Car review: Popular Isuzu pick-up improved and future-proofed

By Damian Turner
Owner and publisher of The Mud Life Magazine, the UK’s only free, online 4×4 and outdoor review magazine: www.themudlife.co.uk

IN the ever-dwindling UK pick-up market, the Isuzu D-Max has always been a firm favourite for a wide variety of drivers, from fleet operators to farmers, and with an all-new model, Isuzu are hoping to increase their hold.

The new model range is structured into three segments: business, all-purpose and adventure with four new trim levels: Utility, DL20, DL40 and V-Cross, and it’s the latter we’re going to be looking at today.

Let’s begin with the exterior. With a vertical front face, a new front bumper with contoured fog lights and an ‘assertive’ radiator grille, it certainly has on-road presence. The V-Cross also gets newly designed Bi-LED headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights and LED front fog lights.

You’ll also be interested to know there’s also a newly designed side step and a new, flush rear bumper that has an integrated rear step, which in fairness are quite useful.

Extending the wheelbase by 30mm has created a more spacious cabin, especially for rear seat passengers who now have ample leg room and an extra 20mm more shoulder room.

Up front, the dash has been transformed thanks to a horizontal and layered design which gives a more spacious feel, and soft-touch panelling contributes to a more premium interior. For some peculiar reason there are 10 cup holders scattered around the truck: six in the front and four in the back. Don’t ask.

The instrument panel now features a 4.2in multi-information display on all models, and the V-Cross gets a 9in multi-function colour touchscreen with all the usual connectivities, as well as eight speakers.

When it comes to safety, the V-Cross has a raft of new features that includes forward-facing stereo cameras with forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking. Double cabs are now equipped with eight airbags, including a new centre airbag which offers additional protection in the event of a side-on collision.

There is also a new E-Call system which dials the emergency services in the event of an accident. All of this means it’s the first pick-up to achieve a maximum five-star safety rating award in the tough new Euro NCAP test.

Isuzu have retained their 161bhp 1.9 litre diesel engine, the only difference is that it now requires the addition of AdBlue. It isn’t the smoothest of engines, but it gets the job done.

What has changed for the better is that the new six-speed manual gearbox is now an utter joy to use, a huge improvement on the outgoing model. Same goes for the auto gearbox that’s been upgraded to enable up to 25 per cent faster gear changes, not only is it a little sharper, but it gives the V-Cross a more luxury feel along with a smoother ride. Well, as far as pick-ups go at least.

The reason for the better ride is because Isuzu have raised the front control arms that reduce roll and improve stability, while the removal of a leaf spring at the rear is said to reduce back-end floatiness when unladen.  It’s worked, too – the V-Cross doesn’t wander or twitch, neither does the rear axle bounce over potholes and bumps.

When it comes to taking your V-Cross off the beaten track, Isuzu have fitted the entire range with a new actuator that now provides a much faster transfer between the different 4WD modes. Switching from 2WD to 4WD and
low-box took only a couple of seconds, which was a pleasant surprise.

Another bonus is that a rear differential lock is standard on the DL20, DL40 and V-Cross models, and if required, it has a maximum 800mm wading depth.

Despite being the flagship model, the V-Cross is still capable of towing up to 3.5 tonnes and carrying a payload of over a tonne.  And, because the all-new Isuzu D-Max weighs under 2,040kg it’s subject to normal passenger car speed limits, whereas heavier trucks must not come within 10mph of the limit.

The D-Max starts at a smidge over £25,000, but the V-Cross comes in at £31,259 for the manual and £32,759 for the auto, plus VAT.

Overall Isuzu have done a great job – it remains a capable off-road and work-ready pick-up, but with improved on-road manners, more safety spec and an updated interior, Isuzu has indeed future-proofed its pick-up.

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