Isuzu is a one-model manufacturer in the UK. With that being the case itâ€™s in its interests for that one model to be either totally brilliant, or an absolute steal.
Enter the D-Max, which was crowned Pick Up of The Year at the WhatVan? Awards and Most Reliable Pickup by Professional Pickup & 4X4 magazine earlier this year.
With prices starting at just Â£16,499 (if itâ€™s being bought as a commercial vehicle) the range is definitely competitive in terms of price and, like pretty much every other pick-up on the market right now, it nails the tough looks and bags of equipment combination that has helped make the class become so popular in recent years.
I recently tested the Blade Double Cab â€“ the top spec model (barring the Â£38k Arctic Trucks AT35 tie-up) which comes in at Â£29,767, fully loaded with the only optional extras the paint (Â£280), the towing electric socket (Â£226.25) and the tow bar (Â£280).
When you factored in the options, the similarly specced Ford Ranger Wildtrak I drove recently was a full Â£9,000 more, albeit with a heaftier engine.
Under the sizable bonnet of the D-Max is a Euro 6 compliant 1.9-litre diesel putting out 162bp and 266lb/ft torque. Itâ€™s a noisy affair, betraying the D-Maxâ€™s utilitarian nature, not helped by being paired with a six-speed automatic transmission that simply will not be hurried.
Refinement isnâ€™t the D-Maxâ€™s strong suit then, nor is its ride, which is on the bouncy side and borderline skittish at speed with an empty load bay thanks to its leaf-sprung suspension. It did settle down considerably with a full cab of passengers and some recycling centre-bound rubble in the 1485mm x1530mm x 465mm load bed. The rear-load liner â€“ standard on the model tested â€“ kept the racket from the cargo to a minimum as well, a welcome change from the last pick-up truck I did similar with.
I didnâ€™t come close to it, but it will carry 1,101kg in the flatbed, which means it will qualify as a light commercial vehicle with room to spare â€“ absolutely crucial in this market â€“ and it can tow 3,500kg braked and 750kg unbraked with a gross train weight of 6,000kg.
As well as load-lugging ability, where the D-Max Blade comes into its own is equipment levels and styling touches.
Standard toys include a nine-inch colour touchscreen and satnav system (the camouflage screen background is so juvenile itâ€™s brilliant), leather upholstery, parking sensors and reversing camera, an eight-speaker sound system, illuminated footwells and a little projector which shines the word â€˜bladeâ€™ onto the pavement when you open the door.
The cabin is comfortable and put together with solid, if a little cheap-feeling plastics. The leather seats, with orange â€˜bladeâ€™ embroidery are like big living room recliners and wasted on someone whoâ€™s going to get them covered with plaster and brickdust and paint flakes. The leather feels pretty thick though, so it should take a bit of a battering – or you could accessorise with the Â£45 waterproof seat covers just to be sure.
On the exterior you get roofbars, and a â€˜styling barâ€™ around the load bay, bags of chrome all topped off with fogs, LED running lights and projector headlights. Itâ€™s not subtle, but itâ€™s what buyers have come to expect at this end of the market and if you want subtle take your Â£29k and buy a grey Audi A4 instead.
On the safety side, you get ABS, electronic stability control, electronic brakeforce distribution and a brake assist system.
With favourable tax benefits for customers and businesses, thereâ€™s a growing market for pickups in Britain, and the D-Max Blade is a solid effort which can go toe to toe with competitors like the Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi L200 at an attractive price point.
Which is just as well â€“ because itâ€™s all Isuzu has.