I LOVE driving a ute, especially with my family! So given the opportunity to quickly check out the all-new 2021 Isuzu D-Max just before it went on sale, I jumped at the chance and (with a little help) squeezed just ONE last review in before I gave birth!
Let's have a look at how the new D-Max LS-U dual-cab version stands up as a family ute and a BabyDrive…
First impressions are it's a good looking ute! It looks tough and capable off-road, the double front grille is a wink to the brand's heritage and also looks quite panther-like in this black colourway with the silver ‘teeth' at the front.
The rear bumpers have been integrated with the bodywork so they don't stick out, which I like from an aesthetic point as well as easier to reverse because you know where the end of the vehicle is. All the D-Max models now have a reversing camera as standard and the top-spec model also has front and rear parking sensors. A big step up from NONE on the old model!
The interior has been overhauled enough to be unrecognisable, in a good way, and is nowhere near as basic as it used to be. Gone is the washing machine dial that controlled the aircon and hello neat dual climate controls that look similar to those in some luxury cars.
There are now rear air vents in the back of the central console box of all dual-cab D-Max models, which is excellent for keeping rear passengers cool. Even better, the system has a HEPA cabin filter that helps remove a lot of allergy-causing particles and very fine dust from the air.
The media system has been massively updated, it has a large 9″ screen in the higher-spec models like this LS-U (second from top below the X-Terrain) and 7″ in the rest. All of the models now have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. Big BabyDrive tick there! All the models have a reversing camera as standard and the X-Terrain model has front and rear parking sensors.
There is now a digital speedo which is a HUGE improvement and you can also see the distance to empty on the head-up screen too.
The steering wheel is now adjustable in/out and up/down which is still quite rare in utes. Best of all, it made space for my pregnant belly behind the wheel!!!
The new 2021 Isuzu D-Max is also packed FULL of family-friendly safety features, the kind of long list you would expect to find in a family SUV, not a ute! I am glad to see it there and finally protecting all the passengers in these work vehicles that often double as family haulers.
The 2021 Isuzu D-Max is not yet given an ANCAP safety rating but the safety technologies fitted to all models include autonomous emergency braking (AEB), forward collision warning (FCW), turn assist, driver attention monitoring, emergency lane keep assist (LKA), lane departure prevention, lane departure warning (LDW), adaptive cruise control (ACC) (on models with an auto gearbox), road sign recognition and an intelligent speed limiter that can adjust by recognising road signs, blindspot monitoring (BSM), rear cross-traffic alert, trailer sway control (intervenes to bring a wibbly trailer into line), and auto headlights with auto high beam. Phew!
Not forgetting the eight airbags! Yes, eight! The 2021 D-Max is the first ute to have a central airbag that comes down between the two front passengers to stop them knocking their heads together in an accident. Hardly any cars or SUVs have this safety feature yet.
All these new additions with safety and media system are great but…
How many child seats will fit in the back of the new 2021 Isuzu D-Max?
Well, this is where Isuzu has taken a big step backwards when it comes to family friendliness. Firstly you can now only install two child seats in the back of the 2021 Isuzu D-Max?!! WHAT??? Crazy I hear you say?! The previous model used to take three child seats so well! So if you already own an Isuzu D-Max and use three child seats in the back and want to upgrade to the new one… You can't!
The New 2021 Isuzu D-Max has ISOFix in the two outer seats which is great, as previous models had no ISOFix.
The top tether anchorages, unfortunately, have now been changed to the woven fabric loop method a bit like the Nissan Navara and Toyota HiLux. This is why you can now only install two child seats. There are lots of concerns around these woven loops in terms of safety, longevity and being able to safely and correctly install child seats and you can see more about this here.
You have to feed your top tether strap through the fabric loop behind the headrest and then across to clip it on to the central metal tether anchor point.
It is incredibly difficult to do and you can only use the outer seats for child seats now, so it doesn't give you the flexibility of being able to put a child seat in the central seating position either.
It's a shame because I know when we have done island road trips in an Amarok with our daughter we'd put her in the central seat so she feels more included with us in the front and gets a good view out of the front windscreen. Anyway, those days are long gone what with number two very much ready to make their grand entrance while I was reviewing this D-Max…
There is also the obvious concern that your top tether strap is going to be constantly rubbing against the woven strap and this will cause fraying of both, thus causing a weak point on the straps in the event of an accident. Being a ute it is also likely to be driven on rough and corrugated roads which could speed up this process. A top tether strap can be replaced on a child seat but the woven straps fixed to the D-Max would be a lot more difficult and I'd imagine more expensive to replace (if they can be).
I can not understand why Isuzu has moved to this car seat installation method, not least because it eliminates existing D-Max owners who need to carry more than two child seats. It's strange that they needed to use this method because the rear seatback still folds forward like the old one, which was good in terms of child seat installation that it didn't need changing!
I did give Mark from Isuzu Ute Australia a demonstration in the difficulties and frustrations of using this system and to his credit, he seemed to take it on board and was keen to learn and help out. So hopefully, the company will now have some understanding of the problem.
As we parents know it is not only three-child families that need to be able to install three child seats. I know I often have a spare seat installed in my car as we often take our childrens' friends home from school or for playdates, and family members too, so it's important to be able to have room for them as well.
This now only leaves a couple of utes in Australia that can take three child seats in the back. With the departure of the Holden Colorado as well, there is now just the VW Amarok (which has no rear airbags) and the Nissan Navara (which has these same woven loops for top tether anchorages but even worse it doesn't even have a metal anchorage for the central one it is woven too and claims to be safe for three child seats).
With two child seats installed in the back, using the ISOFix you can only just fit a passenger in between them, it is very tight for your shoulders as Mark from Isuzu Ute Australia found out! If you use the seatbelts instead of ISOFix and move the seats out the edge of the seat base you would find it a better fit for a passenger in between two child seats.
Legroom is good in the back of the 2021 New Isuzu D-Max and with a rear-facing capsule installed we could fit a 184cm driver in front of it.
With a forward-facing child seat or infant capsule installed a 184cm passenger can fit in front of it.
The storage throughout the D-Max is still really good. My favourite cup holders at either end of the dashboard are still there!
There are two more in the central console and a small central console storage box. I'm pleased to say the lid no longer protrudes so far over the cup holders they are not usable as it did in the previous models.
There is a rubber-lined phone tray in front of the gear lever with USB and 12V socket.
The double glove boxes are still there and now thankfully there are mirrors in both front visors.
The door bins in the front will hold a large refillable water bottle and an iPad.
The storage box in the dashboard now opens really easily which anyone who has driven an Isuzu knows is a major improvement! 😉
In the back, the rear door bins will now hold a large refillable water bottle which is great
and the cup holders have been moved from the rear floor to a fold-down in the central seatback.
There are map pockets on the back of both front seats and a bag hook on the back of one too.
The rear interior lights can be reached from the front of the cab, which is great for driving at night and there are handles above both rear doors for hanging toys from.
I didn't test the tray capacity of the new 2021 Isuzu D-Max because I am far too heavily pregnant to be hopping up and down into that tray, but I can tell you it has increased in length by 1.8cm and in-depth by 2.5cm. So it is likely to hold around 30 shopping bags like the previous model but maybe a little harder to reach over the sides of due to the increased depth.
The doors of the new 2021 Isuzu D-Max have auto-lock and unlock which makes taking kids to and from the car much easier, keeping your hands free for them and their stuff!
I got a quick half an hour drive in the new 2021 Isuzu D-Max LS-U and I was amazed how light the steering is. As well as now being fully adjustable, the steering wheel feels really nice in your hands.
The turning circle is even smaller on the new D-Max, which is something I’d praised the previous model for so manoeuvring and parking are made even easier now. That's great for apartment block or school and supermarket car parks. Around town, it didn’t feel too big on the road and on the highway, the lane-keep assist was reliable and the blind spot monitoring helpful although I didn't find visibility compromised in the D-Max so I didn't need to rely on the blind spot monitoring at all.
It was pretty smooth for a ute over my local jiggly road and overall it was great to drive on first impressions with a much quieter and smoother engine as well. In fact, when idling, the new D-Max was actually quieter than the Kia Carnival I had at the same time, so good for not disturbing little passengers when they're asleep!
Looking forward to doing more kilometres and doing more testing in the 2021 D-Max once I've had this baby! Stay tuned for a FULL review in the next couple of months!