu Australia. To find out more, contact your local Isuzu dealer.
As this vehicle is a genuine two-seater, there’s no family friendliness rating. Pictures courtesy of J_Hui Design/Photography.