One of the companies I admire in the Mzansi landscape has reinvented itself again for the second time in two years. Isuzu has launched its latest offering in the bakkie space and simultaneously changed its name in line with international norms. The all-new D-MAX, which used to be the KB, has now gone on sale and aims to challenge its segment leaders even more vigorously than before. It will be sold in Single Cab, Extended Cab and Double Cab. I drove the latter.

How the local Isuzu outfit manages to sell over 1 000 bakkies every month is still quite difficult to understand. Consider that in an extremely painful process, the company’s former big brother General Motors pulled out of the country just two years ago, leaving Isuzu and Opel to fend for themselves. So far Isuzu has confounded the sceptics by not only surviving, but also thriving in a highly stressed market. Considering that its main rivals are still under the care of their own “big brothers”, the company deserves a standing ovation.

D-MAX is what the KB goes by in the rest of the world. Mzansi stuck with the KB name because it had become a recognisable household brand over the 40-odd years of local production. But with Isuzu Japan now owning 100% of the local outfit, it became necessary to become international. So what is new with D-MAX?

Changes are mainly visible in the 3.0-litre LX models, which comprise inter alia of a new chrome-covered front grille, new Bi-LED headlamps, LED daytime running lights, and reshaped fog lights. Obviously the name D-MAX replaces other monikers on the bodywork. Standard wheels and tyres are 16” x 6.5J and 245/70 R16 respectively, while the higher-spec models get 18” x 7.5J and 255/60 R18 sets. You can get the D-MAX with a tow bar of course, which helps facilitate pulls of up to two tonnes braked, according to its maker.

One of the more striking features of the D-MAX is the improved cabin ambiance. Yes, it kinda has ambiance now, thanks to “the little things”, such as softer touch materials on door handles, parts of the dashboard and other areas where human hands and arms often land. It just gives it that extra welcoming feel. The same goes for the new 20.3cm touch screen infotainment system with 6 or 8 speakers, geared towards Android Auto (once available) and Apple Carplay (already here). Other more traditional ports are still to be found, including USB, Bluetooth, aux, and HDMI for video. The screen also displays satellite navigation menus and maps, as well as rear obstacles in cases where the rear view camera has been fitted.

While Isuzu disappointed by not increasing the power output of the 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine from the 130kW and 380Nm it’s been, in the face of such tough competition, I was nevertheless satisfied with its performance. One major thing was improved on, which is the addition of the 6-speed manual gearbox instead of the old 5-speed automatic that’s now only found in the 2.5-litre.

It really made a difference during the long drives in the beautiful Mpumalanga area, where we were able to test the car through some harsh gravel, mild off-road bits and over the black tarmac. I still recommend the automatic if budget allows. Everyday life is more pleasurable in an automatic, as is serious off-roading. Although 4×4 is not part of the package in all models, most do feature a differential lock. Fuel consumption should subsequently improve through the 80 litre tank.


“We are proud to announce the introduction of the enhanced Isuzu bakkie along with the adoption of the D-MAX name for the Isuzu bakkie portfolio, this aligns us to the brand identity of the broader company and ensures that our product naming conventions are consistent with the global approach.” says Craig Uren, Executive Officer Sales, Service and Marketing.


Isuzu D-MAX Prices


250 HO BASE R 332 500,00
250 HO HI-RIDER R 387 800,00
250 HO LE R 437 200,00
250 HO 4X4 HI-RIDER R 435 500,00
300 LX – Manual R 522 100,00
300 LX – Automatic R 537 100,00
300 4X4 LX – Manual R 591 800,00
300 4X4 LX – Automatic R 606 400,00
250 HO X-RIDER R 424 400,00
250 HO 4X4 X-RIDER R 472 500,00


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