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Isuzu D-MAX: A diamond in the rough

Everyone loves a bakkie. Or an SUV. People who don’t own one often wish they could. Or at least know someone who does. Then there are the people who would have a hard time functioning without one: farmers, builders, handymen, plumbers, adventurers, etc. It’s easy to see the appeal of a bakkie as opposed to a regular car. Whereas sedans might hold an edge in terms of passenger space, bakkies’ volumous goods compartment allows space for just about anything, including people. Then there is the power differential in bakkies’ favour. Finally, bakkies just have a greater presence on the road. They tend to catch the eye more than the average car does.

What place is better suited for an SUV than Namibia? Roughing it through the Kalahari? Check. Cruising from one far-flung town to another? Check. Surfing the Namib’s dunes? Check. Trekking around on a local farm? Check. Probably the only place you don’t want your bakkie to be is stuck in your garage.

Almost every car brand has some kind of bakkie in its catalogue. Toyota, Volkswagen, Ford, Nissan and other well known car manufacturers have some quality bakkies and SUVs in addition to their regular cars. It is somewhat ironic then, that a company that focuses on bakkies is hardly ever mentioned in discussions about popular SUVs. With the launch of its next generation of SUV on the horizon, now is a good time to take a closer look at one of Isuzu’s offerings.

The Isuzu D-MAX is the successor of the trusted KB model. If you’ve ever seen or driven a KB, then you might be pleasantly surprised by some of the differences Isuzu introduced in the new iteration. On the inside one of the obvious changes is that a lot of the hard plastic surfaces have been replaced with soft-touch panels. This helps create a warmer interior as opposed to the often times stark experience of the KB. The outer appearance of the car has also seen a bit of a face lift, with new light configurations and an eye-catching grille. Remember the old touchscreen interface? Now it is bigger, with more colours, and with additional audio and video capabilities. Lastly, the D-MAX saw two additional, significant upgrades: a host of new safety features and, finally, a 6-speed transmission.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the engine. The 2.5l workhorse is as reliable as finding salt in the Etosha Pans. It might not be the biggest engine around, but it keeps on going and going and still manages to pull its weight (and any other weight you want to chuck on the back). You can even choose between a petrol or diesel option. That being said, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind. While the car does punch above its weight in terms of performance, it lacks the sheer power available in its competitors. The car is also designed to function at its best in off-road conditions. Driving on roads isn’t the smoothest experience to be had in an SUV. It’s not that it’s bad, but it is noticable. The D-MAX isn’t as feature-rich as other SUVs on the market. For all intents and purposes it is aimed at individuals who value function over form.

So, why even consider this car then? For starters, there’s something to be said for reliability. Knowing that you’ll get a lot of hassle-free mileage out of your car should always be considered money well spent. Speaking of money, with the launch of a new generation around the corner, prices for current and earlier models can be expected to drop quite a bit. Currently you can find a variety of second-hand KB models for anything between N$140 000 and N$300 000 or thereabouts. D-MAXs are also available for more or less N$300 000, depending on which configuration you opt for. If you’re looking to buy a new D-MAX, you’re looking at N$450 000 or more. This compares very favourably against the competition, when comparing like for like. While the Toyota Hilux and Volkswagen Amarok are unarguably more popular brands they’re also significantly more expensive. The Ford Ranger, on the other hand, is similarly priced and possibly worth the consideration as an alternative. That being said, there is a realistic expectation that the D-MAXs price will improve further once the new generation becomes available. At the same time Isuzu has indicated that the new generation will include models that compete strongly in terms of comfort and features.

All in all what Isuzu’s bakkie lacks in glamour and luxury it makes up for in performance, reliability, and value for money. At the very least, it’s worth a test drive. 

*Disclaimer: This article uses the terms bakkie and SUV interchangably. This is done for the sake of brevity. While there are definite differences between the two types of vehicles, they are more similar to one another than they are to sedans.

Published on 31.07.2020 by NamCars.net

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