Tested: 2022 Isuzu D-Max 3.0TD Double Cab

Bad news, everyone. After a global pandemic, slightly misfiring electricity supply, a possible recession and other turmoil, I’ve identified another evil in our midst: the gentrification of simple bakkies and rustic 4×4’s.

There’s no better proof for this than the gleaming red Isuzu double-cab you’re looking at right now. While other pick-up manufacturers slowly started adding their idea of leather, then central locking, power goodies and – gasp – a touchy-feely radio thingy, Isuzu’s engineers were more concerned about how many sheep fit on the back.

Toyota, Mitsubishi and Nissan gradually introduced luxury items, bigger alloys and convenience gadgets to make their work-horses more attractive but in our collective experience at NamWheels, the guys and girls at Isuzu either ignored these changes or noticed them way too late. So they added an after-market central locking system.

When Ford started shipping some of their local bakkies with Ford Sync – a baie gawe tannie who lives in the dashboard – the others must’ve had a mad scramble for more screen time. We’d like to think that Isuzu’s team was still busy testing maximum dropper capacity when this memo reached them. So they added a slightly terrible but mostly optional after-market system.

And let’s not even involve the car-like VW or Merc in this hypothetical comparison because they brutally showcased how simple the Isuzu KB slash D-Max was. Possibly bare, boring and backwards, but beautifully simple for those hard-working folks who just want to get the job done. And don’t like chatty dashboards.

Which brings us, finally, after half a dozen paragraphs, to this new-to-us D-Max double cab model. The looks have changed quite a bit, ditto for the interior, and we at NamWheels think that Isuzu did a great job of maintaining their company identity while differentiating the new product AND modernising it at the same time.

The underpinning are still true Isuzu girders (and shared with the more elegant Mazda BT-50), plus we finally get a bit of a boost in the drive train department. New to this market is the less powerful but jolly frugal 1.9L turbo-diesel four-pot, which customers can opt for in almost every body, gearbox and drive configuration.

Isuzu’s tried and trusty 3L turbo-diesel 4-cylinder goes into the new generation D-Max with an extra 10kW, totalling up to 140kW at 3,600rpm with maximum twist of 450Nm from just 1,600rpm. As can be expected from such an (erstwhile) agricultural marque, they don’t provide 0-100km/h acceleration figures.

But we do.

Our best of a few attempts was a highly respectable 10.32 seconds which, amidst keen rear wheel-spin, lands this 2,999cc vehicle near the very top of our 4-cylinder turbo-diesel pick-up acceleration list. Braking is also not bad for a former plaasbakkie with knobbly rubber: 2.95 seconds and 42.91m.

Before I launch into my initial argument of tech-overload and unnecessary trinkets on work vehicles, it has to be noted that our test vehicle was a very fancy derivative (D-Max 3.0TD D/C LSE 4×4) near the top of its food chain. Price? R810,200. For proud technophobes, there’s a lesser 3.0 variant with far less technology available.

If you’re happy with the 1.9’s leisurely pace, you can even have a super simple double-cab for about R515,000!

And now we’ve arrived at the crux of my problem with this vehicle. It had, besides central airbags and automatic climate wipers, things which only debuted in an S-Class of the last decade. Keyless access, lane change and blind spot warning, tyre pressure sensors and – if you really want to – radar-guided cruise control.

In an Isuzu. Honestly!

We found exactly the same paradoxical situation in its SUV cousin, the new mu-X, plus some of its rivals like the posh Fortuner or new Everest. They’re essentially bakkies with full bodies but, much like the former farm implements they’re based on, they’ve now been drenched in tinsel and assaulted with three tonnes of self-guided missile launchers.

Do we want that in an Isuzu bakkie? I suspect that most Namibians won’t, but in the interest of keeping up with the Joneses, Isuzu wisely added some of this stuff in escalating severity to their upper-tier models. That means you or me can still choose to have some (or none) of the modern driving conveniences. Or irritations, depending on which side of the farm fence you’re sitting on.

Each D-Max is sold with a 5-year/120,000km warranty and a 5-year/90,000km service plan.

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