Final Drive: Isuzu D-Max Blade Review

There are only a few months left of the existing D-Max, as Isuzu readies a new model, but should you take the opportunity of picking up an end-of-line Blade model from a local dealer?

You can’t doubt the D-Max’s reputation; there’s a reason that so many farmers, builders and countless other commercial users pick the Isuzu, and that’s is solid reliability and reliable off-road performance. It’s no good looking good when you’re stuck in a remote field as temperatures start dipping below zero.

But Isuzu has always struggled to turn the workhorse D-Max into a lifestyle-friendly, style-led machine, with the D-Max XTR failing to find much love with the buying public.

The D-Max Blade is Isuzu’s halfway house, a rough and ready labourer, but with a soupcon of style and a list of luxurious equipment to keep those moving from SUVs happy. But, with a new model just around the corner, is it better to wait for what’s coming or save your cash and buy what’s here right now.

Isuzu D-Max Blade pickup truck
Isuzu D-Max Blade: Exterior

Despite its age, the outgoing D-Max is still a smart-looking machine, although that may say more about the conservative nature of the sector than anything else. A facelift in 2017 has kept it looking reasonably fresh, though.

The domineering grille at the front is presented in a shadow grey colour, with grey detailing around the rest of the truck, from the door handles and rear bumper to the roof bars.

It lacks the aggression of the newest models on the market, but that’s no bad thing. It’s left looking strong, with the double-blade grille curving over the leading edge of the pickup, which then follows a fairly conventional design path.

This test car was boosted by the addition of a pair of Lazer Light LED lights in the grille, and some twin light bars on the roof, but you’ll pay an extra £1,223 for those.

The rear is rather mundane, with little visual excitement. There’s a crease through the tailgate, which drops down gently thanks to a damped hinge, while side steps add a bit of body protection and allow for easier access to the interior.

One of the shorter pickups on sale, the D-Max also hides its width well. The difference between this and, say, a Ford Ranger, is just a few centimetres, but it makes the D-Max feel more compact and look less bulky.

Isuzu D-Max Blade pickup truck
Isuzu D-Max Blade: Interior

There’s no shortage of equipment to play with inside the Blade, with the 9.0-inch infotainment screen sitting proudly at the top of the dashboard housing a system that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, as well as a DAB radio and navigation system.

The heated leather seats and climate control system will keep you comfortable and relaxed, while USB ports in both the front and rear will allow all passengers to keep their devices charged and usable – handy for keeping kids entertained on long journeys.

Isuzu has added a splash of style, too, with floor mats and puddle lights emblazoned with the Blade logo text, and a smattering of piano black plastics.

Being a double cab, there’s plenty of space for all, even in the back. The seats are set rather high and are quite upright, but there’s enough adjustment in them to get comfortable. The steering wheel only adjusts for tilt and not reach, though, which will make it awkward for a handful of drivers.

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However, it’s all wrapped up in a decidedly dated cabin. Given the truck arrived in the UK in 2012, that’s perhaps not a surprise, but the utilitarian dashboard, the infotainment screen that looks a little like an afterthought, and the odd circular controls for the climate system that’s surrounded by vast areas of hard plastic all combine to leave the cabin feeling a little second rate.

It’s fine, just about, in a working truck, but as posh family transport? Others are far more stylish and usable – including the new D-Max – and it’s not a patch on the modern SUV it’s hoping to attract buyers from.

Isuzu D-Max Blade+ pickup truck
Isuzu D-Max Blade: On the Road

Isuzu is retaining the 1.9-litre engine in the new D-Max that’s fitted to this one, which means there’s 164hp available, and 360Nm of torque. That’s about as low as you can go in the pickup world, with only the Mitsubishi L200 providing less power.

Despite that, performance is brisk enough to keep up with the flow of traffic. It won’t set your pulse racing, and the automatic gearbox is more relaxed than a tired puppy by a fireplace, but it reinforces the laid back style that the D-Max forces you to adopt.

Ride quality is about average for the sector, better than some models but not as smooth as others. It’s never intrusively unruly though, even if it never properly settles down on the motorway. That said, like most pickups, it’s a lot smoother when there’s a load in the back, even quite a modest one.

Engine noise is absent at speed, although only because it’s drowned out by road noise. At lower speeds, and especially at idle, that 1.9-litre engine is a little more vocal than you might hope for.

That makes itself felt through the steering wheel, too. The Alcantara-wrapped wheel in the XTR damps some of that out, but you won’t find that in the Blade model here tested.

Power (hp)1640-62 mph (secs)13.0
Torque (Nm)360Maximum speed (mph)112
Fuel economy (mpg)36.2CO2 emissions (g/km)205
Isuzu D-Max Blade pickup truck
Isuzu D-Max Blade: Off the Road

The D-Max has a tough reputation, and it’s mostly deserved. As an off-roader, it’s capable and comfortable enough for most terrain, only getting out of its depth when the going gets particularly tough.

The traction control and four-wheel-drive systems are up to the task for fields, forest tracks and a little beyond, with the computers controlling power to the wheels. For the really rough stuff, there’s a low-range option that disengages the computer aids and leaves you controlling the situation manually.

There are pros and cons to that, but the automatic gearbox fitted to the test car does make it slightly tricky to keep consistent, delicately adjusted power, but you can always rely on mashing the throttle pedal down and powering your way through an obstacle.

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Should you go a little too hard, there’s plenty of protection underneath, and a good amount of ground clearance, so you should survive. Take it more slowly and all the necessary angles are competitive, with decent approach, departure and breakover angles.

There’s no differential lock though, which would be handy in some circumstances. However, you’ll have to be going some to get the D-Max stranded. And, if the worst does happen, the heated leather seats and well-specced infotainment system will keep you comfortable.

Approach angle (°)30 Climbing angle limit (°)N/A
Departure angle (°)23Ground clearance (mm)235
Ramp angle limit (°)22Wading depth (mm)600
Side angle limit (°)49
Isuzu D-Max Blade: Payload and Towing

Blade buyers can choose between an open load bay with a sports bar and Mountain Top roller cover, or a fully enclosed Aeroklas canopy. Regardless of the trim level chosen, every double-cab D-Max comes with a load box that can take loads up to 1,485mm long. That is the shortest load bay on the market, bar the short wheelbase SsangYong Musso, but still enough to squeeze a Euro pallet between the wheel arches.

However, what it lacks in outright capacity, it makes up for in capability. At 1,098kg, the payload capacity is amongst the best in class, and is a marker for how strong the D-Max is.

Despite the diminutive 1.9-litre engine, towing capacity is rated at the maximum 3,500kg, putting it at the top of the class, and on a par with rivals such as the Ford Ranger and Nissan Navara.

A gross train weight of 6,000kg means you won’t be able to load up the truck to its maximum while also towing 3.5-tonnes, which could catch a few people out. When you are out towing, electronic trailer sway control will help to keep your truck and trailer on the straight and narrow.

Kerb weight (kg)1,952Load bay length (mm)1,485
Gross vehicle weight (kg)3,050Load bay width (mm)1,530
Payload (kg)1,098Load bay height (mm)465
Gross vehicle mass (kg)6,000Load bay capacity (l)N/A
Towing capacity (braked) (kg)3,500Towing capacity (unbraked) (kg)750
Isuzu D-Max Blade: Verdict

Despite being in the twilight of its life, there’s a lot to like about the D-Max. It’s tough reputation is deserved – and that’s backed by a five-year or 125,000-mile warranty – and there’s no doubting it’s rugged abilities.

It won’t be the cheapest truck to run, but neither will it break the bank. An official fuel economy figure of 36.2mpg is competitive, and our test results of 31.1mpg aren’t too far from the claim, while service intervals of 12,000 miles or 12 months means most will only see a dealer once a year.

However, the rough edges now feel more significant than they did nine years ago, and the D-Max is feeling dated. There’s plenty of comfort and equipment, but a dated interior, rattly engine and an unrefined ride leaves it lagging behind its rivals.

If you can find one at an Isuzu dealer and fancy carrying out your usual work in a little more comfort, then there’s plenty of life left in the D-Max yet, but if you’re looking at the Blade and wondering if it’ll make for a decent family truck then you’ll be better served elsewhere.

Model tested: Isuzu D-Max Blade Automatic

OTR Price£35,708CV OTR Price£29,809
Reclaimable VAT£5,899CV Price Range£16,909 – £36,149