First Drive: Next-Gen 2021 Isuzu D-Max Review

The 2021 model, second-generation, Isuzu D-Max is due in September and adds a whole host of new technology and a drastically-improved ride to its traditional strengths of build quality and reliability.

Professional Pickup & 4×4 was the first European publication to test the new 2021 Isuzu D-Max, a model that offers a wide range of benefits to pickup truck buyers.

For the past 30 years, Isuzu has teamed up with General Motors for pickup truck projects and their vehicles were therefore also rebadged as Vauxhall, Holden and Chevrolet. However, for this latest pickup, Isuzu has partnered with Mazda and this new pickup will also be badged as the Mazda BT-50 who have played a key role in implementing many of the new technologies.

It’s unclear, however, if this will mark a return to the European pickup market for Mazda.

D-Max 2021: The Details

We’ll start with the outside. Despite its vaguely familiar look, the 2021 Isuzu D-Max has new body panels all-round and, with its larger, boxier grille and thinner U-shaped LED headlights and LED lights incorporated into the rear tailgate, the Isuzu sports a more ‘aggressive’ and ‘powerful’ appearance.

The Isuzu D-Max also has a completely new interior and a new chassis for 2021, which is around 80kg lighter than the outgoing model. This has been achieved by using an aluminium prop shaft and higher tense steel plates (980mPa), which also increases the chassis rigidity by 20%.

D-Max 2021: Interior and Technology
The Isuzu D-Max 2021 MY has an improved interior

The Isuzu’s cab is now the most advanced in the pickup segment, with its mixture of hard and soft-touch leather, 9.0-inch touchscreen display, and the hexagonal feature casings.

One thing that has been carried forward from the previous generation is the abundance of storage spaces. There are small compartments for things like keys, wallets and phone directly in front of the gear lever, a flip-down box above the windscreen, two large compartments in the dashboard, a glovebox and a fairly modest-sized central cubby.

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There is a wide range of technology onboard including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, voice recognition and in terms of safety, the Isuzu features rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring, as well as hill start assist, brake assist and hill descent control, although it lacks autonomous braking.

D-Max 2021: Engine and Driveline
The 2021 MY Isuzu D-Max sports a new look

For the Thai market, Isuzu offers two engines for the 2021 D-Max; the 1.9-litre RZ4E (150hp/350Nm) and the recently-updated 3.0-litre 4JJ3 (190hp/450Nm) engine. However, Isuzu may homologate different ECU settings for Europe on the 1.9 which could result in different outputs, and it is unlikely that the 3.0-litre will make it to Europe at all.

We don’t usually associate Isuzu with refinement but there is no better word to describe the new engines. The deep roars of old have been suppressed to a faint groan and they’re more responsive with peak torque cutting in slightly sooner at just 1,800rpm on the 1.9.

There will be a choice of either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic engine. Both versions don’t fail to impress, with the manual far smoother and with less throw while the new ‘RevTronic’ automatic provides almost seamless changes and there is an overdrive on the fifth and sixth gears to boost fuel efficiency – but still not quite to Volkswagen’s ZF standard.

Fuel economy is expected to be ‘towards the best in the segment’ and Isuzu has also stated that the chassis has been developed to house large lithium-ion batteries, meaning it could introduce hybrid or EV versions in the near future.

D-Max 2021: Ride and Handling

The ride height is slightly higher than the previous model (there is now up to 240mm of ground clearance, one of the highest in the class) which provides great all-round vision but, surprisingly, it feels more responsive and connected to the road.

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The steering wheel is smaller and turning requires less effort, and there is relatively little body roll going into the corners which has been attributed to the 80kg lighter chassis and the new three-leaf suspension arrangement. As with engine noise, the amount of road noise perforating into the cab is minimal.

D-Max 2021: Off-Road Performance

Isuzu has introduced an electromagnetic diff-lock (an item that has been absent from Isuzu vehicles since 2012) and the shift-on-the-fly system makes it quicker now to move between two- and four-wheel drive. The wading depth has increased to 800mm, putting it at the top of the class alongside the Ford Ranger.

D-Max 2021: Weights and Dimensions
The Isuzu D-Max 2021 MY truck is as practical as ever

The new D-Max double-cab is slightly shorter in length and stature (5,265mm long and 1,790mm tall) although slightly wider (1,870mm) than the current model. Although it retains exactly the same bed width as its predecessor (1,530mm), it is slightly longer at 1,495mm. That’s still one of the shortest in this segment, though.

Isuzu hasn’t confirmed the European-homologated weights yet but it’s expected to retain the one-tonne payload and 3.5-tonne towing capacity.

D-Max 2021: Price and Availability

As with the Mitsubishi L200, bringing a vehicle into Europe is getting tougher these days because of emissions regulations. Isuzu says the D-Max will arrive in UK dealerships around September 2020, as the truck has to go for additional testing and homologation. It has said European models will be fitted with an AdBlue tank.

Professional Pickup & 4×4 would like to thank Pekky at Isuzu Pattaya


  1. ”the manual far smoother and with less throw” .. what is throw?

  2. … i know now what’s gear throw … 🙂

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