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A Family Favourite



From special edition to mainstream favourite, the Isuzu D-Max X-Rider nameplate has become a family favourite across the length and breadth of South Africa. Driven discovered why during a recent, week-long test.

The X-Rider nameplate was first seen in 2016 as a limited-edition model of the D-Max bakkie, exclusively sporting Isuzu’s 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine. At the time, the X-Rider badge proved so popular that Isuzu brought the X-Rider nomenclature to their flagship 3.0-litre models, giving them the same cosmetic treatment, and capitalising on the significant demand. As we eagerly await the all-new 2021 D-Max, Driven took the opportunity to spend some time with the X-Rider to see how it squares up.


As with the X-Riders that came before it, the 3.0 X-Rider gets the same aesthetic upgrades that make the X-Rider models so desirable. These come in the form of functional roof rails, running boards, a sports bar with a red X-Rider logo, and tailgate handle, all in black. There is no chrome in sight, and the overall effect of this is a more aggressive aesthetic than the standard models. 

The bakkie also comes with 18” diamond cut alloys wearing meaty all-terrain tyres (with all black 18” alloys being available as a no-cost option). These upgrades cohesively accentuate the bakkie’s already handsome features, making this one handsome brute. That aggressive all-black grille, flanked by Isuzu’s signature daytime running lights, definitely creates an imposing presence in your rear-view mirror. And, due to Isuzu’s flair for the dramatic, you can have your X-Rider in your choice of three paint schemes, namely: Switchblade Silver, Summit White, or Pull Me Over Red.


Most prominent in the cabin is that the spartan interiors of yesteryear are gone for good. Manufacturers have increasingly focused on giving their bakkies comfortable and great-looking cabins. The large dials and buttons on the D-Max dash are ergonomically pleasing, although the overall cabin design is a bit bland. I’m heartened by the fact that the new D-Max’s interior will be an absolute knockout! 

The X-Rider comes standard with an 8” AX2 infotainment system, which helps modernise the driver zone, and gives access to the rear-view camera and Bluetooth audio. Overall, build quality is solid – as one would expect from this Japanese manufacturer – and the use of hard plastics can be forgiven, considering Isuzu likes to stick to its purpose-driven roots. The seats are clad in partial black leather, with red contrast stitching adding some character to the cabin. There is proper leg and headroom for all passengers, with massive windows to give occupants good views outside. These attributes make the bakkie a pleasant family-friendly vehicle, with the 3.0 X-Rider able to accommodate the demands of transporting my family of four kids without any hassles. Although the load bay offers tonnes of usable space, without a hardcover, the security of your cargo could be at risk.


Behind that menacing black grill lurks a 3.0-litre turbodiesel power unit that produces 130 kW at 3,600 r/min and 380 Nm between 1,800 and 2,800 r/min. Sadly, for the purists out there, this engine is mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission. The rest of the world, however, will find the powertrain enjoyable. For my day-to-day city demands, the Summit White tester was a joy to drive. The engine is responsive and packs a bit of a punch when you step on it hard. When you’re not going at full tilt, you will find the X-Rider to be a pretty good cruiser too. The ride quality is also commendable. By no means does this bakkie ride with the plush refinement of a sedan, but considering that the ladder-frame chassis set-up is designed to also cope with the rigours of industrial and agricultural lifestyles, Isuzu has found a good balance between both sides of this particular coin. 

Considering refinement, I did notice a somewhat intrusive hum coming from the X-Rider’s 255/60 tyres at speed. This is likely down to the tyres more so than the vehicle itself, though. While it must be noted that newer Isuzu engines no longer sound quite as gruff as they did before, the engine note is still a tad on the noisy side. For some, the distinctive Isuzu engine note embodies the vehicle’s character, while for others, it signifies a lack of refinement. To each his own. The fuel consumption is pretty decent at a claimed 7.5-l/100 km.


The X-Rider comes standard with a host of safety features, including anti-lock brakes, brake-force distribution, brake assist, stability control with traction control, hill-start assist and hill descent control, trailer sway control, and driver and passenger airbags. 


The 3.0 X-Rider is easily one of the better bakkies that I have had a chance to drive. I loved it, and so did my family and the people I interacted with on my daily commute. In typical Isuzu fashion, this is a no-nonsense truck that you can rely on in virtually any scenario. It would be an easy recommendation for anyone looking to buy. With the new D-Max set to debut in 2022, there is still plenty of life left in this trusty old-timer. 

Report & Images by BRYAN KAYAVHU 

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