Isuzu’s base specification has shed under-bonnet capacity with its new entry-level 1.9-litre turbo diesel engine. Without the mighty ‘4J’ under the bonnet, does this work ute still carry enough punch?





What we love
  • Handled our load test with aplomb
  • Loaded with safety and convenience equipment
  • Big payload

What we don’t
  • 1.9-litre engine no match for the mighty 3.0-litre
  • Not the same value that it once was
  • Lower braked towing capacity

Introduction

While it may not have the broadest market appeal, the 2022 Isuzu D-Max SX is purpose-built to fit a specific section of the Aussie ute market.

Isuzu has been busy building a dedicated following of customers in Australia in recent years, with a fan base growing from a relative niche into a significant slice of the automotive scene.

While other carmakers have a variety of models and powertrains on offer, the Japanese brand has managed to do it with only two models. To make life even easier, up to now the D-Max ute and MU-X wagon have both shared the same turbo-diesel powertrain.



For many years that engine has been a 3.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel. It’s never been the most refined or the most powerful; the appeal in this engine instead comes from its commercial bones and reputation for gruffness and longevity.

However, for the first time in the Australian market, Isuzu is offering a second diesel powertrain option in its D-Max ute.

It’s officially called the RZ4E, measuring in at 1.9 litres across four cylinders. It makes 110kW at 3600rpm and 350Nm at 1800–2600rpm running through a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. We’ve got the automatic transmission in this case, which is a recalibrated version of the same Aisin six-speed automatic that you’ll find behind the 3.0-litre engine (and a HiLux, in fact).



It’s down 30kW and 100Nm over the bigger engine, but fuel economy improves from a claimed 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres to 7.0L/100km over the same combined cycle.

Another smaller detail here is the improved payload owing to the lighter donk. With a kerb mass of 1595kg – 105kg less than the 3.0-litre model – and same 3000kg GVM, the effective payload grows to 1405kg.

Otherwise, it’s the same story: a pared-back single-cab ute that focuses firmly on the job at hand rather than any frivolities. However, Isuzu has kept a few nice and important features in this case.



Key details 2022 Isuzu D-Max 1.9-litre SX Single Cab review
Price (MSRP) $34,200 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Mineral White
Options General purpose alloy tray – $3135
Tow bar – $1075
12-pin tow bar wiring harness – $359
Electronic brake controller – $820
Price as tested $39,589 plus on-road costs
$43,656 recommended drive-away
Rivals Toyota HiLux | Mitsubishi Triton | Nissan Navara

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It’s a base specification, single-cab work ute. So don’t worry, there won’t be a lengthy soliloquy about material softness, open-pore woods and intricate stitching. However, what you have is a ute that is simple, to the point, and comfortable.

Many of the strong points are held in common with other Isuzu utes: slide-out cupholders underneath the air vents, good storage around the centre console area, and comfortable seats with enough adjustment available.

There are extra cupholders in the middle, a 12V outlet and USB power point.

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Materials consist of basic cloth, hard plastics, rubber floor mats and vinyl coverings. It’s fit for purpose and feels well made.

Notable differences include the handy storage shelf (in lieu of a second glovebox in front of the passenger), and the omission of a lidded top storage compartment.

And after a few hours toiling away at the tiller, I have little room for complaint in terms of ergonomics, practicality and comfort.

2022 Isuzu D-Max 1.9-litre SX Single Cab
Seats Two
Tray dimensions 2550mm long / 1777mm wide
Length 5325mm
Width 1870mm
Height 1790mm
Wheelbase 3125mm

Exterior dimensions (above) with genuine Isuzu tray fitted.

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Infotainment and Connectivity

Like other base-specification Isuzus, this D-Max comes with a 7.0-inch infotainment display that sits in the same area and design as the larger 9.0-inch display on high-grade models. In this case, our smaller screen is framed by black, dead space.

The good news is that the operations and features of the infotainment display are all on the same level, with things like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, digital radio and Bluetooth all running through the same operating system. This more basic system does miss out on native navigation, however.



And being a smaller cabin, the single-cab D-Max makes do with a four-speaker sound system.

In front of the driver is the same 4.2-inch multifunction display that has a digital speed readout among a variety of other things. It can be a little tricky and finicky to find where you want to be, but it works well enough overall.

Considering this is a base-specification ute, the operating system of the D-Max SX packs a good punch for everyday usage. It’s helped by good controls on the steering wheel for both of your information displays.

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Safety and Technology

After pulling a five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2020 – helped no doubt by the segment-first front centre airbag – the Isuzu D-Max is one of the safest utes on the market for crash safety and crash avoidance technology. That front centre airbag, which aims to reduce the impact between occupants in a prang, makes for an impressive total of eight interior airbags – even in single-cab models.

Hats off to Isuzu, because this base-specification D-Max misses out on little for safety technology. There’s autonomous emergency braking (including turn and intersection assistance), forward collision warning, traffic sign recognition, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and post-collision braking.

There’s also lane-keep assistance, adaptive cruise control and misacceleration mitigation, but only for models equipped with the automatic gearbox.



This model misses out on parking sensors front and rear, making do with a reversing camera mounted onto the genuine alloy tray.

2022 Isuzu D-Max 1.9-litre SX Single Cab
ANCAP rating Five stars (tested 2020)
Safety report Link to ANCAP report

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Value for Money

Having one-third less engine capacity nets you slightly lower fuel usage when you compare the 1.9-litre D-Max with the larger-capacity model. In comparison to 8.0L/100km on the combined cycle, our tester sits at 7.0L/100km for a claimed figure.

In our time with the D-Max, we averaged 7.8L/100km, which included loaded driving through towns and around suburbs. Before I loaded it up, the economy readout was more like 7.4L/100km, which included town, suburban and highway driving.

Like most other segments of the Australian new car landscape, the supply of utes has been crippled by production delays and semiconductor shortages. This means that Isuzu’s original drive-away deal for its cheapest D-Max variant has been put on hold, and prices have been creeping upwards.

Isuzu currently lists the 1.9-litre SX D-Max at $34,200 plus on-road costs as a cab-chassis with the automatic gearbox. Throw in a tray for $2888 and you’re looking at $37,088 before on-road costs. For reference’s sake, Isuzu lists the same car with the 3.0-litre motor for $2000 more. Or, you can save $2000 by opting for the six-speed manual gearbox.

At a glance 2022 Isuzu D-Max 1.9-litre SX Single Cab
Warranty Six years / 150,000km
Service intervals 12 months or 15,000km
Servicing costs $1327 (3 years), $2175 (5 years), $3223 (7 years)

Another area where the 1.9-litre D-Max gets an advantage over the 3.0-litre model is servicing. While most visits to an Isuzu dealership – under Isuzu’s seven-year capped-price program – are the same, your third and sixth visits are a bit cheaper, and net you a $290 saving.



In terms of competition, the Mitsubishi Triton comes in cheaper with a starting price of $24,240. The Toyota HiLux Workmate can be had for a similar price, from $24,225 with a 2.7-litre petrol engine. If you want diesel that price goes up to $29,465 – all before on-road costs.

So while the D-Max isn’t the cheapest, it does have a good array of technology and standard safety inclusions that helps it sit as a good value proposition.

Fuel Useage Fuel Stats
Fuel cons. (claimed) 7.0L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 7.8L/100km
Fuel type Diesel
Fuel tank size 76L

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As you’d expect, the 1.9-litre D-Max is missing out on the punch of the bigger engine. There is less power and torque, so you can’t expect the same effortless wave of torque that comes from the 3.0-litre engine. However, it has to be said that this engine isn’t too bad.

There’s enough engine on offer for a basic work ute, and it doesn’t feel sluggish. And on the plus side, it adds a small dose of smoothness and refinement to the usual D-Max experience.

With one tonne of bricklayer’s sand strapped down on the back, the 1.9-litre motor starts to feel like it’s working hard. When you have the bigger engine, you almost can’t tell the difference between being laden and unladen, aside from using a few hundred extra revs. In this case, you hit that ceiling of performance a bit quicker. It’s fine, and it does the job, but the lack of loaded shove is the trade-off.

The gearbox remains lazy and smooth, which suits the application. It doesn’t change gears unless really required; you need to really give the throttle a stab for a downshift going up hills or overtaking. And when you back off the throttle, it upshifts very quickly as it searches for low revs.



Its leaf springs were very flat when loaded, but there was still a fair amount of bumpstop space on offer. You can feel the firmness of damping in the back paying dividends, as there is plenty of control available when laden up.

You’ll notice that rear-end firmness when unladen, but you’ll appreciate it when loaded. And if you’re driving around all the time with nothing in the tray, let’s be honest, why are you driving it?

The electric steering is light and easy to operate, but doesn’t fall into the trap of vagueness and wandering. It’s well-suited and easy to live with.

Key details 2022 Isuzu D-Max 1.9-litre SX Single Cab
Engine 1.9-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power 110kW @ 3600rpm
Torque 350Nm @ 1800–2600rpm
Drive type Rear-wheel drive
Transmission Six-speed torque convertor automatic
Kerb weight 1620kg
GVM 3000kg
Towing capacity 3000kg braked, 750kg unbraked
Turning circle 12.5m

Conclusion

Like many other things on the market at the moment, this Isuzu D-Max isn’t as good a value proposition as it once was. Back before things like supply shortages really started to bite, this ute was a sharper deal. And before the 1.9-litre variant arrived, it was the 3.0-litre one that was available at just under $30,000 drive-away.

Isuzu chose to book-end the range with such a deal, and only the top-specification X-Terrain had such a thing.

But as it stands, the base-specification D-Max does the fit-for-purpose dance with aplomb. Safety credentials are very good, and the interior is durable, practical and comfortable (enough).



The load test proved this ute can walk the walk. And while the 3.0-litre engine is undoubtedly better, this one is still quite good enough.

Ratings Breakdown

2022 Isuzu D-MAX SX High Ride Cab Chassis Single Cab

7.9/ 10

Performance

Handling & Dynamics

Driver Technology

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Infotainment & Connectivity

Fuel Efficiency

Value for Money

Fit for Purpose

Sam Purcell

Sam Purcell has been writing about cars, four-wheel driving and camping since 2013, and obsessed with anything that goes brum-brum longer than he can remember. Sam joined the team at CarAdvice/Drive as the off-road Editor in 2018, after cutting his teeth at Unsealed 4X4 and Pat Callinan’s 4X4 Adventures.

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