By Mada Borerwe
Last year saw the rebirth of the Isuzu bakkie range or the pick up as what we like calling it here in Zimbabwe. Isuzu Motors South Africa (Isuzu) refreshed its bakkie range, giving it a new name along with higher levels of specification, quality and efficiency to make its popular light commercial vehicle (LCV) more appealing than ever.
I had the pleasure to have a week-long test drive in the all-new body and soul Isuzu D-MAX, thanks to Piet De Klerk and his team at Autoworld in Chisipite, Harare. Trust me when I tell you: “It’s not an ordinary truck, it’s a luxury loaded workhorse. The drive was so smooth and peaceful that I wished I could keep it longer. The fuel efficiency was unbelievable as I did quote a number of urban driving trips in and around town but that gauge just wouldn’t drop a notch. With the current fuel situation this was what the doctor ordered and I was clearly remedied”.
Over the past 40 years of local production spanning six generations, the Isuzu bakkie has been a key player in creating and fostering Africa’s love affair with the versatile bakkie — both as a workhorse and, increasingly, as an all-encompassing everyday leisure and lifestyle vehicle.
Now known as the Isuzu D-MAX, in line with international markets, the Isuzu bakkie range spans an extensive portfolio comprising 13 models for export markets in Sub Sahara Africa — us included, with the top-spec derivatives gaining a more luxurious execution that reflects the more sophisticated requirements of top-end buyers in this segment.
The D-MAX name originated in Thailand, with the ‘D’ originally referring to the 2000 model year Isuzu bakkie which boasted the flush “Dragon Eyes” headlamp design. It also represents Isuzu’s proud legacy in the production of diesel engines, the use of industry-defining direct injection, as well as ground-breaking design and durability. ‘Max’ signifies Isuzu’s maximum approach to design, size, comfort, technology, performance, safety, durability and line-up.
The line-up has been revised and enhanced to make the D-MAX more appealing and competitive than ever, and the high-spec models raise the bar for Isuzu in terms of luxury and quality.
Visually, the biggest styling changes for the refreshed Isuzu D-MAX make their debut on the range-topping 3.0-Litre LX models, available in single, extended and double cab body styles. Central to the new look is a muscular new chromed radiator grille that dominates the front facia, along with new tapered chromed accents extending across the full length of the sleeker L-shaped headlight clusters.
In combination with the new projector-type Bi-LED headlamps and LED daytime running lights introduced on the extended and double cab models, there are restyled foglamp bezels framed by chromed vertical accents that give the LX a distinctive and aggressive character.
Climb into the cabin and the more upmarket look and feel of the LX models becomes immediately apparent, courtesy of the new soft-touch panels for the instrument cluster binnacle. The utility box lid is now embellished with the “Isuzu D-MAX logo”, this is complemented by a new, more attractive high-quality grain for the dashboard and door trims, along with a piano black finish on the air vent grilles and window switches. In contrast, the door handles, locking knob, and air vent knobs are picked out in chrome.
The occupants also benefit from the fitment of the latest-generation infotainment system, incorporating an eight-inch full colour touch screen that replaces the 6.5-inch version used in the previous model. The fully featured system incorporates the display for the rear-view camera, and facilitates Bluetooth hands-free cellphone use and audio streaming.
One of the most significant new features of the Isuzu D-MAX range is the introduction of an all-new six-speed gearbox on the high-spec 3.0-Litre LX derivatives, replacing the five-speed versions used on the outgoing models.
For fans of smooth-shifting automatics, the D-MAX offers the same six-speed transmission that recently debuted in the Isuzu mu-X SUV. This sophisticated gearbox delivers the ideal combination between refinement and responsive performance.
This mode is also ideally suited to off-road driving, allowing the driver to engage the appropriate gear ratio for the specific terrain. Combined with hill descent control, manually selecting the lowest gear on downhills ensures optimal control of the vehicle as it maintains the vehicle at the set speed on steep descents.
On the safety front, the ABS brakes on all D-Max LX models are now equipped with Isuzu’s Brake override system for the first time. The system restricts accelerator input if the brake pedal is applied simultaneously, thereby reducing stopping distances in an emergency.
The standard electronic stability control with traction control has also been bolstered with the addition of trailer sway control that detects and minimises the effect of a trailer or caravan beginning to sway from side-to-side. The Hi-Rider and LE models can be equipped with an optional towbar package rated to tow a braked trailer up to a maximum load of 2.1 tonnes, while the standard heavy-duty unit on the 3.0-Litre 4X4 LX derivatives comes standard and is capable of hauling 3.5 tonnes.
As before, electronic stability control, hill start assist and hill descent control are included to assist the driver in all types of driving situations. These active safety features are available as a standard feature from the fleetside safety to the LX trim.
As the English idiom says, “the proof is in the pudding” do book for a test drive and indeed you will experience refreshed Isuzu Range.