OUR automotive landscape is a rapidly changing world.
It doesn't feel like long ago that the choice was Ford or Holden, Commodore or Falcon.
Now there are new niches, and niches within niches - just look at the bewildering range of premium offerings.
The SUV segments are the nation's fastest growing, and these dual cab utes too have found their way into the popularity stakes. Although they are far from the offerings of old.
Now more car like than ever, the utes must deliver at the work site on weekdays and then haul the boat on weekends with the family in tow.
Isuzu was previously hooked up with General Motors, parted ways, and is now getting back together again.
But while this D-Max may look like the Holden Colorado, beneath the similar skin is all Isuzu.
Released a couple of years back, the D-Max has emerged as one of the best buys in the dual cab market.
We jumped back into the four-door ute, which currently comes with a free tow bar and pricing from as low as $40,000 drive-away for the manual transmission, to see how it stacks up with the opposition.
Some manufacturers have embraced a softer side to their utes.
Creature comforts are not lost on the D-Max, although it's not car-like in its cosseting appeal.
Hard plastics are typical of its workmanlike status, although it does get the likes of cruise control, air con and Bluetooth phone connectivity, which have become standard fare in just about all automotive sizes and shapes nowadays.
Both front pews are nothing flashy; they do offer good support laterally at the base. The rear bench is not so accommodating, with a flatter contour.
On the road
This 3.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel is underworked.
Derivatives of this engine are used to power small trucks, which means this 2950kg frame poses little imposition.
Highway travels are done at about 2000rpm, hills are never challenging and with calm use of the right foot, it always feels strong with power at the ready.
Getting into and out of car parks can be a challenge. Whereas run-of-the-mill passenger cars have greater manoeuvrability, the D-Max can require some additional jostling and three-point turns.
But that is easily forgiven when you put the dual-cab in its natural environment. Hauling a caravan, boat or trailer, tackling tough terrain and coping with a hefty load in the back, it's simple to see why this beast has so many friends at the work site and with the grey nomads.
Unladen, the ride can be floaty and jiggly over some surfaces, although you can't have the payload and luxurious comfort.
Key players in this arena include the Mazda BT-50 XTR ($40,820), Ford Ranger XLS Double Cab ($48,090), Holden Colorado LT Crew Cab ($45,990), VW Amarok Dual Cab Trendline ($42,990 drive-away at the moment) and the biggest gun of them all, the Toyota HiLux SR Double Cab ($45,240).
There is no better proof of how underworked the diesel engine is than the fuel consumption - we achieved an average of 8.2 litres/100km, which is impressive for a workhorse of this size and ability.
Isuzu doesn't have capped price servicing but costs should be about mid-scale.
Adding some appeal to our dual cab test machine was a roll bar and roof racks, along with a front nudge bar, giving it some true toughness. Matched with some five-spoke alloys and it's quite an imposing unit.
Dual cup holders sit in the centre console, there is another which flips out from the dash and the doors have pockets which can house bottles.
With a one tonne payload in the back the D-Max is an excellent hauler, with some well placed loops for tying down loads.
Rugged and hardworking, the D-Max never shirks its intentions. This is a tough little truck which offers enough passenger comforts without hampering its ability.
At the core of it performance is the turbo diesel donk. This unit can handle just about anything thrown at it, and its reputation for longevity is outstanding.
What matters most
What we liked: Fuel economy, automatic transmission, engine is strong and underworked.
What we'd like to see: Full size USB and upgraded stereo system, improved dash finishes.
Warranty and servicing: Warranty is five years or 130,000km with five years roadside assist. Servicing is every six months or 10,000km.
Model: Isuzu D-Max 4x4 LS Crew Cab Ute.
Details: Four-door five-seat four-whee drive dual cab utility.
Engine: 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel generating maximum power of 130kW @ 3600rpm ad peak torque of 380Nm @ 1800-2800rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed manual or five speed automatic (as tested).
Consumption: 8.3 litres/100km (combined average, manual), 8.1 (auto).
Towing capacity: 3500rpm, tow ball rating 350kg, payload 1015kg.
CO2: 220g/km, 214g/km.
Bottom line plus on-roads: $44,900.
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