Professional Builder gets down and dirty with a pick-up which is more spills than thrills!
It’s been a particular hobby horse or perhaps, more accurately, a workhorse of ours for many years now that, in the clamour for glamour, the original purpose of the ubiquitous pick-up truck has been somewhat overlooked. With the average spec from the leading exponents now resembling – and often exceeding – that of a well-heeled family saloon, the majority of the latest offerings seem more inclined to the weekend poseur than the weekday grafter. Thankfully, all is not lost, because there is still a vehicle out there which looks like its spent its formative years down on the most exposed farm, or remotest building site, rather than a pristine beach. Isuzu has one of the most extensive range of pick-ups on the market and the Utility version of the highly versatile D-Max is probably the only one where you don’t have to feel guilty about clamouring aboard with mud caked sizes nines and cement encrusted overalls.
From its washable seat covers to its carpet bare interior, the D-Max Utility is what is says on the tin, a no frills, plenty of spills workhorse which is ultimately about one thing, helping the owner to consistently move men and equipment (not to mention livestock) from point a to b in the most efficient but not necessarily most comfortable manner.
In fact, to give our double cab Agrican aluminium canopied vehicle a proper test we felt like we should have a least a couple of sheep or pigs in the back. Isuzu has a long and favourable reputation with the take-no-prisoners farming community, but this budget end set up works just as well for carrying an assortment of building equipment and materials. It will certainly fit the bill in more ways than one (prices start at just £17,000 plus vat for a single cab version up to £23,000) with busy landscapers, for example, who are not too put out by a few bumps and scratches from heavy slabs and bulky foliage. The 125,000-mile warranty is a good indication of its expected reliability and resilience.
Isuzu took the decision a few years back to reduce the engine size across the D-Max platform below 2 litres and, whilst raising a few eyebrows at the time, the replacement 1.9 litre four cylinder returning a healthy 164hp and 360 torque is more than up to the task. That includes a capacity for 1.141kg of payload and 3.5 towing ability, with a six-speed manual gearbox set up for frequent towers. Kerb weight at less than 2,000 kg is pretty light for a modern pick up, but explains why the doors have a much lighter feel to them and don’t produce that familiar clunk of their testosterone fuelled rivals.
As we have indicated, the interior is at the bottom rung of the D-Max range, but it comes with most of the features needed to make a full working day more than bearable. Electric windows, air conditioning and basic Bluetooth hands free radio with a decent amount of storage contained in some cheap and cheerful low grade black plastic. Our model came with a rear reversing camera, which is especially handy given the added parking risk of the towing bar. Heated door mirrors standard on all double cabs was an unexpected luxury for those cold winter mornings.
We didn’t get to go into full farmer Giles mode but a bit of off piste driving enabled us to try the four wheel drive system, which is a typical switchable set up with an electronic dial for changing between three options 2h, 4h and 4l. There’s no diff lock for the rear axle though, which means it doesn’t have the mud escaping abilities of some on the market, but is nevertheless more than capable of dealing with what most UK building sites could throw at it. Quite literally, you could say, because unlike its preening counterparts, which demand to be kept pristine and polished at all times, the unassuming Utility will be more than happy with the occasional hosing down both inside and out.
Utility Prices start from around £17,500 plus VAT for a standard single cab rising to £23,000 for the Double cab version featured here.