Isuzu D-Max Space Cab: Review

Isuzu is betting big for the D-Max and has massive expectations from the pick-up truck segment in India. We review its lifestyle oriented variant to see if it worth putting your money on



Isuzu D-Max Space Cab in action




There’s already a catch to driving the D-Max when we are invited to review the pick-up. I cannot drive it on public roads unless I have a commercial vehicle license. I don’t, and most probably, most of you don’t too. The Isuzu D-Max is homologated in India as a commercial vehicle and so having a CV license to drive the D-Max is mandatory. Straight up I’m compelled to thinking that this ticks off most lifestyle buyers in India, and there aren’t many just yet. Isuzu believes there isn’t much of a problem getting one but we have our reservations. Anyway, we are flown in to the WABCO test track in Chennai to drive the D-Max. Let’s see how it goes…


We have a choice of three variants parked on track – the D-Max Single Cab, Space Cab with Flat Deck and Space-Cab with Arched Deck. The Ached Deck variant is the work+lifestyle one as it has a few creature comforts and the deck looks friendlier for a private buyer. So let’s focus on the Arched Deck.



L to R: D-Max Single Cab,Space Cab with flat deck and Space Cab with Arched Deck




The D-Max may be classified as a commercial vehicle but it doesn’t look drab by any means. Form follows function for sure, yet there’s plenty of style to interest the lifestyle buyer in you. Clear lens headlights, the bonnet scoop, the double canine grille or the chrome plating on the mirrors, all give it a premium feel. Bulging wheel arches and the low tip deck add to the pick-up’s sporty stance. The rear of the Arched Deck D-Max gets a conventional drop down opening with a single central lever. The flat-decks get the very commercial hooks on the sides. What the arched deck means is the rear wheel wells are scooped into the deck, creating a bit of intrusion, but also sitting lower than the flat deck.




Isuzu D-Max Arched Deck




A Space Cab is essentially an extended cab beyond the front doors. You get two doors and two seats and in addition some space in the rear for stuff that can’t be loaded in the deck. Behind the front seats, in several international markets, buyers fit a small bench, generally used by kids. This doesn’t come as stock fitment but you do get a cushioned backrest in the D-Max here hinting at some unofficial seating space at the rear. 



Isuzu D-Max Space Cab Interior




The dark grey interior plastics aren’t much to talk about besides being of the hard wearing variety. This is a good thing though as commercial pick-ups are subject to plenty of abuse over time. The Arched deck gets quite a few creature comforts over the other variants though. It comes with air-conditioning, tiltable power steering, power windows, audio system with two speakers, mobile phone charging point, two bottle and cup holders each and a dead pedal for the driver. An issue we had was with the ORVMs that have no manual adjustment controls inside the cabin. You need to stretch out of the fairly wide cabin to adjust them. 


Talking of width, the D-Max is quite spacious. With the Deck, the D-Max measures 5,030mm x 1,720mm x 1,655mm (LxWxH) and has a wheelbase of 3,050mm. The cargo deck measures 1,920mm x 1,720mm x 480mm with a payload carrying capacity of 1.2 tonnes. 



Isuzu D-Max Space Cab rear space




In the driver’s seat, you get a commanding view of the road ahead. Seats can’t be adjusted for height and the long travel pedals means you sit closer to the steering. But the slender A-pillars don’t obstruct view and the window sills are quite low so driving the D-Max in congested cities should be quite easy. 




Isuzu D-Max 2.5-litre turbo diesel




Under the hood, the D-Max sports a 2.5-litre turbocharged diesel engine mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. It develops 136PS of max power at 3,600rpm and 294Nm of peak torque between 1,800-3,200rpm. The engine is punchy and eager to build speed. Quite a surprise for a commercially oriented vehicle I think. The engine develops enough torque till the turbo kicks in at around 2,000rpm and so acceleration is mostly linear and strong in the mid-range. The clutch is a tad heavy and has a long travel but besides that, the D-Max is nice to drive. Acceleration is brisk as you step on the gas and doing triple digit speeds is easy. Speed is the biggest asset for a pick-up, especially when used for commercial purposes and in that aspect, the D-Max is head and shoulders above its competition. It feels stable at high speeds and stays planted in long sweeping corners. This mainly is due to its low centre of gravity helped by the deck in the rear. 



Isuzu D-Max Space Cab action shot




The D-max has independent suspension up front and rigid leaf springs in the rear. The leaf springs make the rear end quite jumpy over speed humps when the deck is without load. It’s a bit unnerving at first since power is sent to the rear wheels. With a full load though, it feels a lot more stable. Even when loaded, the punchy engine has enough grunt to keep high average speeds. 


On the safety front, the D-Max doesn’t have ABS or airbags, which I think is a bit of a disappointment if sold to a lifestyle buyer. Ventilated discs up front and drums in the rear are progressive and offer good bite though. The D-Max comes with 15 inch steel wheels with no variants providing alloys even as an option.



Isuzu D-Max Space Cab Arched Deck




The D-Max single cab is priced at Rs 5.89 lakh. The D-Max Space Cab with a flat deck costs Rs 6.09 lakh and the Space Cab with Arched Deck costs Rs 6.99 lakh, all prices ex-showroom Delhi. At this price, Isuzu isn’t making any money, all just to enter the pick-up truck market before it matures. The Isuzu factory will be operational only by 2016 so the company has a contract-manufacturing tie-up with Hindustan Motors till then. Most components except for the tyres, windscreen and loading deck are imported and assembled till the supplier base is built. Isuzu believes that the Indian pick-up truck market will be the largest in the world by 2023 so the Japanese carmaker wanted to enter India early to be present when the sector booms.


For its price, the D-Max proves to be excellent value for money. Moreover, it is powerful, handles decently and looks good as well. What it lacks is a bit more features and safety equipment, especially for the lifestyle oriented variant. Getting a CV license to drive it is another hindrance. Isuzu has got the basics right with the D-Max, now it needs to focus on the details to make the pick-up tick the right boxes.