FARMERS are the kind of people who believe in getting their money’s worth… so the fact that the pick-up you are most likely to see in the farmyard these days is an ISUZU tells you a lot.
Go back a decade or two and the vehicles seen most in our countryside were Land Rovers – but not so now.
Land Rover have gone firmly and financially up market with their latest Defender and so left an agricultural-sized gap in the market which ISUZU have moved into with their much-lauded D-Max truck (winner of What Van’s pick-up of the year for three years running – 2018 to 2020).
The firm claims to be the ‘pick-up professionals’ as that is all that they sell here since the Trooper SUV was pulled in 2002 and we got to try out their latest range topping V-Cross Double Cab auto which was once again top award dog in 2022.
The basic D-MAX utility is just £21,000 plus Vat so the price of our test car at £32,259 plus Vat reflects to level of extra kit it boasts over its entry level sibling.
ISUZU sold just over 3,100 units in the UK last year but are hoping to change that with this third generation version which boasts upgraded mechanicals, design and interior where an SUV-like dashboard layout reveals its ambitions.
ISUZU hopes to hit 10,000 sales per year by 2025 and has recently appointed 11 new dealerships to cope with the expected hike in demand.
Our top-line V-Cross double-cab, automatic is expected to be the best-seller boasting stylish 18in alloy wheels, LED light clusters and extra front end chrome work while inside are a bigger touchscreen, leather-style seats, dual-zone climate control, a reversing camera and keyless entry. A locking rear differential is standard fitment from DL20 trim upwards and all variants come with an integrated rear step, a full suite of driver aids, Bluetooth connectivity, DAB radio and a USB port.
Also standard-fitment is a 4.2in digital display to complement the impressively advanced central touchscreen (7.0in on DL40 and 9.0in on V-Cross) and eight-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat plus power windows all round, wireless smartphone mirroring and adaptive cruise control.
This is also the only vehicle in its segment with a five-star Euro NCAP rating, courtesy largely of its larger airbags, reinforced chassis and updated suite of advanced driver aids.
But the D-Max is not all show and no go as its off-road ability is suitably impressive being able to drive along a 45deg embankment, ford a sizeable estuary or plough through mud which would have some rivals spinning their wheels thanks to uprated underbdy protection, raised air intakes to increase wading depth to 800mm and electronic aids such as hill descent control and shift-on-the-move four-wheel drive fitted as standard plus a locking rear diff fitted from mid-range DL20 upwards.
Power comes courtesy of a 1.9-litre 162bhp turbocharged four-cylinder diesel with lots of torque and a reassuringly powerful (if slightly unrefined) response when you put your foot down. Linked to a six-speed automatic gearbox it returns a reasonable 30.7mpg combined but is still rated to tow 3500kg and 0 to 60 comes up in 13 seconds with 112mph being the top speed.
Mechanical upgrades also include better handling thanks to revised steering and suspension also meaning less lean when taking tight turns at speed and a town-friendly turning circle.
But it is in the countryside that the D-Max is set to steal the show and after a week at the wheel I came to respect those value for money qualities that our canny farmers have already discovered.
By Motoring Editor Steve Howarth