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isuzu d-max 2021 review

2021 Isuzu D-max Review 4×4 Touring Australia | Specs & Price

Is it worth the hype?

isuzu d-max 2021 review

The 2021 Isuzu D-Max has totally evolved the D-Max brand from its predecessors. In this article we’ll check out what has changed and if it’s worth the hype.

The New Isuzu D-Max range has been on and off-road in Australia for some time now but questions still arise.

Let’s answer these questions:

  • Is it any good?
  • How different is the Isuzu D-Max from the Mazda BT-50?
  • Is it worth the money?

We’ll address these questions and take a deep dive into how this vehicle has changed, so you can see if it is a good fit for you.

Is the 2021 Isuzu D-Max 4×4 any good?

There definitely has been some major changes to the styling and the technology in this new D-max. They have made a big leap toward the more premium utes in the segment which was a much-needed move.

We believe the new partnership and shared platform with the 2021 Mazda BT-50 have brought some great improvements with interior tech & driving assistance. While the Mazda benefits from the drive train, suspension, engine and gearbox from the D-Max.

We’ve been behind the steering wheel of both utes here in Australia, and as far as we can tell, the feel of the standard models are identical. Once you start exercising the accessory catalogue, that’s where they start to stand apart.

Mazda went all out for their accessory options but the Isuzu D-Max is no slouch in the accessory department.

Everything from bull bars to various tray options from the factory. The D-Max has a more rugged look in our opinion.

We actually believe these changes have put the D-Max in the league of becoming one of Australia’s favourite utes in the coming years. It provides reliability with some decent tech at a more affordable price than some of its competitors.

Available Models for Isuzu 4×4 Ute Australia

  • 2IMY 4×4 X-Terrain Crew Cab Ute
  • 2IMY 4×4 LS-U Crew Cab Ute
  • 2IMY 4×4 LS-U Space Cab Ute
  • 2IMY 4×4 LS-M Crew Cab Ute
  • 2IMY 4×4 SX Crew Cab Ute
  • 2IMY 4×4 SX Crew Cab Chassis
  • 2IMY 4×4 Space Cab Chassis
  • 2IMY 4×4 SX Single Cab Chassis

*Similar 4×2 models can be found on the Isuzu Ute website

2021 Isuzu D-Max Specs:

The following specs are for the Crew Cab Cab-Chassis SX.

Engine3.0-litre Four-cylinder Turbo-Diesel
Transmission6-Speed Automatic (Manual available)
Power140kW @ 3600rpm
Torque450Nm @ 1600rpm-2600rpm
Towing (Braked)3500 kg
Towing Downball Weight350 kg
Payload1190 kg (Cab/Chassis)
4WD SystemPart-time
Differential LockRear
Wading Depth800mm
GVM3100 kg
Kerb Weight1910 kg
GCM5950 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity76 L
Fuel Economy 8L / 100 km

Note: Keep in mind that the 1190 kg payload of the cab chassis SX Crew Cab does not include the tray which could easily be over 200 kg depending on what option you choose.

Off-Road features

Australian conditions can be quite harsh but the new Isuzu D-Max has a re-engineered 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel power plant with 140kW at 3600rpm and 450Nm at 1600rpm-2600rpm the LS-U 4×4 dual-cab has an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission.

It also has a part-time 4WD system, a dual-range transfer case with high and low-range gearing, and a rear diff lock for 2021.

In the 4×4 models, you also get a slightly higher ground clearance than previous models at 240mm and a better water level of 800mm

Four-wheel drive models feature electronically switchable 2H, 4H, and 4L.

What is the difference between the Isuzu D-Max and the Mazda BT-50?

Isuzu D-Max vs Mazda BT-50

The power train and underpinnings of these twins remain the same, which is a good thing! You get a noteworthy powerplant in the 3.0 Diesel, a solid 6-speed auto-transmission or manual 6-speed, and the trim packages you want.

It’s worth noting that there are actually many subtle differences other than the styling, check out the full article: is the Mazda BT-50 The same as the Isuzu D-Max? For an in-depth look at the differences.

Passenger Seating Changes For Space Cab

We believe in order to keep the ANCAP 5-star rating for the space cab, Isuzu had to cancel the rear seats found in previous Space Cabs. Mazda had to make a similar move.

For a lot of Trayon Camper owners, this is a bit frustrating because getting an Extra Cab or Space Cab option allowed the vehicle to carry the full-size Camper while still providing the ability to take a 3rd person to the airport occasionally. The current generation of Ford & Hilux still has the rear seat in their extended cab options.

We are just hoping that this is limited to the Mazda & Isuzu, and won’t extend to the new models of the Hilux & Ranger (fingers crossed).

Otherwise, if you occasionally have to take a third person somewhere, your only choice is the dual cab.

Isuzu D-Max vs Mazda BT-50: Pricing Options

This mid-rage ute segment is a primary deciding factor. How can these utes be so similar and have such a pricing difference? This is no short-change of difference either, the price jump will leave an impression for sure.

Even though we’d like to compare the dual-cab versions of both the BT-50 and the D-Max, the monumental difference lies in the single cab options.

Isuzu D-Max

The base model, 4×4, SX single cab, 3.0 Diesel, 6-speed Auto, with tray, in Mineral White, 17” wheels, with no accessories.

  • Estimated $31,100 – $40,700

Mazda BT-50

The base model, 4×4, single cab X-Terrian cab chassis, 3.0 Diesel, 6-speed Auto, with tray, Ice White, 17” wheels, with no accessories.

  • Estimated $48,000 – $63,000

However, as you move into the dual cab and higher models, the pricing difference isn’t so dramatic. The top of the line Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain Dual cab is $63,000 before on roads, while the Mazda BT-50 Thunder is $68,990 plus on roads.

Major Warranty Changes If You Add an Aluminium Tray

A popular option in Australia is to buy a top-spec ute and remove the factory tub to install an Aluminum Tray on the back for that perfect build platform foundation. The Ranger & Hilux offer Top-Spec models in a Cab Chassis as well.

The tray gives you more versatility with a large usable flat surface for things such as toolboxes, wood, or your slide-on camper. Tradies like their luxuries as well so this is a great option for them, a comfy ride with all the mod-cons but a hard-working rear for the tools.

However, you can only put a tray on to the entry model Cab Chassis variants, otherwise, there is rumour and talk of you voiding the warranty due to having the tub removed, it’s considered “tampering” with the sensors and factory-installed equipment.

So this results in settling for the base models instead of top-spec variants like the X-Terrain with all the tech and comfort you really want.

With competitors such as Ford & Toyota offering top-spec Cab Chassis models, the tradies and adventurists might be leaning in a different direction if budget isn’t as much of a deciding factor.

Standard Safety Technology for the 2021 Isuzu D-Max

All Isuzu D-Max Models have received a five-star rating from ANCAP developed during 2020 testing. This has come at a price for the extended cab models though.

Although restrictions have been put in place for specific models, every model will have eight airbags to include driver knee airbags and side curtain airbags.

The entire model range will have the (IDAS) Intelligent Driver Assistance System as a standard feature. With blind spot monitoring, vehicle awareness to the front and rear, autonomous emergency braking, lane awareness monitoring, forward collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control for the automatic transmission models. The 2021 Isuzu D-Max is safer than ever. This is a far cry from the original 2018 Isuzu D-Max.

Driver-assist technology has come a long way and the above-listed features are just the tip of the spear. Rest assured the D-Max is working for you and doing its proven best to keep you and your loved ones as safe as possible.

The D-Max Interior Features

The simple utes of Isuzu’s past are no match for the current day D-Max. It has remained capable and utilitarian but now comes with such features as a touchscreen and Bluetooth connectivity.

The Top-Spec packages offer a 9.0” screen, eight-speaker ‘SkySurround’ audio, integrated GPS, and all the buttons to control your comfort.

Dual-zone climate control, leather seats, carpeted floor mats will ensure comfort for this trail or city street ready ute. Both Apple and Android integrations to take calls or play your favourite music.

Standard features such as front, side and curtain airbags, plus a driver’s knee airbag and a front-centre airbag. Automatic models feature lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control that reads the traffic around you to keep a safe distance from other drivers on the road.

The Top-Spec options will come at a price but it’s nice to know that standard features are already taken care of and reliable. All that’s remaining is to put the finishing touches on and make this ute truly yours.

What engine does the new D-Max have?

The 2021 Isuzu D-Max will be sporting the 3.0 Diesel fuel engine and six speed Manual or Auto Transmission as with the Mazda BT-50. Knowing this we must dive into the semantics of it all and get a feel for what to expect.

Adaptive Cruise Control

User reviews have netted valuable input stating the engine is solid. Cruising along the freeway with ease but has a tendency to dance between 5th and 6th gear (Auto-Trans) whilst using the Adaptive Cruise Control at freeway speeds.

Spacing between vehicles was maintained at a nominal distance and allowed for a relaxing commute. A claimed 8.0L/100Km fuel economy rating has seen higher consumption during highway and freeway use but the most praise came from users within the city limits.

Transmission Performance

isuzu d-max 2021

The automatic transmission seems happier while in town with the use of the lower gear ranges. The highway gear changes are not particularly abrupt but are definitely noticeable until you’re allowed a speed of 110 km or higher and then it’s smooth sailing.

D-Max Four Wheel Drive Review

The new D-Max gearing and low-range usability are quite effective. Coupled with the rear differential lock and low service intervals that had been missing from previous years, you now have a go-anywhere (mostly) utilitarian ute!

Predecessors have had issues with traction control or rather the intrusiveness of it when it was needed the least. Aggression was needed regarding the accelerator pedal in order to overcome the more treacherous terrain.

The new differential lock can only be engaged whilst in 4×4 low and will automatically cut off past the speed of 30 km/h. The confidence that a rear diff-lock brings to the table is a game-changer for this year’s Isuzu D-Max.

Do You Need a GVM Upgrade?

The (GVM) Gross Vehicle Mass is all-inclusive of the weight of your vehicle plus your load. The Kerb Weight is more or less, just the weight of the vehicle without the 4×4 accessories, aluminium tray or any other load.  


The main reason people increase the GVM is to increase the payload because the payload is the difference between the GVM and the Kerb Weight.

Whether you’re a tradie or an off-road enthusiast, we’re all packing more and more gear into and on our utes these days. And once you add 4×4 accessories like a front bar, tray, winch, snorkel, roof racks, snorkel, bash plates etc, it doesn’t leave much payload for people, luggage, camping gear, tools etc.

In other words, it gets used up quickly.

Therefore a GVM upgrade is becoming more and more necessary.

Adding weight to your ute, you run the risk of overloading or rather exceeding your allowable GVM. Other than leaving gear at home, technology and innovation bring solutions. Increasing the carrying capacity of your vehicle or a trailer can be beneficial.

Although, being a slide on camper manufacturer, we tend to avoid towing as it can quickly become a liability in really rough terrain.

Officially certified retailers such as Tough Dog and Pedders offer GVM upgrade kits that can increase your GVM but this all comes at a price, but so does the Mazda BT-50. So make sure you calculate your numbers with the accessories you want to add before you buy the vehicle, and work out how much payload you would have left. If you find that you are reaching the upper ceiling that the GVM allows, be sure to get a Second Stage Manufacturing GVM Upgrade before the first registration of the vehicle. Check out our article on why do I need a GVM upgrade.

*Tough Dog and Pedders are not represented by Trayon nor does Trayon represent these retailers. These two companies were given as an example and it is your sole responsibility to choose which modifications best suit you and your vehicle and stay within the limits of your vehicle.

Top competitors of the 2021 Isuzu D-Max

To say “competitors” is a monumental leap for the D-Max! It’s not that Isuzu was so far behind the competition before. It had been known as the reliable, utilitarian, simple ute on a budget.  Some would say the previous model D-max was what the Hilux was 15 years prior – simple and therefore reliable.

What has brought Isuzu to the top of the heap is its ability to remain the rugged simple ute, with a strong 3.0 engine and all the tech to keep up with the big manufacturers.

2021 has brought the D-Max into a very competitive territory and should give the Ranger and the Hilux a run for their money.

The Isuzu D-Max continues to be a favourite ute of our customers. The D-Max fell fourth during COVID-19. However, the old D-Max was being phased out and the new D-Max was still in production.

The Top 5 vehicles were the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, Mazda BT-50, Landcruiser 79 series, and the Isuzu D-Max. Now that the D-Max has entered full production, we see a shift in the market mainly due to the closing tech gap and the low price.

The Top 5 Utes our customers choose is now:

  1. Ranger
  2. Hilux
  3. DMax
  4. BT-50
  5. LC79

In the next two years, the D-Max could be in the top 2. Currently – the Hilux could well surrender it’s second spot.

Customers are now able to order the D-Max via our TurnKey service.

They are releasing the 2022 D-Max in the first quarter. They have added 3 more 4×4 models to their lineup with additional electronic features. It will certainly increase its position on the podium.

The 2021 Isuzu D-Max wrap up

We’ve developed an intimate relationship with this ute and can honestly say it’s more impressive and capable than we initially thought.

The 2021 Isuzu D-Max is as reliable and complete as its predecessor. The problem is it’s better! The interior refinements and punchy 3.0 diesel power plant have proven to exceed expectations.

The base model surpasses competitors on price savings which translates to more money left in your pocket. All this and you can rest easy knowing the safety features for this year have you covered.

However, there were a few drawbacks. Namely:

  1. The Space Cab model lost the rear passenger seats. So if you ever need to occasionally carry a third person, you’ll need to go with the Crew Cab.
  2. Sadly, Isuzu has decided to only offer Cab-Chassis variants in their lower-end models, so if you plan on adding an Aluminium Tray to increase practical working area, then you are stuck with the basic models, unlike with the Ranger & Hilux.

Those two issues aside, we believe that the Isuzu D-Max has made a big leap forward, and is now a serious contender in the battle for the top ute in Australia

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