Isuzu has rationalised its D-Max range all the while adding a more convenient automatic transmission to its 4X2 250 derivatives. Lerato Matebese travelled to the Western Cape to sample the latest addition to the range to see how it fares in the grand scheme of things. Playing in a very competitive Leisure segment of the ‘bakkie’ market puts convenience and refinement at the forefront of the buying decision.
As part of the global naming convention, Isuzu adopted the D-Max name and retiring after decades of employment, the KB suffix locally. In anticipation of the new D-Max launching in SA around mid-year in 2021, the current D-Max X-Rider and 250 Hi-Rider range have been bestowed the convenience of a 5-speed automatic gearbox, which is prime in the Leisure market.
The lifestyle-oriented X-Rider, which panders to the Leisure market, has been a popular proposition in the D-Max line-up with perhaps the lack of an automatic derivative being its Achilles heel. However, this has been decidedly resolved with the addition of the five-speed automatic transmission that is paired with the tried-and-trusted 2.5-litre D-TEQ engine.
“Buying trends in the bakkie segment are changing rapidly, and we have seen a major upswing in the demand for automatic gearboxes in recent years,” says Dominic Rimmer, Senior Vice President, Technical Operations at Isuzu Motors South Africa.
“The introduction of the six-speed automatic transmissions in the D-Max 3.0-litre models in 2018 was extremely well received, and we are delighted to now offer automatic gearbox options on our popular D-Max 250 models, from our trendy X-Rider model to the mid-level LE and the Hi-Ride which is ideally suited to our commercial vehicle customers,” Rimmer adds.
“The five-speed automatic gearbox has been developed to suit the performance characteristics of Isuzu’s exceptionally capable, reliable and economical 2.5-litre intercooled turbodiesel engine, thus giving our customers great performance, matched to low running costs, superb comfort and outstanding driving convenience – particularly in bustling and congested city environments.”
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
In my opinion, the 250 range still offers the sweet spot in the D-Max range, offering adequate power and exemplary fuel consumption figures. At the launch of the latest 250 Auto range, I managed to sample the X-Rider D-Max and, right off the bat, it is the model that will net Isuzu an additional audience in the sub R500k segment, which also happens to be the rationalised 250 range’s price band starting at R403,200 for the Hi-Ride Extended Cab and topping out at R474,700 for the Double Cab X-Rider Auto. This, no matter how you slice it, is exceptional value.
Thankfully, there’s some substance to the package and both the engine and automatic transmission are well-judged with relatively smooth gear changes. On tarmac, the D-Max remains comfortable if not entirely as supple as some of its main competitors, while on gravel it once again proved its robust nature, traversing over the rough terrain without flinching. The suspension is built to absorb anything thrown at it and you can rest assured that it will continue to be reliable for years to come.
SHOULD I CONSIDER BUYING ONE?
The Isuzu D-Max is as honest a bakkie as they come with a reputable reliability repertoire and, at such competitive pricing, it makes a very strong case for itself. Yes, it might be a little rough around the edges compared to the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger, but it continues to trump both on the value for money aspect, which is even more prudent in these tight economic conditions.
As Isuzu SA gears up for the next generation D-Max, following an announcement in 2019 of investing R1.2bn into its local plant, the company’s commitment in the SA market looks firmly entrenched and bodes well for the overall health of the local automotive industry. The rationalising of the 250 range will give the current model another gust of wind to keep it buoyant for the next 18 months when the impending, seventh-generation model, which will also underpin the next Mazda BT-50, is ushered in locally.
Report by LERATO MATEBESE | Images © ISUZU SA