Dom is impressed with the Isuzu D-Max Utah

credit: Archant

We liked the new Isuzu pick-up when we first drove it – but what’s it like to live with? And how does it shape up for those whose brand loyalties lie elsewhere? Geoff Phoenix is a Lincolnshire farmer – which means he is not the kind of chap to part easily with money. Something I know only too well after working for him for a number of years as a youngster! For years Geoff has had a Nissan Navara which served dual duty as farm work-horse and family car – even transporting the family down to the South West on holiday.

He is in the market for a replacement but had not considered the new Isuzu as a realistic alternative to the main contenders from Nissan, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Ford. But within a few miles he was purring with admiration for the D-Max’s ability to soak up some hideously lumpen fenland back roads. “Normally I have found pick-ups to ride pretty well with a load up, but be bumpy as hell when the bed is empty. But this thing is pretty smooth. Fast, too.”

Motorway cruising is a doddle and even on A and B roads, pressing on is easy thanks to the torquey engine (400Nm are available from just 1,400rpm). Brakes are strong, the steering accurate and grip in wet and dry impressive. No, it isn’t going to hustle a Lamborghini, but unless you are trying desperately hard to emulate Kimi Räikkönen, the Isuzu is very competent.

Off-road conditions were terrible in the fens. The wet spring left deep tractor ruts and there was standing water everywhere. But the D-Max got about remarkably well, despite road-biased rubber. There were no inclines or rough stuff to tax it unduly, though – that would come later on in the week. Either way, it was enough for Geoff to want to find out more information – he was keen to know what kind of dealer support existed locally and what kind of deals were available.

Andy Crow is a Toyota man. His loyalty to the Hilux has been earned through reliability, ruggedness, practicality and the ability to fit all his pigeon gear in the back. His own farm runaround is an ancient Hilux, while Mrs C gets control of a newer model as her daily driver. Andy also has a brand new Toyota on order. Like Geoff, the D-Max hadn’t been on his radar. And like Geoff, he didn’t take long to start wondering if it should have been.

He too was impressed by on-road refinement but also with the way it got about the farm. Unlike Lincolnshire, Crow’s ground is hilly and the tracks slick with wet clay. Yet the D-Max crept about with no fuss or nonsense and always seemed to find traction.

Would it be enough to get him to cancel that Hilux order? “It certainly makes me want to find out more on the pricing!” Well the range-topping Utah double cab with a manual box comes in at £20,229 plus VAT, which is about £650 less than the Hilux Invincible. Good residuals and the lifetime costs also add to an attractive ownership proposition.

Signs are that the D-Max is making a strong impression on the UK market so far. It picked up ‘Editors’s Choice’ award at the recent Trade Van Driver Awards, took Best Pick-Up at the annual Van Fleet Awards and Isuzu reported record sales for March this year, with 824 D-Max pick-ups finding new homes.

Another big draw is the five-year/120,000 mile warranty giving peace of mind to buyers who want to have faith in the vehicle and the level of dealer support.

As for me, I travelled several hundred miles during my time with the D-Max. It was comfortable, well-appointed, surprisingly refined when empty, utterly unfazed by load-lugging and, to my eyes at least, pretty good looking. Fuel consumption in the low-30s was not brilliant, but not bad, either. There really was a lot to like and little to complain about. If I was in the market, it’d definitely be a contender.

At a glance:

Price: (manual) £20,229 (plus VAT) - price correct at time of publication.

Max power: 163bhp @3,600rpm.

Max torque: 400Nm @ 1,400rpm.

Payload: 1,063kg.

May braked trailer weight: 3,000kg.

Fuel consumptin (combined): 38.2mpg (claimed).

Warranty: 5 years/120,000 miles.

By Dom Holtam