2018 was a rather interesting year for the MzansiRides team. We had the opportunity to test bakkies. This was certainly not our forte. The very first bakkie we had on test was Mercedes-Benz’s X-Class or the Navara in mascara (as the team referred to it). Fast forward to our final test car for 2018, the Isuzu D-Max 300 LX.
Over the course of the year we tested several double-cab bakkies. What we found was a new trend where bakkies were going soft or “luxurious” as car brands preferred to term it. As if this was not bizarre enough the “luxury” also meant that prices would go up rather drastically. In short you would be paying more for a bakkie that did less bakkie work.
Needless to say that we were really eager to find out if Isuzu had taken the soft route too.
Isuzu SA has decided to do away with the KB name and has renamed the bakkie to D-Max. The new name raised our eyebrows. We suspected that the change in name may have something to do with Isuzu also going soft. So we had our fingers crossed and hoped that our suspicions were wrong.
The name D-Max is not completely new; it is what the bakkie has gone by in other parts of the world since as early as the year 2000. It’s a rather interesting name for a car, sounds hip and fun. It can easily be the name of a young hip hop or RnB artist. What does D-Max mean? It means anything from dragon eyes to dynamic, durable etc etc.
Our test vehicle is the range topping 300 LX 4×4. It came in a bright red colour. A darker colour would have been more suited to our taste but the red stands out beautifully. The LX comes with a lot of chrome finishes including the grille, side mirrors and door handles. LED headlight along with the chrome make the face of this bakkie look more modern without being over the top. It also spots 18 inch alloy wheels wrapped with chunky 255/60R18 rubber which make the car look very fit for its purpose.
The interior also gets some upgrades, buyers will appreciate the large 20.3cm touchscreen display which also features a reverse camera display. This is something which we really appreciated when parallel parking this 5.3m long vehicle. Front and rear USB charge ports means less fighting for passengers.
Our Isuzu truck came with a 6 speed manual transmission. And from the outset we would like to make it clear that we prefer manual transmission when it comes to bakkies, it makes us feel more in control when hauling a load or off-roading. It however took us very long to get used to the D-Max’s transmission.
We initially struggled to get it into first gear seamlessly; we later learned that the best way to get first gear would be moving from second gear to the first gear. The gear lever shakes and vibrates while the vehicle is idling; this was very reminiscent of old school bakkies.
We are pretty sure after a while of living with this manual gearbox one would get used to it and fully explore its potential but within the period we had with the car we would have certainly preferred the automatic transmission.
The 6 speed gearbox is mated to 3.0l turbo-charged diesel engine which has 130kw of power and 380nm of torque. The power is more than sufficient for the car to manoeuvre around town as well as hauling loads and towing. The interior engine noise is on the high side. The team unanimously agreed on the fact that they would feel more comfortable towing and going off road with this car than any other bakkie we have tested. It really does inspire confidence in this aspect
My neighbour is an avid 4×4/off-roading lad. He owns a Land Rover Defender which after 3 years of living next door each other, I still haven’t figured out what colour it is. And, no there is nothing wrong with my eyesight. His car is always covered in mud from his off-road adventures. So I simply know it as being brown. A comment he made about the D-Max stuck with me. He said “now that’s a bakkie” and extended an invite to us to come join them on their muddy adventures. Mind you, this was the fourth 4×4 double-cab bakkie he has seen me drive but he has never so much as commented on any of the other. This was an indication of the potential the Isuzu had as a proper bakkie.
To truly appreciate the beauty and purposefulness of this vehicle you need to understand the actual function of a 4×4 double-cab bakkie. The point of a double-cab bakkie is to have a vehicle that can take a load, be able to tackle rough terrain when the need arises and doing this while still being able to carry 4 adults comfortably (which the Isuzu did). The new trend of excessively refining bakkies defeats the intended purposes of this type of vehicle. One ends up with a R1 million rand luxury bakkie which cannot do much more than what an ordinary sedan does. Fortunately this is far from being the case in the Isuzu.
The best part about this car is the price. R591 800 for the manual 300LX 4×4, its automatic variant will set you back R606 400. This comes with a 5 years/120 000km warranty and roadside assistance and a 5years/90 000km service plan. Our choice would be the automatic. Perhaps we are also going soft too? If your budget is a bit tight you can pick up the 250 HO Base for R332 500.
The Isuzu D-Max has officially been Mzansifide and deserves to be in your shortlist.
ed Marcus Phathwa