Isuzu have announced a brand new, work-ready special edition D-Max – and we’ve already had a go behind the wheel of it.
The Workman+ is based on the D-Max in hardy Utility spec. Not much comes as standard on that model, with an old-school RDS radio being one of the highlights. Accompanying that are features such as electric windows, remote central locking, height adjustable steering, a pair of 12-volt sockets and manual air-con. On the safety front, it comes with electronic stability control, Trailer Sway Control, ABS, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control and, proving the D-Max is a capable family steed, it also has child locks on the rear doors and ISOFIX fittings, too.
In becoming the Workman+, the specification has swelled modestly. The radio has been upgraded with digital capabilities, whilst a bed liner (over- or under-rail), side steps, tow bar, 13-pin socket, 18-inch alloys plus a full-size spare and an ever-useful reversing camera are all fitted as standard on the special edition.
Very little inside the Workman+ differs from the Utility models, with vinyl flooring, cloth seating, the same plethora of stowage pockets and the same dash and steering wheel. This means there’s still a double glovebox, a shelf beneath the single DIN radio unit and a steering wheel free of controls. Out on the road, this means that there’s a little more tyre noise coming in as a result of losing rubber in the move from 16-inch steelies to the bigger alloys. But, that said, the level of refinement is still commendable for a pick-up – and an intentionally rudimentary one at that.
None of the add-ons elevate the legroom in the Workman+ to be any more than adequate, just as in the rest of the double-cab D-Max family (and most of the sector, for that matter), whilst the side steps not only add an element of polish to the visual side of things but clambering in and out of the truck is made that bit easier, too.
As with all D-Max models, there are a few idiosyncrasies to the driving experience that are all part of what gives the truck its charm. The chunky gear change, steering that keeps you busy and the first gear that never lets you forget that the D-Max is a commercial vehicle first and foremost.
But despite how that sounds, the Workman+ is, like all D-Max models, an enjoyable truck to drive. There’s that raw honesty about its purpose that many can and will find endearing. A large part of that is down to the 1.9-litre turbodiesel unit beneath the bonnet. It’s the smallest engine on the market so should seem breathless, but once you’ve got past the short first gear – which can often be bypassed – the unit does all it can to present you with all of its 164 horses and 226lbf.ft in a smooth yet prompt manner. The result is as good as can be expected from such a tool, with a not unruly increase in volume accompanied by the desired grunt in most situations on the road.
Possibly the most important addition for many prospective buyers – particularly the more urban cohort – will be the reversing camera. Displayed intuitively on the rear-view mirror it’s a clever way of incorporating a tool that will always be useful on a truck.
Whilst the lower profile tyres are a touch noisier than those fitted with the 16-inch steel wheels, the 255/60s fitted here still offer enough spring for a ride that remains comfortable on the road. And in that size there will be plentiful opportunity to change them for a more aggressive tread, should it be required.
The Workman+ is a very honest truck that offers capability and value in equal measure. Its spec list offers much more than the mere £700 price hike would suggest, with each of the additions being practical. Except the Sapphire Blue Mica paint, which is usually reserved for more premium D-Max variations, but in our eyes is the best colour on the Isuzu palette. The Workman+ is also available in Cosmic Black Mica (again a premium colour), Obsidian Grey Mica, Titanium Silver Metallic and Splash White.
Whereas the D-Max AT35 is a truck with undeniable presence, the fact that it is made to smash over ice planes in Iceland means that using one pretty much anywhere in the UK is like taking a big red button to a knife fight. The Workman+ however is fantastically judged for its target market. It has a spec that doesn’t overindulge, it merely makes using it easier. The radio isn’t sophisticated, nor the fittings in the cabin, but they work – which is exactly what this truck was made to do. We’re confident that if you use this truck on a daily grind, you’ll have no qualms with it whatsoever.
That isn’t to say it’s perfect. If you used it off-road regularly you may well be more at ease riding on steelies, and if you often find yourself on faster roads it may not be long before you find yourself yearning for cruise control. Put those small things aside, though, and the Workman+ has nailed its brief.
On some levels there’s a juxtaposition to the notion of a special edition that isn’t leather-clad and fully tricked out, but our expectations have been preconditioned by what has come before.
Truly great special editions are designed to serve a niche, and let’s be honest, showing off isn’t that much of a niche anymore. It’s refreshing that the Workman+ isn’t about that – it’s a special edition that is still a true pick-up. It costs £21,495 as a CV and is available to order as of the start of July for 150 shrewd – and lucky – customers. At such a small margin over the basic Utility model, frankly you’d be silly not to be in the queue.