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Road test: The Isuzu D-Max 3.0 X-Rider

Isuzu D-max bakkie

With their dual-purpose role as utility and leisure vehicles, double-cab bakkies are becoming increasingly sophisticated. For some, that is an issue. In South Africa, with its indifferent fuel quality and imperfect roads, the appeal of an ‘old-school’ bakkie is inarguable. And Isuzu’s D-Max 3.0 X-Rider auto, delivers exactly that.

A generation older than its rivals, the D-Max 3.0 X-Rider is a bakkie that is technically beyond its product lifecycle. In most other global markets, Isuzu already markets the newer third-generation D-Max, but South African followers of the Japanese bakkie brand will have to wait until next year.

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It might no longer be on-trend in terms of the latest engineering and features, but that could be part of this D-Max 3.0 X-Rider’s appeal. If you look beyond the wild bumpers and gloriously impractical black wheels, this Isuzu double-cab is quite compact.

With Toyota’s Hilux and the Ford Ranger having grown to huge exterior dimensions, Isuzu’s D-Max 3.0 X-Rider feels a lot more manageable when you are navigating an underground parking garage.

It is noisier than any Hilux or Ranger inside, with less sound insulation around the cabin. And the 3-litre turbodiesel engine feels a touch tardier in response. It boosts 130kW and 380Nm, which are fair numbers, but both Hilux and Ranger’s lead turbodiesel engines offer significantly more torque, at 500Nm.

The D-Max 3.0 X-Rider’s six-speed automatic transmission isn’t nearly as fluid in its shifting, or generous in balancing speed and fuel-economy, as is the case with a Ford Ranger’s ten-speed. But it compared favourably with the Hilux’s six-speed option.

So it is noisier and slower than its double-cab rivals from Ford and Toyota. But does that make the D-Max 3.0 X-Rider irrelevant? Not really.

Ride quality of the Isuzu D-Max 3.0 X-Rider

Isuzu has a proven and deserved reputation for durability and the D-Max 3.0 X-Rider’s ride quality is excellent.

For a bakkie with such an aged design, it feels remarkably stable and predictable when rolling over the most corrugated gravel road surfaces.

This is a credit to Isuzu’s South African engineering team, based in the Eastern Cape, where they develop marginal suspension tuning upgrades, tailored to local conditions.

Priced at R578 700, the D-Max 3.0 X-Rider auto will please committed Isuzu fans.

But it is unlikely to conquer new customers from rival bakkie brands. That said, this 3-litre Isuzu double-cab is quite a bit cheaper than the most affordable 2.8-litre Hilux or 2-litre bi-turbo Ranger.

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