Isuzu D-Max [RG] (2021 - 2023) used car review

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Breakdown cover from just £7.95 a month*. Plus up to £150 of driving savings!

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

By Jonathan Crouch


If you thought Isuzu pick-ups were a bit rough and ready, it's probably about time you gave the D-Max a try. Once, this brand was really one reserved for the requirements of pure commercial operators. In this rejuvenated 'RG'-series form though, the D-Max will also suit private buyers looking for an all-terrain utility vehicle that can play the lifestyle card, thanks to sharper looks, a smarter cabin and better drive dynamics. But it's still as tough as ever - which is why so many professional choose this Isuzu. In a marketplace full of pretenders, it's that rarest of things: the genuine article.


1.9 Pick-up (diesel)


Once upon a time, almost every mainstream brand made a pick-up. These days though, what our US and Australian neighbours call 'trucks' or 'utes' are made only by brands really serious about this sector. And here's one of them, Isuzu, who in 2021 brought us this completely rejuvenated second generation 'RG'-series version of their contender in this segment, the D-Max.

Isuzu's been selling pick-ups here since the original TF model's launch back in 1988. Which was followed in 2002 by an 'RA'-series model badged in the UK as 'Rodeo', which was updated with common rail engine tech in 2004. The replacement 'RT'-series design was launched in 2012, at which point this model line gained the 'D-Max' badging that's carried through here. In 2017, the 'RT' version got an engine transplant and facelift - which was before more stringent Euro emissions regulations arrived to almost strangle the segment.

Whatever you do to it beneath the bonnet, a pick-up is never going to be particularly efficient and by the end of the century's second decade, a number of car brands in this class found that they could no longer afford to have a truck of this sort dragging down the collective across-the-range efficiency figures on which European emission fines are now based. So the Mercedes X-Class, the Fiat Fullback and the first generation Volkswagen Amarok all left the sector in 2020. Then Nissan announced their Navara model would be following suit, leaving the showrooms around the same time as the Mitsubishi L200, a casualty of that brand's exit from the UK market. Which by 2021 left only the Toyota Hilux, the Ford Ranger and the SsangYong Musso up against this D-Max.

This 'RG'-series model, developed in collaboration with Mazda, was launched in Thailand in late 2019 and in other countries was sold with a 'Colorado' badge by Chevrolet and Holden. It took until early 2021 for this particular D-Max to appear here, tasked with disrupting the market dominance of the Ranger and Hilux class leaders. The 1.9-litre diesel engine was carried over from the previous model, as was the tough ladder-framed chassis, but pretty much everything else here was new - including a class-leading level of camera safety and a completely redesigned cabin. The original 'RG' design sold until mid-2023, when it was replaced by a facelifted model. It's the original 2021-2023-era 'RG' D-Maxes we look at here.

What You Get

Styling hasn't been a priority for Isuzu pick-ups in the past that offered rugged, squarical shapes, big wheels, lots of chrome - and not a lot else. But that changed a bit with the more arresting 'cage fighter'-style aesthetics of this 'RG'-series design, enough to deliver quite an overtaking statement and a far more powerful pavement stance.

Most of the changes took place at the front, where the chunky, high-riding looks were embellished with a more imposing front grille which featured a pair of thick chrome bars across its width. This appendage is flanked by distinctive angled headlights, which featured more sophisticated Bi-LED beams on plusher models, with integrated LED daytime running lights - and LED fog lamps further down.

Though most customers will want the Double Cab body style - which is conditional for customers wanting the top 'V-Cross' 'Adventure Range' model - Isuzu also continued to offer an 'Extended Cab' variant alongside it in the more affordable mid-level 'All-Purpose Range' (think 'back-to-front' rear doors and occasional rear seats). In the base 'Business Range', that 'Extended Cab' variant featured along with the traditional Single Cab body shape with its much longer cargo bay.

All the bodywork was new for this 'RG' design; the mid-level belt line was 30mm higher, while the body length of this Double Cab variant shrunk by 30mm over the previous D-Max, compensated for by a wheelbase length increase of, you've guessed it, 30mm.

Once you're inside, there's quite a difference over the old 'RT' model, driven by customer feedback that told Isuzu in no uncertain terms that a more comfortable cabin was required this time round. There's still the high-set driving position that's typical of a pick-up in this class, but everything else changed considerably. Most notably perhaps, the 'RG' D-Max entered the era of screen tech - there's a 4.2-inch display flanking the analogue dials in the redesigned instrument cluster. And for plusher DL40 and V-Cross models, the centre stack gained a modern touchscreen which will be either 7 or 9-inches in size (depending on spec) and includes 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring. All-round visibility isn't bad for a pick-up, the seats are far more supportive and there's plenty of cabin storage.

What's it like for rear passengers in the Double Cab model? Well there are huge grab handles by both doors to help you haul yourself in. DL40 and V-Cross variants get re-designed and very substantial side steps too. Which you'll need because like most pick-ups, the floor height is rather high.

Once inside, there's slightly more passenger comfort than is provided by some rival models, thanks to the increase in wheelbase length, all of which has been used to the benefit of rear-seated folk. There's certainly a little more legroom than there was previously and, as before, there's decent room for head and shoulders. You'll also appreciate the way that the seat back angle was slightly changed to make the backrest less vertically inclined, which gives noticeably greater comfort on longer journeys.

One nice touch is the way that twin storage areas under the 60:40-split rear seat base enable you to more flexibly use this rear passenger space for packages, should you so wish. You lift a little flap on each side. Plus you can also pull down the rear seat backrest, preventing the upholstery from getting grubby when you're carrying pets or packages.

What about the load bay area? Well if you've used a D-Max in the past, the first thing you'll notice on the 'RG' design is that Isuzu added a damper to the tailgate, so it doesn't fall open as soon as you release it. The thing is still pretty heavy to lift though. A big step has been moulded into the bumper so that reaching in is a little easier; and 30mm of extra depth has been added to the cargo bay compared with the previous 'RT' model - though the resulting 465mm depth figure is still comfortably the least accommodating in the class from this period. The 1,495mm load bay length of the Double Cab model is also bettered in period by the Toyota Hilux (1,525mm), the long wheelbase SsangYong Musso (1,600mm) and the Ford Ranger (1,613mm). Obviously, you'll gain more load bay length with the alternative two D-Max body shapes; the Extended Cab offers 1,805mm and the Single Cab has 2,315mm.

As with this Isuzu's three key segment rivals, there's enough load bay width (1,530mm) to take a standard UK-sized pallet lengthways between the wheel arch intrusions. And this area meets the usual pick-up class qualification that it should be able to take over a tonne of weight; with the top Double Cab auto model, the figure is up to 1,070kgs; you'll be able to take a fraction more if you choose a manual gearbox or an Extended Cab model - and the figure for the Single Cab is up at 1,205kgs. In our 'Driving Experience' section, we brief you on this D-Max's class-competitive 3.5-tonned braked towing capacity; but noted the reduction that would be necessary to that figure were the load bay to be fully weighted-up (an issue also with the Ranger and the Hilux).

What You Pay

Pricing as usual with used pick-ups, varies widely, depending on spec, condition and mileage. Our sales survey revealed facelifted post-2021-era D-Max models priced from as low as around £30,000 (for a 2023 variant) to as high as £40,000 or more (for later high-spec 2021-2022-era plusher variants). Top V-Cross versions can be over £50,000. The specialist AT35 values at around £60,000 for a 2022-era model. All quoted values are sourced through industry experts cap hpi. Click here for a free valuation.

What to Look For

There's certainly stuff to look for here: one of the things about buying a used D-Max is that it's more likely than some other models in this segment to have been seriously used off road - or for really heavy loads. We came across a number of issues with our ownership survey.

We've heard that D-Maxes can heat up when doing things like towing heavy loads up winding roads. That heat transfers to the radiator coolant causing the engine to heat up, which could potentially damage the automatic transmission. The RG series model was improved in this respect but it's always worth being cautious if you're looking for an automatic version. Owners will need to check the transmission fluid regularly and if you notice that it's dark or foul-smelling, you'll need to bring the car in for an inspection. There's a transmission-temperature warning light that will illuminate, but like most warning lights, the damage is often done by the time the light comes on. You can conceivably drive around this problem. Don't let the vehicle select a too-high gear on a twisting uphill road. Manually pull it back a gear, allowing the engine to get into its comfort zone and the torque converter to slip less, thereby producing less heat. Also, keep an eye on things in the long term.

If you're looking at the manual D-Max, look out for symptoms of problems - like difficulty changing gears, a clunking 0r whining noise or even a burning smell. Also look out for black smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe whichever transmission you choose: this can be caused by contaminated fuel or dirt clogging up the injectors, causing them not to fire correctly.

If the D Max model you're looking at has a locking rear differential, bear in mind that the actuator on that differential is exposed, leaving it open to damage from rocks and gnarly trails. Like lots of other pick-ups featuring independent front suspension, this Isuzu can experience a very short front CV joint life. The wear and tear associated with big wheel articulation, big tyres, plus ingress from water and dirt can contaminate the joint, and you can be getting through front CVs at an alarming rate.

The best advice is to replace these like any other service item and not have to worry too much. But you can also keep an eye and an ear on them by listening for the give-away clicking and clacking of a worn CV when doing a U-turn or any turn on full-lock. Of course, by then, the joint will be already shot. Make sure the rubber boots are also kept in good shape; even the smallest nick or split in the rubber means the end for the CV within. A lot of people using this Isuzu for heavy work have found that the standard suspension needs a bit of an upgrade to cope - upgrade kits are available on the after-market.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2021 D-Max - Ex Vat) An oil filter is in the £18 bracket. Front brake discs cost in the £54 bracket. A shock absorber is around £266. Air filters start from around £9, but can run to over £50 for pricier brands. Fuel filters start from around £3 but can run up to around £17 for pricier brands. Pollen filters sit in the £7-£18 bracket. Wiper blades are in the £5-£13 bracket.

On the Road

Previous D-Max models served up a pretty crude drive experience on tarmac, but out on the road in this 'RG'-series version it'll be immediately obvious that this Isuzu has sharpened up its act. The brand made lots of suspension changes with this design to try and reduce body roll, improve stability and better absorb vibrations. Plus the chassis became stiffer and the brand introduced a modern electric-powered steering rack - which allowed for the installation of a class-leading portfolio of camera safety features. No contender in this class can properly replicate the car-like drive dynamics of an SUV and in this one, there remains plenty of body roll at speed through tighter turns as you slide around on the flat-bottomed seats. But on the plus side, thanks to all those changes, there's certainly a lot less back end floatiness when the load bay is empty and with a bit of weight in the back, it's possible at times to forget you're in a pick-up - until you lurch into a corner or clump over a speed hump.

Under the bonnet, this 'RG'-series model uses the same 1.9-litre turbo diesel powerplant as its predecessor, offering 164PS and capable in auto form of up to 30.7mpg on the combined cycle and up to 241g/km of CO2 - class-competitive stats. This is a smaller capacity engine than you'll find with direct rivals and its 360Nm torque output is lower too, though a 3.5-tonne towing capacity is retained. This lighter powertrain though, enables the kerb weight of this Isuzu to dip below the government's 2,040kg weight limit that separates Goods Vehicles from passenger cars so, unlike other pick-ups in the segment, this one can be driven at passenger car speed limits. The engine is mated to gearboxes updated for this 'RG'-series design, a 6-speed manual transmission with a slicker shift and a new Aisin-sourced 6-speed auto featuring much quicker shift times. Refinement was slightly improved for this design, though it was still hardly car-like. And, as before, off road prowess was really impressive, helped by a quicker-shifting 4WD system, greater suspension articulation and the lockable rear differential you get on most models. Ground clearance is up to 235mm and the fording depth was increased to 800mm.


You'll probably have preconceptions about the Isuzu D-Max. Possibly positive ones if you're a farmer or commercial user who needs something tough, rough and ready and have tried a D-Max in the past. By and large though, earlier versions of this Isuzu never had the polish - primarily in ritzy looks, cabin design and tarmac drive quality - to appeal to the broadest spectrum of the pick-up market.

But this 'RG'-series D-Max just might. In this form, it got a good deal more pavement presence and though the interior and the paved surface drive dynamics still aren't quite on a par with its Ford Ranger or Toyota Hilux arch-rivals, with this design the gap in these two areas closed considerably.

Where you might have pause for concern here though, is with the single engine offering available, smaller in capacity and lesser in torque than rival powerplants, a failing you'll feel more acutely if you choose your D-Max with a manual gearbox. But is that such an issue? This Isuzu still has the same 3.5-tonne towing capacity as its rivals. And even though it's got less power, it might even be quicker point-to-point because unlike its key competitors, it's light enough to be driven at passenger car speed limits.

For those who want a pick-up that most closely resembles an SUV, these arguments may not be sufficient to compensate for a clunkier roadgoing feel than you get in a Ranger or a Hilux. Everyone else shopping in this segment though, needs to take a fresh look at this Isuzu in this 'RG'-series form. Smarter, stronger and safer, it 'loves work loads'. If that's exactly what you want from a pick-up, then you'll find it here.

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