Toyota New Zealand was crowned NZ’s automotive market leader for 2018.
With this acceptance, car companies have seen a demand for more car-like creature comforts mixed in with the rugged exterior.
The new LS-T D-Max from Isuzu could well be worth a look, because the 'bones' of the machine have certainly proved themselves very capable over the years – in the hands of tradies known to give their vehicles a hard time
The 30L turbo diesel, common rail engine pushes out a respectable 130kW – along with a peak torque output of 380Nm across a broad rev range – which certainly seems to help the truck hang on during long climbs and negates the need to grab a lower gear to keep momentum going. The five speed transmission is smooth and precise and uses control technology that monitors the driver's habits of acceleration and braking, which alters transmission shiftpoints to suit their style. The manually controlled sequential shift option allows a more sporty driving style and can also be used to hold the vehicle in a particular ratio for climbs or descents.
The 2WD version tested was fitted with safety features such as ABS, electronic brake distribution that detects the load in the rear and adjusts the braking effect to the rear axle, and traction control that allows the machine to take on the slippery stuff. Although serious off-roaders are more likely to want the 4WD model to ensure they get to their destination.
Moving on to the 'urbanisation', first impression on opening doors is the seating arrangements, which take the form of leather upholstery – while appearing a little decadent for a ute – will suit the intended market and probably be better suited to handle blackcurrant spills from the kids and drools from the dog.
The driver gets the added bonus of 6-way electrical adjustment, although this tester found the angle of the seat pan from front to back limited. The second row also has leather, and although lacking any adjustment appeared roomy and comfortable, and had the option of being laid flat for large items, or as a perch for the dog.
Creature comforts for trips to the beach or to see the relatives is taken care of with set and forget climate control air conditioning for an even temperature and a six speaker entertainment system that features a DVD Player, USB, I-Pod and blue tooth connectivity for up to five devices at any one time. The technology is further enhanced with a tailgate mounted rear view camera; a must for hooking up trailers and getting into tight parking spots and a touch-screen Sat-Nav system to ensure you end up where you intended.
Ride quality is as good as most utes in the market. It appears the efforts of the designers to use an extended wheelbase and wide wheeltrack has paid off, with the vehicle cornering without too much deviation from its course unless distracted by a pothole or poor surface mid bend. As with any ute there is a tendency for the rear end to appear a little springy, but this is improved greatly with a load of up to 1007kg or something hooked to the the towbar which can be up to 3500kg (4WD).
Contact with the ground is by smart five-spoke alloys running 255 section tyres to complete the look.
On the looks front, the D-Max is up there with the best and won't look out of place on the farm or outside the favourite coffee shop in town. The fact that the 2WD rides on the same suspension and wheel equipment won't let anyone know it's not 4WD unless they start hunting out badges.
The frontal aspect is bold with big purposeful headlights which blend into the bumper area that includes driving lamps and a cooling intake grille. Moving down the flanks, a neat pair of running boards look the part, although they are probably more use to mummy size 6's in suburbia than to a farmer's size 11's in effluent. Up above is a pair of roof bars that pay homage to the urban intentions and a racy shark-fin aerial completes the look.