- Class-leading safety kit
- Satisfying manual gearbox
- Wireless Apple CarPlay
- Manual variants miss out on radar cruise control
- Not as cheap as it once was
- Engine is still a little vocal
While the past decade has seen the continual rise of SUVs in Australia, utes have been quietly selling strongly too – the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger, for example, have been regularly at the top of the sales charts for years. And while so many are bought for their dual purpose work and play abilities, many are shifted simply as work utes for tradies. We’re big fans of the 2020 Isuzu D-Max that we tested recently in almost-top spec LS-U dual-cab guise, but what about the entry level tradie special? We tested the base model 2020 Isuzu D-Max SX to see if it can live up to the high notes set by its more expensive sibling.
Price & Specs: 9.0/10
The 2020 Isuzu D-Max SX is one of the best equipped base model ‘tradie spec’ utes on the market at the moment – and yet it’s also one of the most affordable as well. Since the new D-Max has been on sale, the manual 2020 Isuzu D-Max SX has been advertised at $29,990 drive away for both private buyers and ABN holders – this is not only less than the $32,990 plus on-road costs RRP of the car, but it almost matches the RRP of the entry level Ford Ranger as well (the Ford will be more drive away though). The Mitsubishi Triton can be had from $22,490 plus on-road costs, though.
Yet unlike those entry level utes, the 2020 Isuzu D-Max SX comes absolutely loaded with standard equipment, with a four-speaker stereo system, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cruise control, auto lights and wipers, air conditioning, electric windows and mirrors, a very comprehensive trip computer and a full-size spare wheel.
While that may not sound luxurious, the safety kit on offer beggars belief with high- and low-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian warning, lane departure warning, front and rear cross traffic alert, blind -spot monitoring, driver attention detection, speed sign recognition and automatic high beam. If you opt for the automatic gearbox you also gain radar cruise control. The D-Max also comes with eight airbags, including one for the driver’s knee and even a front centre unit that helped the D-Max earn a five-star ANCAP safety rating on strict new criteria.
The 2020 Isuzu D-Max LS-U that we tested had some factory accessories fitted to it such as the tow bar with a 12 pin plug, electronic brake controller, rubber mat set, heavy duty alloy tray, side rear tool box and rear mount water tank. These additions totalled $3,074 and the drive-away price as seen here would be $33,064.
Performance & Economy: 8.0/10
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.
Our 2020 Isuzu D-Max SX test vehicle had the standard six-speed manual transmission which was smooth and the clutch was very easy to get used to – though a longer first gear would be nice. A smooth six-speed automatic is a $2,000 option.
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. 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.
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 mid sixes! Combine that with the 76L fuel tank and a cruising range of around 1,000km is possible, which is far better than the entry-level 2.4-litre petrol Mitsubishi Triton.
Ride & Handling: 8.0/10
The 2020 Isuzu D-Max SX has an all new chassis. 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 mostly compliant.
The steering of the new D-Max is also much improved over the previous model – it’s far easier to drive at lower speeds thanks to it’s lighter steering. 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.
Interior & Practicality: 8.0/10
This is where you really see the improvements in the updated 2020 Isuzu D-Max SX. The materials used in the cabin are much improved over the previous model and the tech has been updated as well.
Centre of the cabin is a new 7.0-inch touchscreen that even features 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.
The 2020 Isuzu D-Max SX’s cabin is an otherwise fairly basic place to spend time but it’s well built and offers reasonable storage as well, including a large tray for your phone and wallet ahead of the gearbox. Seat comfort is good as well – much better than the flat seats of the old model.
The tray as seen on out test 2020 Isuzu D-Max SX cab-chassis has a payload capacity of 1087kg with the dimensions of the tray having a length of 2,550mm and a width of 1,777mm.
Running Costs & Warranty: 9.0/10
The 2020 Isuzu D-Max SX 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 offered 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 SX DiscoverAuto Rating: 8.2
After a thorough refresh catapulted the higher-grade Isuzu D-Max to stardom in the ute segment, can the entry-level SX single cab reach the same highs? We think so, as the excellent engineering reaches to even the cheapest part of the 2020 Isuzu D-Max range. The D-Max is just so thoroughly engineered, that it hardly feels like a ute at all. Think of it as the perfect work companion.
Yes, the SX doesn’t have the luxury features of the X-Terrain, but unlike almost every other car on the market, the D-Max’s extensive standard safety kit (and therefore its new five-star ANCAP safety rating) also features on the entry-level car. Add in new tech such as wireless Apple CarPlay, an updated 3.0-litre engine and a pleasant driving experience and we think the 2020 Isuzu D-Max SX is still a best-in-class proposition.