Who cares about pick-ups apart from farmers and traders?
Why would anyone, other than a farmer or a tradesman, want to be transported in a truck with a noisy engine and a ride like a bucking bronco?
Think again. The pick-up market has gone upmarket and is no longer just for scrambling across boggy fields or hauling building rubble. The young and the middle aged, or life stylers as the industry calls them, are spending £40,000 even £50,000 on jazzed up 4x4s to take them on their adventures.
The pick up is not as comfortable as an SUV but with a double cab and hard top for the load area you want for nothing sharing all the luxury trappings of a plush sports utility.
The market has had a bumpy ride over the last couple of years with key players pulling out, unwilling to pay fines for failing to meet the Government’s emissions regulations. For the four left that means a bigger slice of the pick-up cake which is music to the ears of smaller companies like Isuzu. Its reputation is built on rugged, go anywhere, do any job off roaders, but it saw how the market was moving and expanded the D-Max range to broaden its appeal.
It is still a way behind leaders Ford and Toyota on popularity but expects to have doubled sales by 2025 to 10,000 a year. The surge in demand is being fuelled by the top end V-Cross lifestyle model which is the best selling D-Max.
Not that Isuzu has forgotten about its bread and butter market. The Utility range is for farmers and tradesmen and compared with the V-Cross has been stripped down although not to the bare bones. It is competitively priced at £25,792 for a single cab two wheel drive with the all wheel drive coming in at £28,192.
Since its launch in 2012 the Utility has been the bedrock of the range and has proved its worth winning a string of 4×4 awards.
It comes with a strong CV capable of towing 3.5 tonnes and carrying 1.120 tonnes helped along by a capable 1.9 litre turbo diesel although it is down on power compared with its main rivals. I didn’t get to tow that sort of weight, or fill the load area, but it felt capable. The engine note is agricultural, but that is par for the course with a four cylinder engine in a pick-up.
Running costs are key when the vehicle becomes a business proposition and here D-Max is strong. My eyebrows raised when I noticed the second trip computer had recorded 40mpg for the last 2734 miles. Granted, the miles would have been covered by motoring writers not farmers towing horse boxes and the like but that is impressive and during my week’s motoring D-Max never dropped below 36mpg easily beating the official figure.
Isuzu has not been tempted to go with a bigger, more powerful engine option like the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux and that is what keeps it keenly priced, particularly if the flashy V-Cross model is on the shopping list.
Base model or not the Utility comes with an impressive list of standard kit that includes all round electric windows, auto dipping headlights and automatic wipers, cruise control and a reasonable amount of driver safety features including an emergency call button.
There is no reversing camera but cross traffic alert warns of approaching traffic when pulling out of a parking space.
The only irritation is the radio which is old fashioned by today’s standards and proved a real handful to fathom. It’s DAB but the signal comes in from a roof aerial from the bygone days and is weak, often dropping out and with a limited station reach. It redeemed itself with a CD player, I can’t remember the last time I saw one in a car.
Even though the bread and butter end of the market is down 40 per cent – farmers and tradesmen are hanging on to their 4x4s longer as they battle rising costs – demand for D-Max is outstripping supply with fleet sales up 50 per cent.
Isuzu bosses take the view that when the market recovers there will not be so many pick ups around to share the spoils. Unfortunately Ford, Toyota and Ssangyong will have the same thought.
D-Max Utility cab
1.9 litre diesel 6sp manual; 162bhp
0-62mph 12.7secs; 112mph
Towing: 3.5 tonne
Insurance group 50