The D-Max, Isuzu’s second offering in the country, aims to offer something for barebones load carriers and lifestyle buyers

Japanese carmaker Isuzu has launched its second offering for our market – the D-Max pick-up truck. And the company has positioned it not just for the commercial segment but also for some private buyers. Isuzu believes pick-ups are well suited to our market, and not only in rural parts, but for a small number of city-based buyers as well.

There are two kinds of D-Max on sale – the 'flat deck', the more basic model with fewer features and a completely flat deck or bed at the back for better storage

and the 'arched deck' that is aimed at the lifestyle buyer. It's got external styling elements like a chrome grille (styled to look like a lion's teeth, incidentally), wing mirrors, body-coloured bumpers and door handles, and a cargo area that's fully integrated with the rest of the body. The arched deck version is available only as a 'space cab', which means that behind the two seats in the passenger compartment, there is a generous area to store stuff.

Though not as basic as the one in the flat deck version, the cabin still doesn't have a lot of frills. The basic dash design is shared with the MU-7 SUV, but it's all black and grey plastic, rather than faux wood and silver trim, and in place of the touchscreen, there is a single-DIN Kenwood audio system. However, the quality in this cabin is fantastic for the segment, with fit and finish that surpasses its local competition. The plastics feel hard wearing, but at the same time aren't rough around the edges. There are bottle holders in the doors and two cup-holders in the centre console, but neither is large enough to properly fulfil its purpose. There are also proper-sized cupholders in a console against the back wall of the cab.

This version gets power windows, central locking, steering rake adjust, air-conditioning, and a day-night rear-view mirror. There's no electric adjust for the wing mirrors, there's no ABS or airbags, and no seat height adjustment either. However, the driving position is really good. The fabric seats are a touch firm, but supportive and comfortable on a long drive.

The D-Max is powered by a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder common-rail diesel engine good for 134bhp and 29.97kgm. The company claims the D-Max is capable of covering over 1,000km on a single, 76-litre tank of diesel.

The engine roars to life and sounds a bit listless initially, but then smoothens out when you accelerate. The turbo lag lasts until about 2,100rpm and then the boost comes in quite cleanly. However, this being a pick-up, first and second gears are frustratingly short, but it's all in the interest of getting all your heavy cargo moving more easily from a standstill. Gears three to five are quite flexible, and with nothing weighing the deck down, overtaking in the D-Max was pretty effortless. The gearbox is a touch notchy, but nothing out of the ordinary for this segment.

The D-Max has leaf-spring rear suspension and when the rear deck is empty, the ride is very bouncy as the unladen rear end skips over every little bump. If the road is smooth, however, it does just fine, and high-speed stability in such conditions is good too.

With these two versions of the D-Max, Isuzu aims to tackle both the entry-level end of the pick-up spectrum, and the more lifestyle-oriented space. When it comes to the latter, it hasn't quite got all its bases covered though. The ride may be acceptable for commercial duties, but it won't go down so well with the businessman who wants a third car to use at his farmhouse.

The same goes for the cabin and equipment; a little bit of colour and some more features would not go amiss. The biggest problem, by far, is that the D-Max must be registered as a commercial vehicle, and therefore you need a CV license to drive it. It's a smart looking truck with a solid engine and great build quality, and given its strong reputation overseas, it's bound to handle utility duties well too. At Rs 7.09 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai) this arched cab version also undercuts its main rivals by a significant margin. But while it might be a hit with goods carriers, having to get an all-new license just to drive one is a big deterrent for private buyers.