Johannesburg - Isuzu is set to launch its long-delayed and much-anticipated new-generation D-Max bakkie later this month, and many buyers are no doubt waiting for that. But is there still some sense in the current-generation model?
This is the question we asked ourselves after Isuzu dropped off two D-Max 4x4 double-cab models for us to test and compare, one being a 250 X-Rider and the other being a 300 LX.
The first thing that struck us was that despite having been on the market for nine years now, the current D-Max is still a rather good-looking vehicle - particularly in X-Rider spec with its 18-inch diamond cut alloy wheels and black colour scheme for the grille and mirrors. The LX takes a more flashy and shiny approach with all of its chrome work, but ultimately we preferred the sportier look of the X-Rider.
Priced between R528 700 and R593 900, the 2.5-litre X-Rider is available in 4x2 and 4x4 manual as well as 4x2 auto formats and there’s also an “X” limited derivative with some extra trimmings. Further to that, Isuzu offers a 3.0-litre model too, priced from R602 200.
In this day and age, with prices of high-end bakkies quickly hurtling towards the million-rand mark, the X-Rider models offer a sensible combination of value and spec, although they’re not significantly cheaper than the equivalent rivals. However, with the current range set to be replaced shortly, you do have a bargaining chip when negotiating a good deal on the outgoing model, and if the dealers don’t have enough stock to budge, then it could also make sense to look out for a nearly-new model once the new D-Max makes landfall and owners are frantically trading their old ones in.
What we particularly like about the D-Max 250 double-cab X-Rider is that it seems to hit the sweet spot between the old-school bakkies that many of us grew up around and the fancy new ones that are basically luxury SUVs with load bins.
We had a little chuckle at our X-Rider test vehicle’s key, which has an unlocking fob that’s separate from the key - which is something we haven’t seen for a very long time. Stepping inside, it is a little dated and the plastics hardly scream luxury, but then this is not trying to be a premium vehicle.
It’s still got all the basics in terms of spec, but without going overboard and pushing the price up. You get manual air-conditioning as well as a multi-function steering wheel, electric windows and a conventional six-speaker sound system, however our test unit was fitted with the optional 8.0-inch infotainment system.
What sets the X-Rider apart is its sporty interior design theme, which include black leather seats with contrast red stitching and X-Rider logos, high-gloss piano black door trim inserts and a red Isuzu logo on the steering wheel.
The D-Max 300 double-cab 4x4 LX auto is perhaps a bit more difficult to justify, given its price tag of R742 800 which makes it more expensive than some rivals (keeping in mind that after a good discount it could make sense). However, buyers can look forward to a relatively high spec level that includes things like automatic climate control, cruise control, multi-information display and a touchscreen audio system with eight speakers.
On the road, both models provided a relatively pain-free driving experience, particularly the 300 LX with its 130kW, 380Nm turbodiesel engine, but given its lower price and power outputs and the fact that it had a manual gearbox, the 250 X-Rider really wasn’t bad to drive. Although its outputs of 100kW and 320Nm sound relatively modest, the performance it provides is perfectly adequate, and it has no trouble keeping up with urban traffic. It also cruises comfortably on the open road, although at times you might have to work it a bit to overtake safely.
In a combination of urban and rural road driving, our 250 X-Rider model consumed an average of 9.5 litres per 100km.
Despite being on their way out, these Isuzu D-Max derivatives proved adequate in most respects. The ride quality is acceptably comfortable, and certainly far from the worst we’ve experienced, and the interior is reasonably accommodating, providing more rear legroom than you might expect. However, their engines are a little noisy compared to some of the newer rivals, but not to the point of being a deal-breaker for us.
As we said, the outgoing D-Max models bridge the gap between old-school bakkies and the newer variety. They feel strong, solid and hard-wearing like those pick-ups of yesteryear, but with comfort and refinement levels that (while not at the same level as the fancier newer bakkies) are still perfectly acceptable by modern standards. If the dealer gives a good enough deal, they’re certainly worth a look-in. In fact, I really wish Isuzu would “Vivo” this generation as South Africa really does need more affordable bakkies.