The front page of the 2019 Isuzu D-Max’s brochure reads ‘innovate for more power’ when, in truth, the phrase ‘better late than never’ would have been a more accurate tagline.
At time of writing, official pictures and information of a third-generation model have already flooded the internet. And here we are trying out a seasoned pickup, which really should have been launched here four years ago, for the very first time.
Regionally, the D-Max has done well to establish its reputation as a dependable workhorse. In a bid to keep that placeholder alive for years to come, Isuzu Malaysia admits it needed some time to acclimatise the updated second-gen model to local driving conditions.
The biggest change here is a new 1.9-litre ‘Ddi BluePower’ mill that replaces the 2.5 as the base engine offering. And getting that to run reliably on the sulphur-rich Euro 2M diesel that flows out of all black pumps nationwide was probably the biggest source of the delay.
The addition of a pre-fuel filter is among the tweaks made to the new engine to prep it for our roads without hampering its direct-injected output. But even though it makes 14bhp and 30Nm more than the 2.5-litre turbo-diesel it replaces, the downsized mill feels mostly similar on the go, and that includes all the unsavoury noises you get from a largely utilitarian power plant.
That the 1.9 feels similarly endowed with torque right off the bat despite the loss of a water bottle’s worth of displacement is a respectable feat. But maintaining momentum is difficult when the flow of all 350Nm starts tapering out from 2,600rpm – a full 1,000rpm before the 148bhp power peak.
That last sentence might only deter the select few who buy pickups to look big and brawny while hounding other drivers on the fast lane – the 3.0 D-Max still soldiers on to their benefit. The new 1.9-litre variants continue to excel in more laborious tasks with the fuel economy to match.
The smaller engine is the only one to gain a new the six-speed automatic, and it seems tuned towards keeping the hustle going efficiently rather than quietly. The tall and springy suspension is yet another trait that validates the D-Max’s continued affinity for the nitty and the gritty.
In the new 1.9-litre D-Max, Isuzu has basically pulled off a like-for-like reconstruction of the outgoing 2.5-litre model despite making several adjustments to the original recipe. The Premium variant tested adds on a few niceties that try very hard to elevate the overall package by 2019 standards, but the utilitarian nature of the D-Max is hard to shake off.
This may not be the level of improvement some were expecting, but you’ll get every bit of truckery you would have gotten in the old D-Max, with a lighter engine that will cost less than half as much to tax yearly.
Yes, the 1.9-litre engine’s RM399 annual road tax is RM440 cheaper than the 2.5’s. It’s also ready to take on B20 biodiesel should that become a concern in the near future. Surely these should count for something in the long run – one which might not give us a brand new D-Max until much later.
The new 1.9-litre variants continue to excel in more laborious tasks with the fuel economy to match
|Honest pickup performance and feel good factor of smaller engine that’s cheap to tax
|Drives about the same as the outgoing 2.5 and still a tad rough around the edges