Tuesday 20th April 2021
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Driven: Isuzu D-Max Blade. Image by Isuzu UK.

Driven: Isuzu D-Max Blade
Thereís a new D-Max on the way, but still time for a go in Isuzuís Blade derivative of the existing model.

 



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Isuzu D-Max Blade

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Good points: looks good, has a decent cabin, very refined, reasonably comfortable ride for a pick-up

Not so good: engine and drivetrain lack culture

Key Facts

Model tested: Isuzu D-Max Blade
Price: D-Max range from £17,414 (exc. VAT); Blade from £30,314 (exc. VAT) or £36,312 (inc. VAT)
Engine: 1.9-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: six-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: four-door one-tonne pick-up
CO2 emissions: 205g/km (VED Band 191-225: £1,305 in year one, then £150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 36.2mpg
Top speed: 112mph
0-62mph: N/A - c.12.7 seconds (as per XTR)
Power: 164hp at 3,600rpm
Torque: 360Nm at 2,000-2,500rpm
Load-bed max payload: 1,101kg

Our view:

The Isuzu D-Max has always been considered as something of a budget alternative in the world of one-tonne pick-ups, but with a loyal fanbase and an all-new version on the way in 2021, there are signs in the current range that the Japanese commercial vehicle specialist is attempting to push its best-known product even further upmarket. This Blade model, for instance, is one part of a three-strong Adventure 'mini-range' at the top of the D-Max line-up, alongside the masked-up XTR and the mighty Arctic Trucks AT35; incidentally, we've got a review of the revised AT35 D-Max to come soon, too.

Anyway, the Blade is kind of the most civilian of them all. It doesn't have the sporting pretensions of the XTR, with that pick-up's Pedders suspension and lime-green accenting, and it certainly doesn't have the bubble-tyred, dominant and apocalyptic stance of the AT35. Instead, it's just a discreetly handsome truck. Spinel Red is a smart colour for it, it looks good with either a lid on the back or with a roller-top cover for the load bed plus rollover bars (you get an either/or choice of these two for free on the Blade, which is pretty decent of Isuzu), and there are various Blade-specific details like a dark-grey radiator grille with matching-hue 18-inch alloys, stylish side steps and roof rails, and a set of Cosmic Black door mirror caps. Inside, it's the usual D-Max story: not flashy and there are areas where it betrays Isuzu's 'small player' status in the world of global carmakers, notably with the aftermarket-esque infotainment system, but the leather looks good, there's plenty of useful kit and it all feels nicely bolted together.

And to drive, it's much the same story as the XTR we tried in summer, only with more emphasis on 'really refined in many regards, save for the engine'. Honestly, there are times where the Blade is rolling along on truly appalling tarmac and you're on a trailing throttle where you are genuinely marvelling at how quiet it is. It seems to have the least amount of wind noise and tyre chatter coming into the cabin that we can remember on any of these trucks, and that includes ones which are considerably more expensive than this £36,000 effort. While the D-Max's unladen ride is far from perfect in the grand scheme of things, the only comparable rival which can summon up notably better rolling comfort is the Ford Ranger Raptor and that's a 50-grand vehicle all day long.

This is a positive facet of the D-Max which, sadly, only throws into ever-starker relief how agricultural its 1.9-litre turbodiesel engine is. It sounds like precisely what it is during cold start-up and running, which is to say a commercial vehicle's clattery turbodiesel, and it doesn't become much more refined or smooth once it's up to temperature, either. The six-speed autobox is acceptable, rather than outstanding, and with just 164hp to call on it is not fast in the slightest; not even by the standards of one-tonne pick-up trucks, precious few of which will crack ten seconds for 0-62mph. Indeed, Isuzu doesn't quote a 0-62mph time for the D-Max Blade, so we can only assume it's around the 13-second mark that the XTR throws in. Mind, a lack of (relatively speaking) rip-snorting acceleration isn't a huge problem for the Blade, which is less overtly sporting in its outlook than the XTR. But we're still of the opinion the D-Max's drivetrain is its major weakness.

Factor in that we only saw 26.5mpg out of it across 254 miles of testing and the decision to go with a small 1.9-litre engine in such a big truck doesn't look like the best one. Although we should point out it was with us during the Christmas period, so it didn't really go anywhere other than on lots of local, shortish journeys that weren't conducive to great economy. However, by the same token, neither did we exactly cane the D-Max within an inch of its life everywhere, given the raucousness of the engine and the fact its chassis isn't geared for handling; 30mpg or thereabouts is therefore going to be the realistic economy figure.

Nevertheless, there's still plenty to like about the Blade. And undoubtedly the best feature of our test car was its optional LED light-bar mounted on the roof. This thing, linked to activating the main beam on the column stalk, was so bright that it's a wonder our solar system didn't briefly qualify as a binary star for the few occasions we had reason to deploy it. Mind, it was an utterly brilliant thing to have, as the week between Christmas and New Year saw unending torrential rain in our rural area which flooded local farmlands and thence the roads running between said farmlands - including the lane that linked us to our nearest lockdown essential supplies supermarket, which basically became a very shallow, five-mile-long river. Splashing imperiously along that route, with the windscreen of the D-Max occasionally being entirely swamped in bow waves of puddle water swept wild by the wind and the G-type sun atop the roof cutting swathes of pure daylight through the sodden night, was a thrilling and composed driving experience that will live with us for a long time.

So another few weeks of testing concluded and another D-Max out of the door, and our outlook on it remains the same - lots of things the Isuzu does, it does very well and that's especially true of the most urbane model yet in the form of the Blade. But the noisy, uncultured engine is the chief aspect which lets it all down. Here's hoping the new D-Max that's inbound can preserve all of the former attributes and develop the latter to a more acceptable level.

Alternatives:

Ford Ranger: one of the best-selling pick-ups and for good reason. Has some nice engine choices, smart styling, an overt focus on private buyers and arguably the best cabin in the class.

Mitsubishi L200: significantly facelifted with a striking front end, the L200 is - like the D-Max - surprisingly refined for a leaf-sprung truck. The Mitsu has a much nicer 180hp, 2.4-litre engine, though.

Toyota Hilux: Toyota realised that a 2.4-litre, 150hp turbodiesel wasn't good enough for a top-end lifestyle truck. So it put a 2.8-litre, 204hp unit in the Hilux and the results speak for themselves. A superb pick-up.


Matt Robinson - 11 Jan 2021









  www.isuzu.co.uk    - Isuzu road tests
- D-Max images

2021 Isuzu D-Max Blade UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.2021 Isuzu D-Max Blade UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.2021 Isuzu D-Max Blade UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.2021 Isuzu D-Max Blade UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.2021 Isuzu D-Max Blade UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.

2021 Isuzu D-Max Blade UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.2021 Isuzu D-Max Blade UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.2021 Isuzu D-Max Blade UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.2021 Isuzu D-Max Blade UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.2021 Isuzu D-Max Blade UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.








 

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