First drive: 2012 Isuzu D-Max at Bahrain F1 Circuit

First drive: 2012 Isuzu D-Max at Bahrain F1 Circuit

It isn’t often that we get to fly to other countries to test-drive a car. So it was doubly interesting that our only fully-sponsored foreign trip of the year involves the 2012 Isuzu D-Max pickup truck. At the Bahrain Formula 1 circuit no less.

The event was held to showcase its 2012 D-Max. A day before, a diesel-powered Isuzu had set off from Oman, at 8 pm local time, for what they dubbed the “GCC One Tank Challenge”, a 1,100 km trip through five GCC countries, including Oman, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and finally Bahrain, concluding at the Bahrain International Circuit by around 3 pm. The entire trip was done on a single tank of diesel. We’re told the pickup averaged about 6.5 litres/100 km, driving at 80 kph most of the time.

We were there for its arrival at the track. After the ceremonies, we were given a chance to drive the Isuzu D-Max around a section of the track. Ironically, I was the only one from the UAE contingent who stayed back to do so, as the rest of the journalists chose to go back to the Sofitel luxury hotel with their freebie Blackberrys, both being media perks for coming to the event.

The Thai-built Isuzu D-Max is a typical pickup, available in regular-cab, flat-deck and crew-cab variants. Unchanged for an entire decade, it received only a minor facelift for 2010, although an all-new model is coming soon. The basic design is apparently so solid that Chevrolet even sticks their own badge on it and calls it their own in many markets. According to the brochure, engine choices include a 126 hp 2.4-litre petrol 4-cylinder with 207 Nm of torque, a 78 hp 2.5-litre turbodiesel 4-cylinder with 176 Nm, and a 134 hp 3.0-litre turbodiesel 4-cylinder with 280 Nm, all with a 5-speed manual. Incidentally, the turbodiesel model can be had with a 4-speed automatic as well, the latter bumping up the torque to 294 Nm. All can be had in either two-wheel-drive form, or four-wheel-drive with low-range. None of the specs are particularly impressive for what are supposed to be turbocharged diesel motors, and we hear other markets get more powerful and modern engines.

The basic models are simple affairs, with unpainted bumpers and steel wheels, but the top-spec model can be outfitted with a chrome grille, alloy wheels, keyless entry, fog lamps, power windows, CD stereo, dual airbags, ABS with EBD, indicators in the mirrors, and even two-tone upholstery.

I drove a high-spec crew-cab model, with four doors, alloy wheels and an instructor in the passenger seat. The interesting part was it turned out to be a turbodiesel model with a 5-speed manual transmission, both rarities when it comes to test vehicles, although fairly common in the working world.

It takes off with a decent kick, as could be expected of any turbodiesel. But of course, beyond that there isn’t much in the way of speed. We did hit around 140 kph on certain straights, though we didn’t really push it around the corners. The body roll on curves isn’t as much as you’d expect from something like a truck, likely to keep loads stable when cornering. But the best part of it was the manual gearbox. The gear-change throws are long, but there’s no notchiness in the shifts. With its light clutch action and soft shifter, this is the kind of vehicle that can be driven all day in traffic without a left-leg ache.

We can’t really say if the Isuzu D-Max is any better than the Toyota Hilux, the Ford Ranger or the Nissan Navara. Based on engine specs alone, the GCC-spec Isuzu falls behind, but if it is priced well below the competition, it shouldn’t have any problems taking a chunk of the commercial market, especially with the fuel economy it is capable of.

What do you think?



  1. Isuzu diesel engine can last forever its that awesome.

  2. lol @ the other uae journalists not even bothering to show up for the test drive. shows their true character. they were there just cause its free.

  3. yep power seems to be low.

    • Yep, power does seem to be low… But it’s a damn good thing you don’t need power in Diesel engines… Diesels are built for the torque, towing ability’s, and fuel mileage. NOT speed.

  4. i want bye new car ISUZU dmax but i didint get . i work in dubai and here more expensive (59000 2 doors)

  5. I wish they would sell a this truck or something similar in the United States! Because if you want to buy a pick-up truck with a Diesel engine more than likely you are going to be paying $50,000 – $65,000 for a brand new one. And not only that but where I’m from I have never seen a Diesel truck smaller than a 3/4 Ton full size truck. And I just think it would be cool to have a smaller sized truck with a good Diesel engine.

  6. Isusu dmax is the most beautiful and also my favorite car in z world

  7. Isuzu Dmax diesel engine is the strong car and also it is comfortable

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