2020 Isuzu D-Max LS-U Review: What a Transformation!
Price & Specs8
Interior & Practicality9
Performance & Economy7
Ride & Handling8
Running Costs & Warranty9
What we like:
  • Significantly improved in every aspect
  • Best-in-class safety credentials
  • Modern cabin with good quality and tech
What we didn't like:
  • Engine still not that quiet
  • Not as cheap as it once was
  • Ummm...
8.2DiscoverAuto Rating

We like change in the automotive industry and the 2020 Isuzu D-Max LS-U is an excellent example of why change is good. Formerly rather basic but endlessly reliable, the Isuzu D-Max ute has a loyal fanbase around Australia. But this new model has leapfrogged competitors to offer a significantly more modern and safer package in a bid to challenge the sales leader HiLux and its Ranger rival. The D-Max’s transformation from also-ran to one of the best in class has been nothing short of astounding. Why is the 2020 Isuzu D-Max so great? Read on.

Price & Specs: 8.0/10

The 2020 Isuzu D-Max range starts from $32,200 plus on-road costs, but we tested the LS-U, which sits just below the top-spec X-Terrain. It’s priced from $54,900 plus on-road costs for the six-speed manual – $56,900 for the six-speed auto that we tested – which is less expensive than the $59,440 Ford Ranger XLT 3.2 and the $55,240 Toyota HiLux SR5.

That may seem expensive for a name known to be more on the agricultural side of the ute segment, but the standard equipment is best in class. Standard kit on this LS-U variant includes 18-inch alloy wheels, bi-LED headlights, auto lights and wipers, front fog lights, a leather steering wheel, 9.0-inch colour touch screen with inbuilt navigation, segment-first wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a reversing camera with rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, electric-folding mirrors and even an eight-speaker sound system with speakers in the ceiling.

Is it missing anything? Well it would be nice to see keyless entry and start, an auto-dimming rear mirror (which its Mazda BT-50 twin features), a 360-degree parking camera and an electric driver’s seat added to the spec list but the D-Max is otherwise very well equipped.

But what’s even more impressive about the 2020 Isuzu D-Max is that the whole range – even the cheap tradie-spec cars – come with low- and high-speed auto emergency braking with forward collision warning that works when turning in intersections, misacceleration auto braking, auto high beam, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control on auto variants (manual variants unfortunately only have regular cruise), driver attention monitoring, traffic sign recognition and even eight airbags, including one for the driver’s knee bag and even a front centre one that has helped the D-Max earn a five-star ANCAP safety rating. It’s excellent.

The 2020 Isuzu D-Max LS-U that we tested had some factory accessories fitted to it such as the $3,400 polished bull-bar, a $1,190 snorkel, a $569 roof rack, $270 front/rear weathershields, a $3,190 three-piece tonneau cover, a $950 tow bar and a $820 trailer brake controller. Our test vehicle was also painted in ‘Mercury Silver Metallic’ which comes at a $500 premium. Other metallic paint choices are ‘Basalt Black’, ‘Magnetic Red’, ‘Cobalt Blue’, ‘Obsidian Grey’ and ‘Marble White Pearl’. The only standard colour choice is ‘Mineral White’.

Performance & Economy: 7.0/10

Standard in all 2020 Isuzu D-Max models is an updated 140kW/450Nm 3.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder turbo diesel engine – these aren’t class-leading figures, but aren’t too far behind the 150kW/500Nm Toyota HiLux. The new D-Max’s grunt also lasts much longer across the rev range than the previous model – peak power hits at 1,600rpm and peak torque lasts from 1,600-3,000rpm.

As with most other ute rivals, transmission options for the 2020 Isuzu D-Max LS-U include either a standard six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic – we drove the auto and it was smooth and effortless, and a big improvement on the previous generation’s dopey gearbox. The braked towing capacity of the D-Max is 3,500kg, which is identical to the Toyota HiLux, Nissan Navara and Ford Ranger – the Mitsubishi Triton can only tow 3,100kg.

The engine itself isn’t an all-new unit, instead it’s a reworked version of the engine in the previous model. It’s definitely stronger than before, and it’s also quieter as well though it still be somewhat vocal when accelerating hard – we wish it had a diesel V6 like the Volkswagen Amarok, though unfortunately Isuzu doesn’t have access to a huge parts bin. Some engine noise aside, the D-Max’s driving experience is pretty quiet – road noise is kept to low levels, and at cruising speed it’s excellent.

Isuzu claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 8.0L/100km and in our time with the D-Max, we achieved 8.5L/100km in a range of driving, which is pretty impressive – one highway run even hit the high sixes! Combine that with the 76L fuel tank and a cruising range of more than 1,000km is possible.

Ride & Handling: 8.0/10

While the 2020 Isuzu D-Max’s engine was carried over in heavily revised form from the previous model, the chassis is all-new and you can really tell. It’s much more solid than before, and its ride quality is much improved as well – most utes can get choppy unloaded, but the D-Max remains compliant.

The steering of the new D-Max is also a world away from the heavy system of the previous model – it’s far easier to drive at lower speeds because of this. The steering itself is also reasonably direct too, and gives more confidence than a lot of utes because you feel more of what’s going on. Of course, no ute this side of a V8 Commodore will handle like a sports car, but the 2020 Isuzu D-Max is much less woolly than rivals.

Interior & Practicality: 9.0/10

While the driving experienced has been improved, the cabin of the 2020 Isuzu D-Max is night and day compared with the previous model. Gone is the plasticky, basic and unrefined cabin and in its place is a much more car like, much more upmarket space that’s much more business owner than apprentice.

The attention to detail is one of the things that grabs your attention first – the leather wrapped steering wheel is one of the first things you touch and it feels great in hand, the door handles aren’t just cheap plastic, the dashboard materials are stitched and there’s even a soft touch dashboard. The 9.0-inch touch screen has great colour and offers great functionality. The menus are easy to navigate and the short cut buttons are easy to use.

Centre of the cabin is a new 9.0-inch touchscreen that features inbuilt nav, digital radio and even wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring. It’s easy to use once you’re used to it, with large touch icons to make it easy to use at speed – though no volume knob is annoying and it would be nice if the brightness sensor was based off outside light and not whether the headlights are on or not.

Another big improvement for the 2020 Isuzu D-Max are the seats – unlike the previous model, they actually have pretty excellent lateral support and in this LS-U, there’s electric lumbar adjustment, though that’s it. It’s a practical space too, which more than adequate storage for trinkets and even the previous model’s excellent air vent-mounted sliding cup holders have been transferred.

The rear seats also offer a good amount of support and the rear leg room is more than adequate for taller passengers – they also get rear air vents, a coat hook and a single USB-A port to charge devices. Choose the LS-U or the X-Terrain above it and you also get roof-mounted speakers!

The tray of the 2020 Isuzu D-Max LS-U offers good functionality with four cargo tie downs and a tub-liner. The tray is 1,570mm long at floor height, 1,530mm wide (but between the wheel arches 1,122mm) and 490mm deep.

Running Costs & Warranty: 9.0/10

The 2020 Isuzu D-Max LS-U comes with a six-year/150,000km warranty, as well as seven years of roadside assistance, which is better than the five year warranties offered on the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger – though not as good as the recent 10-year warranty with the Mitsubishi Triton.

The D-Max also comes with seven years of capped price servicing and intervals of once yearly or every 15,000km. On average over the seven years you pay $480 a service and over seven years, it costs $3,373.

2020 Isuzu D-Max LS-U DiscoverAuto Rating: 8.2/10

Without a doubt, 2020’s most improved product goes to the Isuzu D-Max. Previously unrefined and a bit basic, the new model continues the name’s ruggedness and reliability and adds a big dose of modernity and technology to create, in our opinion, a class-leading ute. It’s definitely not as cheap as it once was, but it’s also still less expensive than the top-selling HiLux and Ranger.

The 2020 Isuzu D-Max is also exceptionally safe with a full suite of safety tech that you don’t find on cars costing double the price – and the whole D-Max range comes with the full suite as well. Combine that with comfortable driving manners, good fuel consumption and an excellent warranty and we think you’ll agree that there are very little downsides to the new generation D-Max. Best in class? We certainly think so.

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