Car reviews - Isuzu - D-Max - SX 1.9
Strong 1.9-litre diesel engine, price and operating costs, payload and towing capacity, cabin ergonomics, wireless Apple CarPlay
Room for improvement
Firm heavy-duty suspension, reversing camera quality, fragile key/remote, headlight performance, uptight lane keep assistance
Base model utes are no longer simply serviceable, they’re capable, value-packed and ready to go the hard yards
22 Jul 2022
By MATT BROGAN
THE FACT is a lot of Australian buyers will overlook the entry-grade D-Max SX 4x2 utility in favour of more highly specified, and pricier, four-wheel drive variants, even if the model tested here is more than capable of delivering on their needs.
Down Under, entry grade and two-wheel drive utes lose out to their more capable siblings in a big way as buyers opt for the kind of rugged appeal and off-road capability many will seldom use. Which makes the existence of base spec’ utilities like the D-Max SX and its ilk something of a perplexing consideration…
The Isuzu D-Max SX 4x2 is a well-priced, generously specified and entirely capable example of the breed. In short, this workhorse variant deserves to sell more strongly than it does, as our week behind the wheel proved.
The single-cab chassis utility is priced from just $29,990 plus on-road costs ($33,200 as tested) and is powered by Isuzu’s gutsy undersquare RZ4E-TC 1.9-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine paired to a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.
Isuzu says the engine is designed to offer lower running costs to commercial, fleet and trade buyers, and develops 110kW at 3600rpm and 350Nm from 1800-2600rpm, with 300Nm available across more than 70 per cent of the unit’s torque band (from 1550 to 3700rpm).
Fuel delivery is via a Denso high-pressure direct injection system and the intake system further benefits from a forward-facing ambient air intake, an electronically controlled variable geometry turbocharger, as well as an aluminium air-to-air intercooler. Fuel economy is listed at 7.0 litres per 100km with CO2 emissions as low as 183 grams per kilometre (ADR combined cycle).
But beyond the SX’s mechanical package, it’s the model’s load lugging capabilities that impress most. Payload capacities for manual and automatic variants are listed at an impressive 1405kg and 1380kg respectively while braked towing capacity is listed at 2800kg for the manual and 3000kg for the Aisin-sourced automatic.
The D-Max SX is fitted as standard with a 2500mm long and 1777mm wide alloy tray as standard and is further available with a selection of headboards, ladder racks and grab rails as part of an extensive accessories list.
Standard equipment includes 17-inch steel wheels with Dunlop AT25 tyres (with matching spare), heavy-duty suspension, a urethane steering wheel, gearshift knob and handbrake cover, vinyl flooring, cloth upholstery, power windows and mirrors, air-conditioning, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlights, and a tilt- and reach-adjustable steering column.
Adaptive cruise control is available on automatic variants.
The 7.0-inch infotainment array in the D-Max SX includes (wireless) Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth connectivity, DAB+ digital radio, voice recognition, a four-speaker audio system and a reversing camera.
Safety equipment includes a full complement of airbags, AEB with turn assist, blind-spot monitoring, drive-attention assist, lane-support systems, rear cross-traffic alert and traffic-sign recognition. The Isuzu D-Max boasts a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
All Isuzu D-Max and MU-X variants are backed by Isuzu Ute Australia’s Service Plus 6-7-7 ownership care program, which includes a six-year/150,000km warranty, up to seven years’ roadside assist (when serviced through an IUA dealer) and seven-year capped price servicing scheme totalling $3223 over the first 105,000km.
The 2022 Isuzu D-Max SX single-cab chassis is available in five paint colours including Mineral White (flat), Basalt Black Mica, Cobalt Blue Mica, Mercury Silver Metallic and Obsidian Grey Metallic.
Base model utes are no longer simply serviceable, they’re capable, value-packed and ready to go the hard yards – and there’s no better example in the current crop of single-cab 4x2 utilities than the Isuzu D-Max SX cab-chassis.
The high-riding and heavy-duty suspension offered in the D-Max gives it the appearance – and 235mm ground clearance – of a 4x4 model with the best carrying capacity in its class. Unfortunately, it also means the unladen ride of the model is particularly firm.
It takes a lot of weight to settle the SX’s leaf springs toward anything approaching comfortable, so if you’re not carrying a considerable mass on a regular basis, it may be best to shop elsewhere in the range.
Isuzu’s gutsy 1.9-litre engine, on the other hand, is the star of the show in the D-Max SX and offers plenty of lag-free pep from its diminutive capacity. The engine isn’t what you’d call quiet, especially before reaching operating temperature, but it certainly packs a wallop for its size.
It’s also remarkably efficient, returning an average of 8.0 litres per 100km on test through a mix of urban and highway driving, and with and without weight on the tray.
The six-speed auto does a great job of keeping the RZ4E-TC in its sweet spot and shifts decisively when requested. There are no gimmicks, no paddle shifts, and no fancy modes to accompany the transmission, just bloody good calibration and an appreciably smooth shifting action.
The seating of the D-Max is comfortable and generously proportioned, though there’s not a lot of room behind the seats for additional storage. The cabin is easy to see out of with light controls, sweet electrically assisted steering, decent brake pedal feel (disc/drum stoppers are standard) and well-placed controls.
The instrumentation and secondary controls (HVAC, audio system, etc.) are unassuming and straightforward, but include niceties such as wireless Apple CarPlay connectivity and digital radio reception to brighten the hours spent inside the cab.
We appreciated the D-Max’s well-placed grab handles and found the inclusion of technology items like rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlights and adaptive cruise control not only welcome, but very well calibrated too.
The majority of the D-Max’s driver assists were equally hard to fault, though we did find the lane keeping assist to be a little uptight and found ourselves switching the system off unless travelling on wide, multi-lane freeways.
The only other niggles of note were less than impressive reversing camera resolution, average headlight performance and a somewhat fragile key/remote that fell to pieces when accidentally dropped from pocket height.
Against the tape, the D-Max SX single-cab chassis measures 5325mm in length, 1870mm wide and 1790mm in height. It rides on a 3125mm wheelbase and tips the scale at 1620kg when optioned with the automatic transmission.
The tray measures 2550mm in length and offers fold-down sides and full-length tie-down rails. Isuzu lists the turning circle of the D-Max SX at 12.5m.
As a workhorse utility, the D-Max SX offers a lot for the money – and we don’t just mean the extensive equipment list. It’s a capable and efficient performer that shows a lot of thought towards a wide range of blue-collar applications, both from a specification standpoint, and its long-term operating costs. Win-win!
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