One of the first test cars I ever drove was an Isuzu Rodeo Denver, more than a decade ago.
It was a be-chromed top-of-the-range model designed to capitalised on the relatively new craze for double-cab pick-ups to double up as family transport.
That craze is still going strong but the uninspiring Rodeo has long been replaced by the current generation D-Max, which was introduced in 2012 and updated in 2018.
Isuzu D-Max Utah
Price: £25,699 (excl. VAT)
Engine: 1.9-litre, four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 112mph
CO2 emissions: 183g/km
Like every other pick-up out there, the D-Max is available in basic, building site-friendly utility form with a single cab and spartan specification and in increasingly flashy and well-equipped double cabs.
Our Utah double cab sits near the top of the range, looking to offer business buyers a VAT-reclaimable alternative to the host of family SUVs.
No pick-up can match a regular car or SUV for ride quality but, despite its fairly basic leaf-spring setup, the D-Max comes closer than some of its most significant rivals.
For similar money neither the Mitsubishi L200 or SsangYong Musso, both of which I’ve tested recently, can match the Isuzu’s ride quality. There’s still some shimmy and judder but the cabin feels better isolated from this.
The cabin isn’t up to the standards of other pick-ups when it comes to the look or feel of things though. It’s a practicality-first sort of place with pleasingly large simple controls for things like the air con but there’s a weird mix of shiny and matt, black and silver plastics scattered around.
It wins points back by offering decent rear legroom and hard-wearing leather upholstery although the third-party media/nav touchscreen is ugly and sluggish.
The Utah spec of our test car sits just below the bling-tastic Blade and jaw-dropping Arctic Trucks versions.
As well as the leather upholstery and that seven-inch Pioneer touchscreen – which comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay – it gets cruise control, auto air conditioning, heated seats, keyless entry/start, parking sensors, a reversing camera, front and rear USB ports and plenty of chrome exterior trim to add some shine to its utilitarian shape.
Our vehicle came with a standard six-speed manual gearbox and switchable high/low-range four-wheel-drive but a six-speed auto is also available for an extra £1,000 plus VAT.
The D-Max has a relatively small engine – 1.9 litres – and it’s slightly down on power compared with rivals – 162bhp to the 180 from the likes of Mitsubishi and SsangYong, although up on the Toyota Hilux’s 148bhp. Where it really counts for pick-ups – in torque – its 266lb/ft is also down on the near-300lb/ft offered by the others but in our, admittedly limited, testing it still felt like it had plenty of pulling power. Even with that disadvantage, it will still carry more than 1.1 tonnes in the large load bed and tow up to 3.5 tonnes behind it – the standard pick-up requirements.
The one advantage of that less meaty engine is that it returns economy others can’t touch. While the L200 and Musso struggle to reach 30mpg in the real world, the D-Max happily returned 38mpg over several hundred miles of driving. It’s also fully Euro 6 complaint, with CO2 emissions of 183g.km.
Those running costs give it a significant advantage and its five-year 125,000-mile warranty is only eclipsed by the seven-year, 150,000-mile offering from SsangYong.
At £25,699 before VAT, the D-Max is also cheaper than key rivals, although that’s reflected in a specification that isn’t quite a match for them.
Even with a less powerful engine, lower-quality interior and missing a few of the gadgets, it’s still worthy of serious consideration thanks to its value and better-than-average ride.