The ute that changed my mind about utes

17 minutes, 8 seconds Read

The right mix of practical and comfortable, with off-road skills and a dependable behind-the-wheel feel, this top-spec Isuzu D-Max won me over. 

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What we love
  • Sharp drive-away pricing, excellent value
  • Practical, comfortable cabin 
  • Capable and consistent both off-road and when towing
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What we don’t
  • Infotainment system is basic and patchy
  • Slow to get moving from a standstill
  • Driver assistance tech could be improved

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2024 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain

I’m not a ute person and I’m okay with that. I’ve said it before, but as an inner-city dweller with a young family, a short commute and no need to tow or go off-road, dual-cab utes don’t really make sense for me. 

Having said that, these cars are increasingly popping up in the inner city or as family haulers, so I’ve made a few forays into the world of utes over the past 12 months – with varied results. 

I found the Toyota HiLux SR5 eminently practical and capable, but a little too bare-bones for my tastes. 

Meanwhile, the petrol-powered Volkswagen Amarok Aventura had a seriously luxe interior, but was thirsty for fuel, with a fairly prohibitive price point.

Finally, the Jeep Gladiator certainly looked cool, but was far too long for most car parks and a little too look-at-me. 

Where was the right ute for me? And did such a thing even exist?

As it turns out, a fortuitous week in the Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain answered plenty of my questions – and then some.

How much is an Isuzu D-Max?

The dual-cab Isuzu D-Max range kicks off from as little as $31,990 drive-away for the fleet-friendly 4x 2single-cab model. The dual-cab range starts from $42,200 plus-on-road costs for the two-wheel drive SX variant with 1.9-litre turbo diesel engine, or $50,200 with 4×4.

At the top end of the D-Max range is the X-Terrain I’m testing here, which has a 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine and is priced from $67,500 plus on-road costs.

At the time of writing, Isuzu is running a national drive-away deal of $64,990 for the D-Max X-Terrain, making it surprisingly affordable as far as flagship dual-cab utes go. 

Naturally, because it’s a ute, my test car was kitted out with plenty of accessories including a $215 tow bar tongue, a $393 12-pin plug, a $896 electronic brake controller and $215 rubber floor mats.

Then there’s the $650 premium paint in the fetching shade of Neptune Blue, plus stamp duty payable on the list price of those accessories of $86, bringing the total as-tested price to roughly $67,435 drive-away. 

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I’m not saying that’s cheap, but it’s surprisingly good value for a big, solid dual-cab ute with all the trimmings. 

Given the last ute I drove before the D-Max was the flagship petrol-powered Volkswagen Amarok Aventura – which was priced at $81,479 as-tested – the D-Max felt like a bit of a bargain by comparison. 

The D-Max’s sharp drive-away pricing also undercuts another key rival – the diesel-powered, top-spec Toyota HiLux Rogue, which is priced from $70,760 before on-road costs. 

Under the bonnet of the D-Max X-Terrain is a 3.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel engine with peak power of 140kW and peak torque of 450Nm. Power is delivered to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

Key details 2024 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain
Price $67,500 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Neptune Blue
Options Premium paint – $650
Tow bar tongue – $215
12-pin plug – $393
Electronic brake controller – $896
Rubber floor mats – $215
Price as tested $69,869 plus on-road costs
Drive-away price $67,445 (national drive-away deal)
Rivals Toyota HiLux | Mazda BT-50 | Ford Ranger

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How big is an Isuzu D-Max?

The Isuzu D-Max shares most of its key dimensions with the majority of other dual-cab rivals, with only a few millimetres separating it from rivals like the Toyota HiLux and Mazda BT-50.

The side steps offered as standard on the X-Terrain variant meant even my two-and-a-half-year-old was able to get into the car with ease.

On the inside, the D-Max does a nice job of balancing pragmatism with comfort.

Head and elbow room are ample in the front and back, and the elevated driving position gave me good all-round visibility and made me confident when manoeuvring – even in a larger car. 

I loved the optional rubber floor mats, particularly as a parent of a toddler during a wet and muddy week in Melbourne. 

The storage options are also sizable – with deep cupholders and large bottle holders in the door, plus an extra lidded storage bin at the top of the dash and a good, old-fashioned sunglasses compartment up near the rear-vision mirror. 

The front seats are leather-accented and heated, and the steering wheel is also leather-wrapped, meaning the touchpoints feel surprisingly elevated despite the utilitarian design. The driver’s seat is also electrically adjustable. 

The only omission from my perspective was a wireless phone charger. 

In the back seat, there’s just enough room for three passengers across, but it’s better suited to two adults at a time. There’s good leg room, but it can be impeded by having taller drivers in the front, while head room is solid.

Obviously, installing a child seat cuts into some of the back seat space – taking up more than a third of the rear bench, which isn’t all that wide to begin with.

As for the all-important tray, the D-Max has a payload of 925kg, which is in line with its key rivals. 

I’ll admit, I came nowhere close to using even 100kg of this payload and instead filled the tray with supermarket shopping, a pram, and some small items from my husband’s overexcited outing to Bunnings Warehouse.

Given smaller items are prone to rolling around in the tray, it’s best to have some ratchet straps or occy straps handy so you’re not driving around to a rhythmic clunking noise. 

One thing I appreciated was the inclusion of the standard tray cover – something I sorely missed on a HiLux I reviewed.

On the D-Max X-Terrain, this rolling tray cover is operated manually and must be locked separately to the tailgate with a physical key. 

This proved a bit of a bother having to remember to lock both the tailgate and the tray cover, and the lock functions on both proved a bit temperamental – taking some brute force to lock, unlock, open and shut. 

It made me appreciate the effortlessness of the electronic, remote-controlled tray cover on my swanky Amarok Aventura – but it certainly wasn’t a deal-breaker. I can even hear ute owners groaning as they read my complaints about having a manual tray cover. What can I say? I like the finer things. 

2024 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain
Seats Five
Length 5303mm
Width 1880mm
Height 1810mm
Wheelbase 3125mm

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Does the Isuzu D-Max have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?

I wouldn’t say infotainment is the D-Max’s strong suit, but it does enough to feel relatively current.

There’s wireless Apple CarPlay as standard, but I found the pairing patchy – it drops out every time you drive under a toll gate and takes roughly a minute to reconnect, plus it’s slow to get started when you turn the car on. I also received feedback that the sound quality of phone calls was terrible.

You can work around this with backup wired connectivity, and Android Auto connection is via a plug-in connection too.

The 9.0-inch touchscreen is bigger than the 7.0-inch unit offered on lower grades, but it still feels small by today’s standards. It was also easily compromised on sunny days, with the glare meaning things like the reverse camera were hard to see. 

I loved the physical buttons and dials for managing the dual-zone climate control – because they were intuitive to use – as well as the physical shortcut buttons to get to the home screen and navigation screen. 

Finally, the X-Terrain grade scores an additional two speakers in its sound system compared with lower grades – boasting an eight-speaker sound system with roof-mounted speakers to provide more surround sound. I personally didn’t notice a huge difference, but the audio quality was perfectly fine.

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Is the Isuzu D-Max a safe car?

The Isuzu D-Max received five stars from ANCAP when it was safety-tested in 2022. 

It scored 86 per cent for adult occupant protection, and even better for child occupant protection – receiving an 89 per cent score in that testing metric. 

The D-Max received 84 per cent for the safety assist category, which is a measure of its active safety features, and scored lowest for vulnerable road user protection at just 69 per cent. 

This was due to some marginal or poor results when it came to the impact of the D-Max’s bonnet on pedestrians in a collision, as well as testing of the AEB system’s ability to detect cyclists and pedestrians. 

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What safety technology does the Isuzu D-Max have?

No matter what kind of D-Max dual-cab you buy, standard safety equipment is very strong and leaves little lacking.

Standard kit across the range includes adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, autonomous emergency braking with turn assist, intelligent speed limiter, traffic sign recognition, a reverse camera, blind-spot monitoring and an extensive lane-support system (to name a few). 

Over and above this standard kit, the X-Terrain is the only D-Max model to offer front parking sensors, in addition to rear sensors also found on LS-M, LS-U, and LS-U+ grades – an absolute lifesaver in city driving. 

As someone who parallel parks a lot, I found the bonnet of the D-Max so big it can be hard to judge where it ends and another car begins, particularly when the other car is much smaller than the D-Max. 

The reverse camera is pretty basic, but it was enough for straightforward manoeuvring. Although, I would always prefer a 360-degree camera on a car of this size. 

Finally, I found the lane-keep system pretty aggressive in its efforts to budge you back between the lines, which could prove dangerous if it’s inaccurate. 

On a couple of occasions, I found it failed to detect a change in lane layout – like one lane splitting into two or merging into one – and tried to tug me in the wrong direction. 

All D-Max variants have a full-size steel spare wheel that’s stowed under the tray, like most utes. 

As part of my testing, I actually had to change a tyre on the D-Max for a how-to video and found the location of the spare added a layer of difficulty. 

I also didn’t feel particularly safe lying on the ground and winding the jack to lower the spare from under the car, and I can’t imagine doing this while on the side of a road in an emergency. 

Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) Yes Includes turn assist and vulnerable road user protection
Adaptive Cruise Control Yes Includes stop-and-go functionality
Blind Spot Alert Yes Alert function
Rear Cross-Traffic Alert Yes Alert function
Lane Assistance Yes Includes lane-departure warning, lane-departure prevention, lane-keep assist
Road Sign Recognition Yes Includes active speed limiter
Driver Attention Warning Yes Includes fatigue monitoring
Cameras & Sensors Yes Front and rear sensors, reverse camera

How much does the Isuzu D-Max cost to run?

Isuzu offers seven years of capped-price servicing on the Isuzu D-Max – many of its rivals, like the Mazda BT-50, only offer capped-price servicing for five years. 

Service intervals are set every 12 months or 15,000km and vary in price between $445 at its cheapest to $695 for the 36-month check. 

Over the course of seven years, you’ll spend a total of $3955 at the service centre. 

Isuzu also has a six-year, 150,000km warranty and 13 months of free roadside assistance, which will renew for another 13 months every time you service your car through an Isuzu ute dealer – for up to a maximum of seven years. 

That warranty term is unusually long in terms of years – given most rivals cap it at five years, not six – but drivers who regularly travel long distances might find themselves hamstrung by the 150,000km cap (for comparison, Mazda has no kilometre limit on its five-year BT-50 warranty). 

The Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain will cost around $2185 to insure annually, according to a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male living in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.

At a glance 2024 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain
Warranty Six years, 150,000km
Service intervals 12 months or 15,000km
Servicing costs $1595 (3 years)
$2555 (5 years)
$3955 (7 years)

Is the Isuzu D-Max fuel-efficient?

While refinement and polish aren’t exactly a diesel engine’s strong suits, fuel economy is where you really start to see benefits.

My week of driving skewed urban, with a smatter of freeway driving, some off-roading and plenty of idling in traffic. 

I was stunned at the end of the week to see an average fuel consumption of 9.7 litres per 100 kilometres – I’ve seen higher in small SUVs or thirsty sedans. 

Yes, that’s higher than Isuzu’s combined claim of 8.0L/100km, but less than its urban claim of 9.8L/100km and, in fairness, my driving was carried out mostly in the inner city.

Despite seven days of solid driving, I only managed to burn through half of the D-Max’s 76-litre fuel tank. 

Unfortunately, the trade-off of a diesel engine and a big car is substantial CO2 emissions of 207g/km, which is more than double that of a Toyota Corolla hybrid. 

Fuel efficiency 2024 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain
Fuel cons. (claimed) 8.0L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 9.7L/100km
Fuel type Diesel
Fuel tank size 76L

What is the Isuzu D-Max like to drive?

The D-Max has all the hallmarks of a dual-cab ute on the road. It’s heavy, slow to get moving, and can feel a bit jittery on less-than-perfect urban surfaces or speed bumps.

It feels and sounds like there’s a diesel engine under the bonnet and refinement isn’t a highlight, but I still appreciated the grunt available once I figured out how to alter my driving style on the commute. 

I found I had to dramatically adjust my approach to things like roundabouts, right turns or overtaking on city roads, as the D-Max felt sluggish from a standstill and only hit its stride once it was up above 50km/h. 

This made pulling out into traffic or trying to quickly change lanes a much slower process than it typically is in my daily driver. 

The six-speed automatic transmission slides through gears imperceptibly and is smooth, if a little sleepy.

The D-Max is no urban champion, but it’s not meant to be – and what it lacks in pep and dynamics, it makes up for by being consistent, comfortable and capable. 

It trundles happily around town, with a steering feel that’s well matched to its powertrain – nicely weighted without erring too heavy, and with input that’s easy to gauge even around tight corners. 

Visibility is ample, and the ground clearance, elevated ride height and big chunky wheels can reduce some of the difficulty when parking this beast on cramped inner-city streets. 

At freeway speeds, it cruises smoothly along and the active cruise control works well. I did, however, notice serious wind noise around the huge side mirrors and had to crank the sound system up a few notches in order to hear my music over the general road and tyre noise. 

Where I really began to appreciate the D-Max’s abilities was when I had the opportunity to take it towing and off-road.

Firstly, towing was a breeze – I barely felt the weight of a loaded car trailer and it had very little impact on the D-Max’s performance and handling. 

Tackling an off-road loop with steep hills, several sections under deep water, and thick mud, the D-Max excelled. 

I didn’t even take it out of 2H mode and was stunned by how effortlessly it strolled down hills, crested muddy inclines without any wheel slip, and waded through water without difficulty. 

I didn’t hit a single button (except to turn the parking sensors off) and the car did the hard work for me. 

I’ll admit I’m an off-roading novice, but it’s the safest and most confident I’ve felt in a car when managing difficult terrain. 

Key details 2024 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain
Engine 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power 140kW @ 3600rpm
Torque 450Nm @ 1600–2600rpm
Drive type Four-wheel drive
Transmission 6-speed torque converter automatic
Power-to-weight ratio 64.4kW/t
Weight (kerb) 2175kg
Spare tyre type Full-size
Payload 925kg
Tow rating 3500kg braked
750kg unbraked
Turning circle 12.5m

How much weight can an Isuzu D-Max tow?

The D-Max X-Terrain offers 3500kg of braked towing capacity and 750kg of unbraked towing capacity.

Hitching a trailer was straightforward thanks to a factory-fitted tow bar receiver offered as standard on the X-Terrain, but while the towbar basics are included you’ll need to add an optional $215 tow bar tongue, $393 12-pin plug and $896 electronic brake controller before you hitch up and hit the road. 

I loaded a car trailer with a Japanese kei van (don’t ask), hooked it up to the D-Max, hauled it around a racetrack and found the D-Max’s handling, dynamics and performance were virtually unchanged.

The D-Max X-Terrain’s payload is 925kg – it’s worth noting that’s a fair bit less than entry-level D-Max dual-cab grades, which offer payloads above one tonne.

Should I buy an Isuzu D-Max?

After my week with the Isuzu D-Max, I became pretty attached to my “big blue car”, as my son affectionately called it.

Despite my inner-city lifestyle, it proved a sturdy and relatively economical companion around town – if a little hard to park at times – with a practical interior well-suited to our little family of three. 

Given the price, I also thought the D-Max X-Terrain was well-equipped, offering a good mix of safety and convenience factors with no glaring omissions. 

It’s the perfect middle ground for families who need a bit of comfort and flexibility, but without compromising on the true purpose of a 4×4 ute: to carry different loads and tackle varied terrain when required. 

As an off-roading novice with no real need for a ute, to me the D-Max served as an approachable and enjoyable entry point into the dual-cab market.

And to all the staunch ute lovers out there, I’ll happily say: I think I get it now.

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How do I buy an Isuzu D-Max? The next steps.

If you’re regularly towing, the Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain is a no-brainer – with towing-specific equipment as standard, as well as a strong list of safety, technology, convenience and driver assistance features.

The drive-away pricing offer available at the time of writing only serves to sweeten the deal. It makes the X-Terrain more affordable than lower-spec models.

An Isuzu spokesperson told Drive that D-Max X-Terrain availability “varies from dealer to dealer, with some dealers with vehicles available for immediate delivery and others that would be able to order in”.

“Customers interested in a 23MY D-Max X-Terrain are encouraged to contact their local Isuzu UTE Dealership, where they will be advised on a delivery ETA. To locate their local Dealer from our network of over 150 sites nationwide,” the spokesperson added.

Check the Isuzu website for stock of your preferred D-Max variant. You can also find used Isuzu D-Max models listed at Drive Cars For Sale. You can find your nearest Isuzu dealer via this link.

If you want to stay updated with everything that’s happened to this car since our review, you’ll find all the latest news here.

Ratings Breakdown

2023 Isuzu D-MAX X-TERRAIN Utility Crew Cab

7.4/ 10

Performance

Safety Technology

Ride Quality

Infotainment & Connectivity

Handling & Dynamics

Energy Efficiency

Driver Technology

Value for Money

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Fit for Purpose

Susannah Guthrie has been a journalist for over a decade, covering everything from world news to fashion, entertainment, health and now cars. Having previously worked across titles like The New Daily, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, People Magazine and Cosmopolitan, Susannah now relishes testing family cars with the help of her husband and two-year-old son.

Read more about Susannah GuthrieLinkIcon

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