Isuzu D-Max V-Cross Review
Isuzu has a rock-solid reputation. While it’s not known for its glitz and glamour, the D-Max pickup gets on with the job of being a pickup. It’ll shift heavy loads, cross challenging terrain and keep running forever.
The latest model continues that trend, but Isuzu is wise enough to realise that some buyers want more than rugged capabilities, which explains the V-Cross specification model that we’re testing here.
Loaded with toys and tech, it adds luxury to balance the brawn. Could this make the V-Cross the perfect all-rounder?
Select's rating score* - 3.5 / 5
At a Glance
The Isuzu D-Max pickup truck range is comprehensive, ranging from a single-cab workhorse to this, the top-of-the-range luxury double cab. Whichever model you choose, you get the same 1.9-litre diesel engine and the same impressive all-wheel-drive system.
Already one of the more compact models, the latest D-Max has shrunk a little more although, at 5,265mm long, it can’t ever be described as compact. Interestingly, the wheelbase is longer, which should translate to a little more room in the cabin.
While the entire range is new, with an updated style that’s modern and less aggressive than some other pickups, the V-Cross model we’ve got here receives a further cosmetic upgrade. The double-blade grille has been darkened, lending the truck a rather sinister look, with matching side steps, door handles and mirror caps. A set of 18-inch gunmetal alloy wheels finishes off the theming.
Weighing around two tonnes, the Isuzu D-Max isn’t what you might call lightweight but, in the pickup world, it’s positively waif-like.
Critically, every model weighs less than 2,040kg. Why is that figure important? It means that it’s closer to a car than a commercial vehicle, so you’ll be able to travel at 70mph on dual carriageways and 60mph on single carriageway roads. Tip the scales over that figure and you can knock 10mph off those speeds, and that’s something that affects every other pickup on the market. Granted, you probably wouldn’t notice that as they steam up the outside lane of the motorway at 90+mph, but it’s nice to know you’ll be on the right side of the law when keeping up with cars travelling at the legal limit.
It manages that without sacrificing any off-road capabilities, retaining an impressive amount of comfort, and it’s still able to carry more than a tonne of cargo and tow most things this side of a small house.
Performance & Drive
Isuzu fitted its 1.9-litre diesel engine to the D-Max back in 2017 and has retained it for this new model. It’s had some development work, but it’s not the most powerful model available - there’s 164hp and 360Nm of torque, which is the lowest output for pickups in the UK.
However, the D-Max is something of a lightweight. There’s a significant difference between the Isuzu and its chunkier rivals, which makes the D-Max feel rather more sprightly than the performance figures might suggest - officially, it’s 13 seconds to reach 62mph. Yes, it could do with a little more oomph, especially for those wanting a replacement to an SUV, but it’ll keep up with traffic without a problem.
Importantly, the low kerb weight means that the Isuzu is the only double-cab pickup that’s allowed to travel at 70mph on a dual carriageway, and 60mph on single carriageway roads.
It’s good to drive once you're out and about too, with a sharpness to the steering that’s pleasing. Despite its size, it’s also able to inspire confidence, with tenacious road holding. However, there’s still that pickup jiggle over bumps, while the back end can feel like it’s moving around independently from the front. It’s an odd sensation but doesn’t detract from the comfort and ability of the D-Max.
Taking the D-Max off-road won’t worry you. There’s a locking rear differential on the V-Cross, which is a valuable addition for when the going gets particularly tough, although, oddly, there isn’t one on the more workhorse-like Utility range. This joins the low-range gearbox and four-wheel drive to ensure you’ve got traction whatever the conditions. You can switch to four-wheel drive at speeds of up to 60mph, should there be a sudden and unexpected surface change.
Extreme angles can be tackled, with the wading depth and approach and side angles a little better than you’ll find on a Toyota Hilux, and departure angles and ground clearance being a little worse. The differences are small and had little impact on our testing, though.
It’s not often we manage to beat a vehicle's official fuel economy figures, especially given the heavy right foot we use from time to time to test a truck's dynamics, but the D-Max surprised us. The 1.9-litre engine might feel a little overworked at times, but it’s a frugal unit.; officially, you should see a return of 30.7mpg but the trip computer showed a result of 30.8mpg after we’d been let loose in it. That suggests that somebody being a little more careful than us could do far better.
Tackling more demanding environments should cause too many headaches either, as the D-Max is protected underneath. There’s a 1.5mm thick steel skid plate under the front, a 1.0mm steel guard for the oil sump, transmission and transfer case, and a 5.0mm thick reinforced resin underbody tray, all designed to protect the pickup and keep repair bills down.
Any unexpected failures not caused by smashing the truck into some rocks will be dealt with by Isuzu’s comprehensive five-year warranty. It’s limited to 125,000 miles, but that should be more than enough to cope with even the most demanding leasing customer.
Interior & Technology
Should you have ever experienced the old D-Max, you’ll be stunned at how far the new model has moved on. Gone are the clunky old knobs, cheap plastics and dodgy infotainment system that was shoehorned into the dashboard.
Now you’ll find a 9.0-inch screen that dominates the cabin, faux aluminium highlights and soft textured plastics, lending a suitably premium air to the D-Max. At least on the V-Cross model; other trim levels get smaller screens, but they’re all usable. The V-Cross also benefits from luxurious heated leather seats, too.
Getting comfortable is easy as the seats obviously adjust, but so does the steering wheel, for both reach and rake. Not exactly groundbreaking technology, but it’s something that’s missing from too many rivals. Space is plentiful up front and, thanks to that 30mm extension to the wheelbase, there’s more room in the back with wider doors allowing easier access.
Every model in the range is reasonably well equipped, but the V-Cross goes to extremes. There’s dual-zone climate control, a carpeted floor (which is less than ideal if you want a proper work truck) and a leather-covered steering wheel. That infotainment system, aside from the huge screen, supports wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, as well as the usual array of Bluetooth connectivity, FM and DAB radio. There’s also built-in navigation, for when you can’t find your phone.
However, while it’s a good size, it’s not that good to use. Inconsistent touchscreen responses and an illogical screen layout makes it difficult to use, especially on the go, and leaves it feeling a little dated. Still, once you’ve got your smartphone hooked up to it, you’ll not need to use the system again.
Payload & Practicality
While the D-Max is still a relatively lightweight model, the new model has put some bulk on. Still, the payload has only reduced by 28kg over the outgoing model and, crucially, it remains well over a tonne at 1,070kg. That means business users can reclaim the VAT element of their lease deal, even if you’ve added a canopy over the load box - your company accountants will be able to go through the nitty-gritty.
If payload is important, lower specification models can carry as much as 1,120kg, but you’ll have to forego some luxuries, as they add weight to the vehicle.
Cargo capacity is improved, with a marginally longer load box (it’s up 10mm to 1,495mm long) that’s 1,520mm wide, along with a shoulder line that’s been raised by 25mm. It’s large enough to slide a Euro pallet between the wheel arches, if necessary.
The 1.9-litre diesel engine can be worked hard, giving the D-Max the ability to tow up to 3,500kg, with trailer sway control in place to keep things in line. The gross train weight is limited to six tonnes so, should you want to tow the maximum weight, you’ll need to think carefully about the load in the pickup itself.
In the cabin, there’s plenty of space and lots of storage for your personal items. The rear seat bench lifts to reveal a secure load area and there are at least six cubby holes, glove boxes or storage bins dotted around the front of the pickup. Inexplicably, there are TEN cupholders in the D-Max, so you’ll be able to buy an extra coffee for every passenger.
The Isuzu D-Max is the first pickup truck to achieve a full five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP. As well as being stable in the event of an accident, there’s a huge array of safety tech that’s fitted that you’re unlikely to find on other rivals.
Every truck in the range is fitted with traffic sign recognition, a speed limiter, lane departure warning and forward collision alerts, while this top-of-the-range V-cross adds blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert.
There’s also automatic emergency braking, a system that looks ahead and detects an apparently imminent impact. It’ll then stand on the brakes, avoiding or at least mitigating any accident. During our time with the D-Max, it did register a few false positives which was somewhat frustrating, although it’s notoriously difficult to set these systems to behave perfectly in all circumstances.
Options, yeah? Well, there’s the colour choice; the V-Cross is available in a unique pearl white, as well as the usual range of D-Max colours. That’s orange, red and blue, or various shades of grey. Anything but plain white is £500 plus VAT.
That’s your lot. There are no other options for the V-Cross, or any other D-Max. Your supplying dealer will be happy to sell you something from a vast array of accessories though, from canopies to LED light bars, and everything in between.
The pickup world is currently a little small, so your options are limited. The Ford Ranger is the biggest selling model, and with good reason; it’s a consummate all-rounder, is comfortable, powerful and capable. A new model is coming in 2023 though.
The SsangYong Musso is more car-like than the others, with a cabin that’s more reminiscent of an SUV than a commercial vehicle. The ride quality is a little rough though, and its off-road prowess lags behind the other pickups available.
Closest in concept to the D-Max is the Toyota Hilux. It’s properly tough and hugely capable off-road but isn’t quite so sharp on it. A new, powerful, 2.8-litre engine has helped on-road performance, but the Ranger is still a better drive. The Hilux will last forever, though.
It’s a shame that the ongoing semiconductor crisis is causing supply issues in the industry, as Isuzu could make enormous inroads into the market right now. It’s got a product that, in most areas, is amongst the top of the class.
It’s hugely capable both on and off-road, hits the essential payload and towing capacities, lets you legally plough along the A1 at 70mph, and is packed with both consumer tech and safety tech to keep you both occupied, efficient and safe while out on the road.
For cash buyers, the DL40 model one level down from the V-Cross is better value, but the world of leasing opens up higher specifications for a little extra - and sometimes no extra at all. The V-Cross adds a bit more style and luxury, for little more than the cost of a couple of coffees a month. The D-Max is a convincing model, and the V-Cross is the most convincing of the range.
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent website reviews of the Isuzu D-Max V-Cross
**Correct as of 30/03/2022. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £2,900.88 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.