First drive: Isuzu D-Max 2013 in Dubai

First drive: Isuzu D-Max 2013 in Dubai

It seems like just yesterday when we drove the Isuzu D-Max around a racetrack in Bahrain. In fact, it was just earlier this year. But that was the old model. What we drove this week was the new 2013 model, completely new in almost every possible way. But why would you be interested in a pickup review? Well, we took it around an autocross course as well as offroad.

The 2013 Isuzu D-Max is all new, to the point where it is a fair bit larger in every direction compared to the old one. The fat-fendered new body hides a longer wheelbase that adds cabin room and cargo volume, making it good enough for General Motors to swoop in, stick Chevy badges on it and sell it as their own as well. In fact, Isuzu built diesel engines for several other carmakers at one time or another, including Chevrolet, Honda, Toyota, Mazda. Vauxhall, Holden and even Land Rover, if you believe Wikipedia.

The vehicle we drove at the Bab Al Shams desert resort in Dubai for the GCC launch was the 4-door double-cab version with the top-spec 134 hp 3.0-litre intercooled turbodiesel 4-cylinder engine with 294 Nm of torque. That’s a pretty big four-banger, but the D-Max can also be had with two other 2.5-litre turbodiesel motors.

The D-Max is possibly Isuzu’s most important model in this region, considering they have nothing else in the light-vehicle segment any more. That’s probably why they had a dinner, dances, fireworks and free Google Nexus 7 tabs to highlight it. It’s odd though, that they’ve pared down the local offering to just a single crew-cab body style and three diesel engines for 2013. Maybe it has something to do with Chevrolet selling the rebadged Colorado here.

The D-Max is a good-looking truck, especially in the higher-end “LS” trim, with its chrome front grille, painted front bumper and 16-inch alloys. The 4×4 version has higher ground clearance, and it can even be outfitted with extra plastic cladding to make it look tougher.

The cabin is fairly spacious, with decent ergonomics and available power accessories. Every inch of the interior beyond the cloth seats is hard plastics, although that is standard for this class. Our “top-spec” truck had power windows, electric mirrors, manual a/c, CD stereo and several cup-holders, but other Asian markets get Bluetooth, stability control, automatic climate control and more, none of which will be offered here.

We were first taken to an autocross setup in a parking lot, where we took a 4×2 model around sets of cones and slaloms. This rear-wheel-drive one came with a 5-speed manual, which initially proved to be unwieldy, with its long-throw shifter, vague clutch and ship steering. But it proved to have decent brakes, body control and tyre grip, at least for a work-truck, although admittedly we weren’t driving at anything more than 2nd-gear speeds.

After the tyre-squealing session, we soon moved on to a desert nature reserve for a bit of off-roading. We picked a 5-speed automatic model this time, with 4×4 of course, and loaded with 4 passengers. We weren’t expecting much, given the four-wheel-drive truck’s lazy acceleration, but it proved to be very good on the sand with deflated 245/70 tyres.

Again, admittedly, the offroad route we were taken in wasn’t very challenging, with low-gradient slopes and a few sharp drops, but the way it kept pulling through the soft sand means it should be a good work-site companion, if not for hard dune-bashing. The engine redlines at maybe 4500 rpm and the triptronic holds gears well, but there isn’t enough juice to climb the ridiculous building-sized dunes that some like to take on.

All in all, the Isuzu D-Max seems to be a pretty capable work truck, perfectly good competition for the Toyota Hilux and the Nissan Pickup, and with the benefit of an available automatic transmission too. The lack of body-styles made available in the GCC will limit its appeal for buyers who want a single cab and a big bed, but otherwise the Isuzu seems to have raised the game quite a bit.

For Middle East specs, visit the Isuzu D-Max buyer guide.

What do you think?



  1. the exterior design is beautiful

  2. This could compete well in South Asian markets with Vigo(Hilux).

  3. I love the face and interior,it beats the latest ford ranger and hilux

  4. wonderful machine wish can own one

  5. Isuzu has always been my favourite and this time around with a complete new look design with xenon lamps you guys have just put a broader smile across my face. Gee can’t wait to own one !!!

  6. its looked beauteful but why cars in saudia arabia have only 5 manual gear ?no steering control ?also the mp3 is not integrate

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