NZ’s very own Isuzu ute scrubs up well
NZ EXCLUSIVE URBAN-SUBURBAN HAS LUXURY TOUCHES AND DRIVES WELL
It’s rare since the days of local assembly for a vehicle model to be exclusive to New Zealand, but that’s just what we have in the new Isuzu D-Max ute.
The two-wheel-drive LS-T, equipped with plenty of luxury and comfort features, is aimed squarely at the growing urban-suburban market that has been so good to Ford’s 4x2 Ranger XLT.
A 4WD version is also available, but it’s sold in other markets, so loses that cachet of exclusivity.
Isuzu has a splendid reputation for tough, no-nonsense working utes and 4WDs for environments where the pedals are worked by feet in gumboots and steelcaps rather than $300 sneakers.
However, the LS-T has scrubbed up well, mixing town with country, worksite with washing line.
It took a year for Isuzu in New Zealand to convince Japan to make the 2WD for our little market, then place a first order for 300.
Its cabin is silk purse, although not taken to extremes. Seats are leather with six-way electrical adjustment for the driver. The air-conditioning is climate controlled.
Infotainment includes a premium six-speaker audio with DVD player (which works only when the transmission is in park), satnav, Bluetooth phone, USB and iPod connection and audio streaming for up to five devices.
There’s no fob that does away with a key, and no lumbar support on the seats, although the back’s contours perfectly suited Driven’s road test dummy. The rear bench seat is reasonably comfortable despite lacking adjustment. Its back can be folded flat to become a carpeted cargo surface, or a good place for the dog to sit.
D-Max LS-T is five-star ANCAP safety rated and has ABS braking, stability and traction control. The traction control helps it carry on in conditions where an older 2WD with an open or limited-slip differential would probably bog. Also standard are brake assist and electronic brake distribution. A reversing camera keeps watch from the tailgate.
Ride height is the same as the 4WD, so few people will know it has drive to only the rear wheels. A giveaway clue: no 4x4 decal on the tray.
The Kiwi-special LS-T lists at $52,890; the 4WD version costs another $8100.
Power is from the stoic truck-derived, Euro 4-compliant, 130kW 3-litre 4JJ1 turbodiesel. Peak torque of 380Nm is available from 1800rpm to 2800rpm and remains decently flat until around 3500rpm. An Aisin five-speed automatic has adaptive “learning” that figures out how the driver likes to drive, and there’s a sequential manual mode. Its computer holds a suitable gear on steep uphills and downhills.
Thirst is rated at a combined 8.1 litres per 100km, fed from a 76 litre tank. It delivered 8.9 litres per 100km while driven by Driven. Combined carbon dioxide emissions are 213g/km.
Losing 4WD does little to harm the LS-T’s payload; at 1002kg it’s just 5kg less, but braked towing drops to 2500kg from the 4x4’s 3500kg. A set of roof rails can carry up to 60kg.
The LS-T has a typical ute suspension set-up with a coil-sprung double wishbone arrangement in the front and long-span leaf springs in the back.
It runs on Bridgestone Dueler 840 HT 255/65 x 17 tyres fitted to alloy rims.
Stripped of drive to its front wheels, the missing 105kg helps give the LS-T 4x2’s handling almost a sporting feel. That’s relatively speaking, of course, and not a suggestion that it will actually mix it with an MX-5 or Boxster.
Although not the gruntiest ute, it gets smartly off the line and, as per a modern turbodiesel, is a quick overtaker on highways.
Big side mirrors and good glass areas offer top-notch outward vision.
Isuzu’s gamble on the 2WD
LS-T seems to be paying off in the showroom with more than 40 already sold, and the 4WD version has leapt into second place in the local line-up.
The company is on a mission to become the third best-selling ute brand in the country, behind Ford and Toyota. It’s now in sixth spot, so has some ground to make up.
Introducing the LS-T could give the brand the momentum it needs to move forward, if not Ford.