You may not think the Isuzu D-Max would be an obvious choice for a family car! With five seats, the huge tray carrying capacity, great off-road ability AND the fact the D-Max’s main competitors the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux were the top selling cars in Australia two years running. It’s pretty obvious that their practicality and versatility are what’s making utes very popular as BabyDrives!
I was recently converted by the Holden Colorado which I loved! I was eager to drive its sister SUV the Trailblazer thinking it would be the best BabyDrive but I was sadly disappointed. Surprising myself by preferring a ute over an SUV I was looking forward to driving the Isuzu D-Max and to compare it to its SUV sister, the MU-X, next week! Let’s find out how I got on and if the D-Max, like the Colorado, had me converted!
I’m afraid with the Isuzu it just didn’t tick enough of the right BabyDrive boxes for me. My initial shock at there being no ISO Fix was not offset during the week's test drive by enough of the D-Max’s other endearing features.
The D-Max feels like you are driving off-road when you’re just popping to the shops, pitching and rocking as you turn corners or go up and down the smallest of kerbs. The ride's really rocky for passengers, especially the child seats which seemed to move around considerably, with a lot of protesting from their small occupants!
The engine was juddery and loud and you could really tell it was a truck engine. It felt like the D-Max would just go and go and that the D-Max is designed more as a workhorse than a family wagon!
The D-Max was a bit tall for me too. At 162cm tall, I had to hop up on the side steps just to do up Tulsi's child seat restraints, which on a day to day basis was impractical for reaching other things in and out of the cab also.
None of the cup holders would hold my large refillable water bottle or anything over a small coffee cup, which annoyed me over the week as my bottle rolled around the cab floor!
Three child seats fitted so well across the back seat and there were no seatbelt clips underneath child seats, which is so rare with any of the cars I test drive. However, this may be due to the lack of ISO Fix. Any size dog would fit easily on the back seats with only one or two child seats installed too. Otherwise, they'd fit in the tray without the lid on.
I loved the simplicity of the D-Max’s dash and controls.
This, along with the convenient little shelves on the side of the back tray and the paint colour, were probably my favourite features!
The air-con, media and steering wheel mounted controls were so simple and uncomplicated. Just what was needed and nothing more. Some would criticise it for not having enough or looking out of date.
I find now as a mother, less is more and keeping things simple makes life so much easier!
I sometimes find myself thinking: why do I need five different screen colour options, when I can’t find the button to mute the ‘beeeeeeeping’ that is waking up my baby!!
Bringing me to the lack of ‘beeeeeeeeeeping’ in this Isuzu. Beautiful and quiet! This was however made up for by the protesting child being rollercoastered around the back seat and the sound of the truck engine! Reversing, however, was peaceful! With the absence of any sensors, there were no flashing lights or sirens blaring and the tight turning circle and good reversing camera made it easy to manoeuvre confidently.
On a serious note, the D-Max does come with just a reversing camera. There are no sensors, lane departure warnings, blind spot warnings, it is featureless in that sense compared to its rivals. That is how it feels in a BabyDrive sense. It isn’t a vehicle designed to cross over into the family car category. It is as its name suggests, a utility vehicle. It would be my vehicle of choice to cross the Simpson Desert but I wouldn’t choose it to do my weekly shopping!
We drove the 4WD LS-T model D-Max, which like all 4WD and high ride 2WD models has a five-star ANCAP safety rating. (Isuzu also do some 2WD low ride models which do not score fives stars).
The five-star rating is thanks to most models coming with heaps of active and passive safety features.
All the LS models come with reversing cameras fitted as standard and they’re also available as extras for the SX and EX models.
You would hardly know all the active safety features like electronic stability control, emergency brake assist, anti-lock braking system, hill decent control, daytime running lights, electronic brake force distribution, traction control system, stability and hill start assist are all working away in the background the whole time you’re driving.
All models have six airbags as standard; dual frontal, side and curtain airbags and pre-tensioner seatbelts which pull you back when the airbags are activated. The D-Max has a safety cabin shell with anti-intrusion bars in the doors which provide increased protection in the event of a side impact. There's also a pedestrian safety bonnet and an impact absorbing chassis.
The D-Max doesn’t come with many of the safety features that come as standard in a lot of new cars and drive me crazy as a mum, filling the dashboard with buttons and the cab with beeping alarms! This is something I have REALLY enjoyed whilst driving the D-Max.
You would need to weigh up carefully when considering the D-Max which safety features are important to you in a family car.
Some of these safety features are also features that drive me crazy as a mum! Like the lane departure and forward collision alert or the parking sensor beeping sound.
I want all the safety technology AND to be able to mute the sound when Tulsi’s asleep!
I find the speed and weight of the tailgate dropping down a little worrying. It is the same for all the utes I have tested and none of them have a damped motion for this. It is definitely something to be aware of with little ones around. The tailgate is just at toddler head height and would cause quite an injury if it dropped down or they walked into it.