ON TEST: Isuzu D-Max Yukon

Isuzu, On Test

The D-Max is a solid and honest one-tonner that’s revered for being to the point and staying true to its identity. Special editions have added luxe mod-cons and comfort, whilst the workaday utility model has a charm of its own. So, with less top-end than the Utah models, but not as spartan as the entry trucks, is there a legitimacy to the Yukon’s place in the D-Max range?

The cabin in the Yukon is less leathery than that in the models wearing a Utah badge, but the upholstery still features the luxury textile. However, it’s not necessarily where you’d expect it. Sat in the cabin, your weight will be supported by fairly firm, but comfortably supportive seats furnished with the sort of cloth that’ll brush down and stand up to father time. The steering wheel is hard and utilitarian but still leather-coated, and the gearstick gaiter is, too. There is more, situated on both the door-mounted and centre armrests, plus atop the driver’s binnacle and upper glovebox lid.

There’s plenty of space for oddment stowage throughout the cabin, with decent-sized door bins, storage space in front of the gear lever and cupholders behind it. The central armrest is in fact the lid to a cubby box and the glovebox is a two-parter – as with all D-Max models. Above the centre console there’s also a small bin, a roof-mounted shades holder and also little storage spaces beneath the seats for a little more practicality.

The buttons and dials on the centre console are tough, old school numbers which are plain to use and better suited to a worksite than the slicker circular layout in the Utah models. The screen on the dash is a touchscreen number, but its functions are also controlled in part by the buttons beside it. The unit features a CD-player and analogue radio, but there is no sat-nav or digital radio option. There is Bluetooth connection, however, so you can connect your phone for audio and navigation should you require.

The rear seats offer reasonable legroom and can be folded flat to extend the lined load bed should it be required. USB ports are accessible in the back as well as the front, plus the rear passengers also get usefully sized door pockets and cup holders. Just enough to keep both workmen and children happy for limited distances. Isofix anchors with top tethers are present for when the D-max is playing steed to the latter. Passengers can store stuff in the seatback map pockets too, you know, the ones that’re often full of gunk and old sweet wrappers rather than actual maps.

Given the shared skeleton that serves all D-Max trucks so well, the Yukon doesn’t vary at all from other trucks that lie elsewhere in the family – their distinguishing features come in the form of gadgets and furnishings. When we had the shiny Utah V-Cross D-Max last month, you may remember we took it to an off-road site and chucked it axle-deep in mud. We knew anyway that the D-Max is capable off-road, and we used the V-Cross to affirm that. This month, however, we used the more partisan Yukon for all of our long-haul travels.

On the motorway, the 1.9-litre diesel had plenty of pull for overtaking in whatever gear and was also rather refined when settled into a cruise – a scenario that was helped no-end by the cruise control. The system holds a constant speed very well over ploughs and troughs and with the controls situated on the steering wheel, it’s a doddle to flick on and off. There’s a driver’s footrest which means that, if you turn the radio up a bit, the Yukon is a surprisingly refined mode of transport.

The suspension strikes a good balance, providing the 1.1-tonne payload stat without the harshness in the axle that blots the record of other trucks on the market. On twisty roads there is still D-Max levels of poise and here, when you’re having a bit more fun with it, the louder engine isn’t so much of an intrusion. Well, obviously it is – arguably more so – but when you’re actively revving harder, any complaints can only be wrought with contradiction.

Where the D-Max’s DNA doesn’t go against it out on the road is early on in proceedings. The gearing for first is by all definitions short, and whilst that’s not a problem on a work site, it does mean that any notable momentum must be worked for. Traffic, universally not fun, isn’t made any easier by the low-down gearing, nor manoeuvres in general, but the reversing camera does make parking that bit simpler. The Yukon also comes with other driving aids in the form of Hill Start Assist, Trailer Sway Control and Hill Descent Control.

Whilst it’s easy to see the merits of a simple, functional work truck like the base D-Max, as well as a plush version of said wagon like the Utah, filling the space between the two doesn’t seem like a worthwhile task. On paper, at least.

But you don’t drive, work, or live with a pick-up hypothetically on paper, do you? You do all of those things in reality and on the road. And whilst it isn’t as clear cut as the modus operandi for the specs at either end of the range, it may well hold tick more boxes than the other two.

If it weren’t for the 18-inch alloys, the exterior would only be a small step above the entry-level D-Max as rather than sporting plastic bumpers, those on the Yukon are body-coloured. The interior, too, has more creature comforts installed but without the worry of obliterating price-inflating leather seating. So, it toes the line to present a truck that is ideal for those who will use it, but also require it to double up as family transport – if it can cope with the work site it can cope with a young family… you hope.

Showing characteristics of trucks sitting above and below it in the Isuzu hierarchy, the Yukon is a perfectly viable truck in its own right. It won’t give you a heart attack on site or off-road and nor will it give you tinnitus and a bad back if you often cover long distances. It doesn’t throw extras at you for the sake of it – everything on it is both comfortable and functional with the possible exception of the 18-inch alloys. But then, with a commercial on the road price of £22,999 as tested, there’s every chance that buyers won’t be too opposed to fitting steelies if it bothers them so much.

There is a slight element of JACK OF ALL TRADES and so on, as you might not be as eager to throw the Yukon into hard graft as a base model, nor show it off or spend long hours in it as the Utah or a special edition, but where it trails the other siblings it is a matter of fine margins and the Yukon would score better across the board.