Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
To say Isuzu is on a roll Down Under would be an understatement, the marque is on track for 11 consecutive years of growth, a remarkable run considering the current state of the market.
Over the last decade, Isuzu has built a loyal following by offering robust, reliable models at fair prices. Key to the brand’s success is the D-Max ute, obviously having a ute to sell in a market that’s obsessed with them is helpful.
Overwhelmingly, locals are favouring dressed up variants and that’s what we have here, the flagship D-Max LS-T. Pricing for the LS-T starts at $54,800 plus on-roads, however, the list price can be confidently disregarded, Isuzu regularly offers sharp drive-away pricing.
For 2019, the LS-T gets a matte black finish on the roof rails, radiator air intake and B-pillars. There are also new sidesteps constructed from durable Fibre-Reinforced Polymer (FRP) which are bolted to the body with steel brackets.
The rear leaf suspension is now a three-leaf set-up instead of five to improve the ride quality with an empty tray. Along the same line of thought, the new 18-inch machined-face matte black aluminium wheels now wear 255/60R18 Toyo Open Country Highway Terrain tyres to deliver more on-road comfort.
Being the range-topper, the LS-T also features keyless entry and push-button start, leather-accented seat trim and an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation.
The exterior styling tweaks go some way to freshening up the D-Max, the influence of new rims cannot be understated. Yet, overall despite the botox, the D-Max struggles to conceal its age, especially when you open the door.
Inside, the conservative use of soft materials provides some nice touch-points, but the scent of the ute’s agricultural origins can’t be disguised. In the context of the current market, this doesn't feel like a cabin that can in any way justify the cost.
Comfortable, supportive seats are welcomed, though finding the perfect driving position is challenging due to the absence of reach adjustment for the steering wheel. This is the story of the interior, every benefit is seemingly undermined by a missing feature. Cabin storage is good but the latest connectivity options don’t get a look in. The theme continues in the back, passengers get a USB charging point, but no proper air conditioning vents, during the summer, we know what we’d prefer.
Reality bites even harder when it comes to safety, there’s no autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring or adaptive cruise control. Again, it’s impossible to overlook in any vehicle at this price in 2019. The D-Max carries a five-star ANCAP safety rating from 2016, if it were tested again under the newer criteria, the lack of modern safety tech would prevent it from securing the same result.
Where the D-Max has won plenty of fans is the powertrain, the 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine developing 130kW and 430Nm is carried over and matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. It’s a combo that has proven to be durable and reliable, important attributes for those using their ute as a tool of their respective trades.
The torque delivery is spread across a satisfyingly broad-spectrum, so there’s enough hustle, aided by the well-sorted transmission.
It’s not all sunshine and smiles though, the oiler is noisy, reminding us of the turbo-diesel units of days gone by. Both in town and on the highway, the D-Max doesn’t come close to matching the newer rivals in the refinement stakes. Some additional sound deadening would work wonders.
Moving to a road-biased tyre is a good move, in theory, plenty of ute buyers are reluctant to mix it up on dirt. The Toyo rubber on the LS-T didn’t improve the on-road driving experience as much as we were expecting.
Compared to the majority of rivals, the steering set-up is on the heavy side which is most noticeable during low-speed manoeuvring. City slickers will feel like they’re working overtime negotiating tight car parks.
Underneath, the suspension is on the firmer side and the rear bounces with more enthusiasm than the best-selling HiLux. No doubt a trailer or load in the tray will level things out for a smoother ride.
During our off-road drive, the low range gearing works well and there’s a reasonable amount of wheel articulation. For serious enthusiasts on harder tracks, the lack of a differential lock could prove to be a deal-breaker.
The new tyres remove some of the D-Max’s off-road chops, meaning adventure seekers will need to stump up for proper off-road rubber.
If you’re chasing a vehicle for towing, the LS-T has a braked towing capacity of 3500kg. The payload rating is a competitive 1024kg.
We covered 728km during our week with the D-Max, returning a reasonable consumption figure of 8.9L/100km.
To give the D-Max a fighting chance against its competitors, Isuzu has boosted the after-sale support by introducing a six-year/150,000km warranty, six-year roadside assistance coverage and capped-price servicing for the first seven years or 105,000km of ownership.
Under the capped-price service program, owners will spend $3600 on maintenance at an average of $514 a throw.
The 2019 D-Max is looking to capitalise on the reputation Isuzu has developed over the last decade. In isolation, it’s worthy of consideration, but value shoppers in a declining market can do better for the coin.
To Isuzu’s credit, the brand doesn’t pretend the D-Max is anything other than a workhorse, however, a robust and reliable powertrain combined with strong ownership credentials isn’t enough to conceal the areas where the D-Max is well and truly off the pace.
Now some will happily ignore what the D-Max lacks and it will remain a popular choice, but for context, the SsangYong Musso Ultimate comes with considerably more safety tech, far more mechanical refinement, additional connectivity options and an interior that’s light years ahead in terms of materials and presentation, along with a longer warranty for much less money.
With a budget of $50k plus, buyers are drowning in options and the D-Max finds itself at the back of what is a very competitive field.
Please note: Our test car was loaded with accessories which are itemised below.
Steel bull bar - $2238.50
LED driving lights - $947.10
Brush bar HD step - $1340
Bonnet protector - $160.60
Snorkel - $965.80
Roller tonneau - $2512
Tub liner - $548
Tow bar kit - $909
Sports Bar Black - $844
EBC - $722
12V socket - $264
Roof cross bars - $427
Accessory Total -  $11878
2019 Isuzu D-Max LS-T Specifications:
Price from $54,800 plus on-road costs Engine 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel Power 130kW @ 3600rpm Torque 430Nm @ 2000 - 2200rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 7.9L/100km Tank Capacity 76L Length 5295mm Width 1860mm (excluding mirrors) Height 1855mm Wheelbase 3095mm Ground Clearance 235mm Turning Circle 12.6m Tare Mass 1970kg Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Warranty six year/150,000 kilometre