Monday, August 12, 2013

Used Car Review - Isuzu D-Max (2003-2013)

With just months before the reveal of the next generation model, Myk Belmonte evaluates the outgoing model.

2003-2013 Isuzu D-Max

In the automotive world, Isuzu has some links with General Motors. Especially some Isuzu vehicles are sold as Chevrolets, Buicks, GMCs, Holdens, or GEOs (a defunct brand of GM that targeted first time and youth buyers), this ensured Isuzu's presence at and the same time, fill the void of other brands by badge engineering which involved Suzuki and Subaru previously. The most important role of Isuzu is supplying manufacturers with diesel engines for their own vehicles.

One popular vehicle that Isuzu made with a corresponding GM equivalent is the D-Max pickup truck. Remember this, there is one version being sold in the rest of the world (rebadged version) while another being marketed in the US as the Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon/Isuzu i-Series but uses the same platform but not related to the main D-Max. Apart from the Isuzu badge, it is sold as a Chevrolet, and Holden around the world except for the United States.

Replacing the aging Fuego, the D-Max was first made available in late 2003 and it featured the very first for the category. Push button 4x4 hubs? Present, with others following suit in the way of knobs and buttons. While at this time the second generation model will be launched locally, the current one is still available and there are plans of keeping the older body for a period of time. Variants include the LT (added in 2007, the base model with a 4WD model added in 2009), LX, LS (either in two or four wheel drive), and the LS Boondock available as a special edition model.

Value and Costs
This pickup truck can pickup (pun not intended) the needs for just between P600,000-P1,000,000. Do remember later models are priced in the upper range and try to hunt for a unit sold in October 2010 or later to get the remainder of the warranty.

Parts are widespread and maintenance costs are on the cheap side, a positive among Isuzus. This one drinks fuel less than the main rivals, which is a strength. Do check the unit you're eyeing before signing the dotted line.

Exterior and Interior
The design remains unchanged for nearly 10 years (or 80 years old in car age), but the boxy stance gives the vehicle a classic look. Despite some chrome touches, they don't look tacky at all. Boondock versions get a "Boondock 4x4" sticker on the side and large wheels. Numerous exterior updates were done throughout the years, while retaining the same body everyone remembers. Let's review the bed area since you'll be using it when you're buying it. The bed can accommodate anything with ease but it only has four tie points, not good for some fragile items.

A simplistic approach was done in the D-Max's interior with the 4WD push buttons being located within driver's reach, with the same for the climate and other controls. The aftermarket stereo needs some time to read the owners manual to master the buttons, as they are small and confusing. USB connectivity and an auxiliary jack comes standard in 2007 and later models. Front occupants get a decent space while those who prefer to seat at the rear bench would have an upright - but still humane - position.

Two sets of engines were offered in the D-Max, and initial models get the 4JH1 2,999cc which has 130hp at 3,800rpm and 294Nm at 2,000rpm. A 2007 update had the 4JJ1 packed with CRDi technology but using the same displacement with slightly different figures. Horsepower is now rated at 146hp at 3,800 while torque still remains the same, it has an early twist at 1,400-3,400rpm. The LT, targeted the fleet market, utilizes the 4JA1 2,499cc (used in the Crosswind)  that possess 81hp at 3,900rpm and 177Nm at 2,000rpm. The 4JA1, although noisy, has better pull in the lower range. The 4JH1 engine does live without CRDi technology but thanks to the close gear ratios (especially for the manual variant), it feels spirited at launch and at fifth gear, it can reach 80km/h. It does not like to be pushed above 100km/h as it becomes noisy and vibration is too much in this period. Moving on to the 4JJ1, there is enough torque to start at second gear in the manual but the automatic has a high powerband entry and the 3,000rpm, the turbo wakes up there. Fuel economy is definitely a strength.

Driving Impressions
At low speeds, the D-Max drives like a sedan but steering feel is on the dead side. Parking is a breeze due to the light steering and unlike the Hilux, it feels planted to the ground. For more power, I recommend sticking with a 2007 and later model but paired with a stick shift as they have gobs of torque at an early gear.

Sure, the D-Max is being eclipsed by new and modern competitors but there are some virtues which still remains a pick in the market. If economy is the top most concern, you can never go wrong with the D-Max

The Good:
  • Push button 4WD gears spell convenience
  • Fully equipped
  • Tough and off-road capable
The Bad:
  • Lacks grunt compared to rivals
  • Dated looks
  • Engine or transmission not updated for long
The Pick: 2007 and later LS models

Engines: 2,499 4JA1 (LT model only), 2,999 4JH1 (2004-2007) and 4JJ1 I4 diesel (2007 onward)
Power: 81hp @ 3,900rpm (2.5), 130hp @ 3,800rpm (3.0, 2004-2007), 146hp @ 3,800rpm (3.0, 2007 onward)
Torque: 177Nm @ 2,000rpm (2.5), 294Nm @ 2,000rpm (3.0, 2004-2007), 294Nm @ 1,400-3,400rpm (3.0, 2007 onward)
Fuel Consumption: 8-10km/L (city), 10-13km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
Suspension: Front independent double wishbone, rear rigid axle with semi elliptic leaf springs

Price (New): P860,000-P1,450,000 (includes all variants in all years)
Price (Now): P600,000-P1,000,000
Rivals: Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, Nissan Frontier, Mitsubishi Strada, Mazda BT
On Sale: 2003-2013

Isuzu Makati - (02) 819-1219
Isuzu EDSA - (02) 413-6940
Isuzu Quezon Avenue - (02) 926-7111

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