2023 Isuzu D-Max LS-U+ dual-cab ute review

Dual-cab ute buyers are spoilt for choice in Australia. But is the 2023 Isuzu D-Max LS-U+ one of the best options in the market?


What we love
  • Big interior space and well-appointed materials
  • Huge amount of storage space
  • Strong and torquey engine is quick to respond 

What we don’t
  • Ends up being more expensive than up-spec D-Max X-Terrain
  • Fidgety ride comfort
  • Rudimentary infotainment system

Isuzu only sells two vehicle models in Australia – the D-Max light commercial vehicle and the MU-X large off-road-biased family SUV. But between those two work-oriented and adventure-heavy segments is where a lot of the country’s car-buying needs and wants are focused right now. Isuzu’s options do a compelling job in each.

Drive has consistently rated the Isuzu D-Max highly – it even won the coveted Drive Car of the Year Best Dual-cab Ute trophy – but that was nearly two years ago, and times have changed. The Isuzu D-Max might have received a minor ‘facelift’ less than 12 months ago, but very few things were changed and only trainspotters can tell the differences.

The model now must contend with alternatives like the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok twins under the skin, while the competition from Chinese rivals – and their value-based offerings – becomes ever more threatening to the D-Max’s success.

We’ve stepped back into a higher-spec variant within the D-Max range, the D-Max LS-U+, to see how it copes with daily life as well as freeway touring.

How much does the Isuzu D-Max cost in Australia?

The 2023 Isuzu D-Max can be specified with a choice of single-, space- or dual-cab (Isuzu calls dual-cab variants ‘Crew Cabs’) body styles, with a cab-chassis ute tray or a tub, and most variants come with the option of a manual transmission. This is fairly standard fare for various dual-cab utes on sale in Australia.

There are four main specification variants of the Isuzu D-Max range, and the nomenclature doesn’t offer a whole lot in the way of clarity, but we’ve worked out a semi-simple mnemonic.

SX is the entry-level variant, LS-M is the Middle-spec offering, LS-U is the Upper-spec option, and then LS-U+ sits above that. Then comes the X-Terrain flagship variant.

We’ve got the second-best Isuzu D-Max LS-U+ variant that costs $63,500 before on-road costs. It’s sold only with a tub at the back, 4×4 drivetrain (with dual-range gearing), and a six-speed automatic gearbox.

It’ll take a proper car nerd – self-admitted – to tell the differences between the LS-U and the LS-U+ variants, because there are no external changes between the two. It’s just interior bits such as restyled leather-accent seat upholstery, power-adjust seats, front seat heating, and dual vanity mirror lights. Whether that kit is worth $2500 over the regular LS-U variant will be discussed in this review.

It’d be hard to imagine otherwise, because the LS-U is already well equipped with things like an eight-speaker sound system, 9.0-inch infotainment, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, 18-inch machine-faced alloy wheels, chrome exterior highlights, a plastic tub liner, tow bar receiver, and carpet flooring inside the cabin.

The LS-U+ is powered by a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine that outputs 140kW and 450Nm to a four-wheel-drive system. Lower-spec models get the option of a smaller and more affordable 1.9-litre engine, though that won’t be discussed in this review. The 3.0-litre engine is good to tow up to 3500kg (braked) and it has a 985kg-rated payload capacity.

Key details 2023 Isuzu D-Max LS-U+
Price $63,500 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Neptune Blue
Options Premium paint – $650
Price as tested $64,150 plus on-road costs
Drive-away price $69,717 (Melbourne)
Rivals Nissan Navara | Mazda BT-50 | Ford Ranger

How much space does the Isuzu D-Max have inside?

It might not stock the most up-to-date technology and screen real estate that some buyers look for in a ute, but the Isuzu D-Max presents an ergonomic interior with enough niceties to ensure you aren’t left wanting more.

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Starting with the seats, the shape is not only well contoured to the body with wide shoulder support and ample under-thigh bolstering, but the seat base itself is plush enough to remain comfortable on long drives.

The dashboard and door cards both contain angular lines, contrast stitching, and a piece of dark metallic-coloured trim – all of which ups the ambience and presents a modern space.

Materials use for the most part is very impressive, with soft-touch panels covering a majority of surfaces in the front row. Everything falls ergonomically to hand, including the very easy to use air conditioning control panel under the infotainment screen, and buttons to control the 4×4 driveline are right by the gear selector.

There is so much storage on offer inside the Isuzu D-Max that you might even lose some of your stuff in the front row. Around the centre console is the requisite lidded storage bin, two cupholders, a sizeable tray in front of the gear stick, and a pop-open tray high up on the dash. The only storage place I missed on my week with the car was a wireless phone charger, though there is a USB-A port within reach.

Elsewhere there’s a two-part glovebox with plenty of space for hiding items from prying eyes, while the door cards contain a little tray next to the handle and a wide bin down below for bottles.

Second-row space is tight, but this is a common theme among dual-cab utes. Behind my own driving position I was able to fit my 194cm frame in without too much of a struggle, though my knee room was constricted once I was inside.

Amenities-wise, there’s USB-A power behind the centre console, door card storage, air vents, map pockets, and garment hooks for when tradies go fancy.

Even further back, our tester is fitted with an optional manual rolling tonneau cover ($3199) with extra cargo carriers mounted on top ($563.95). It’s nice and easy to drop the D-Max’s tailgate because the hinge has gas struts and the tonneau cover has a locking mechanism too.

2023 Isuzu D-Max LS-U+
Seats Five
Payload 985kg
Length 5275mm
Width 1870mm
Height 1790mm
Wheelbase 3125mm

Does the Isuzu D-Max have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?

Isuzu fits either a 7.0- or 9.0-inch infotainment screen depending on which model grade D-Max you pick, but the LS-U+ variant gets the larger 9.0-inch display. Both run the same software that presents a little more aftermarket than we’d like to see, but the functionality is simple and there are prominent shortcuts to skip between menus.

It’s very simple to connect wireless Apple CarPlay or wired Android Auto for a more familiar look and layout, though Isuzu’s own system (with integrated Bluetooth connectivity) gets the job done just fine.

A small TFT screen sits within the instrument cluster showing a digital speed readout, fuel information, water temperature, tyre pressures, and so on.

Unlike the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux, Isuzu does not have a phone application that can connect to the car and remotely check statuses for things like fuel levels, locks, service requirements, and location data.

Though it’s unbranded, I came away very pleased with the Isuzu’s eight-speaker sound system, particularly for a ute.

Is the Isuzu D-Max a safe car?

Isuzu first scored a full five-star ANCAP safety rating with the current-generation D-Max in 2020. This new 2023 facelift scores the same after ANCAP refreshed its ratings in September 2022.

It achieved an adult occupant protection score of 86 per cent, a child occupant protection score of 89 per cent, and a vulnerable road user score of 69 per cent.

What safety technology does the Isuzu D-Max have?

In addition to the above safety criteria, the Isuzu D-Max also scored 84 per cent for safety systems. This is thanks to active safety measures – which come standard on the entry-level SX specification – such as autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, and lane-keep assist.

To provide passive safety, the Isuzu D-Max stocks eight airbags.

As part of the 2023 range refresh unveiled late last year, Isuzu fitted a switch to turn off the rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring systems in the case that a trailer is being towed.

How much does the Isuzu D-Max cost to maintain?

Isuzu offers a six-year/150,000km warranty on all models. Service intervals take place every 15,000km interval or every 12 months, whichever occurs sooner.

There’s also a generous seven years of roadside assistance and seven years of capped-price servicing. In this regard, you kind of know what you’re going to get when buying an Isuzu D-Max. Based on the 3.0-litre variants, three years of servicing costs $1545 and five years costs $2435.

For context, Volkswagen charges $1800 for a five-year service plan and Mitsubishi charges $2895 for five years.

The Isuzu D-Max LS-U+ will cost $1852.40 to insure per year based on a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances. For comparison’s sake, the $66,690 VW Amarok costs $1828 per year to insure.

At a glance 2023 Isuzu D-Max LS-U+
Warranty Six years/150,000km
Service intervals 12 months or 15,000km
Servicing costs $1545 (3 years)
$2435 (5 years)

Is the Isuzu D-Max fuel-efficient?

Isuzu claims the 3.0-litre automatic-spec D-Max uses 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres on a combined cycle and 9.8L/100km around town. Throughout my testing I regularly saw a figure of 8.0L/100km, which is bang-on for Isuzu’s claim.

It has a 76-litre fuel tank that takes diesel fuel.

Fuel Useage Fuel Stats
Fuel cons. (claimed) 8.0L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 8.0L/100km
Fuel type Diesel
Fuel tank size 76L

What is the Isuzu D-Max like to drive?

While the option of a more economical 1.9-litre engine inside a lower-spec variant exists, the powertrain you really want inside a D-Max is the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder. It’s strong and torquey while being responsive to sudden throttle inputs no matter the engine speed.

With 140kW and 450Nm on tap, there’s enough shove for overtakes and on-ramp blasts, while the pulling power extends to 3500kg for braked trailers. It might be down numbers-wise on the comparable Ford Ranger 2.0TT (157kW/500Nm), but it’s not a night-and-day difference.

The Aisin-sourced six-speed automatic transmission plays hand-in-hand with the perky engine to deliver quick gear changes, and it’s well behaved through changing speeds too. Unlike the Ford Ranger, which can sometimes serve up the wrong gear depending on the situation, the Isuzu D-Max’s conventional six-speed gets it right every time.

Road noise is subdued to normal levels inside the cabin, but the four-cylinder diesel engine isn’t the quietest oiler on the market. It’s certainly not the most refined model within its segment, but fares better than some of the more affordable dual-cab ute options.

Dynamically, the D-Max is not the strongest ute in its class. It feels noticeably heavy around corners despite its light-feeling steering system, and you certainly notice the weight pitch forward when pressing on the brake pedal.

It also delivers more of a jumpy ride quality across the board. Larger impacts such as speed humps and road joins are less worthy of calling out, but sustained corrugations – such as those on gravel roads – can jolt the cabin about.

Though we didn’t steer the D-Max through tricky off-road terrain this time around, the last time I drove a D-Max off-road its part-time four-wheel-drive system coped very well. There are no selectable drive modes for the system, but it does have a locking rear differential if it’s required. However, I’ve never felt the need for one in a D-Max.

Key details 2023 Isuzu D-Max LS-U+
Engine 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power 140kW @ 3600rpm
Torque 450Nm @ 1600–2600rpm
Drive type Part-time four-wheel drive,
low-range transfer case
Transmission Six-speed torque converter automatic
Power-to-weight ratio 66.2kW/t
Weight (kerb) 2115kg
Spare tyre type Full-size
Tow rating 3500kg braked
750kg unbraked
Turning circle 12.5m

Should I buy an Isuzu D-Max?

It may have been superseded by later and greater models, but the Isuzu D-Max still offers a great dual-cab ute experience, and it comes more affordable against its Ford Ranger alternative.

The case against the Isuzu D-Max would say it’s not as refined as we’ve come to expect from an everyday dual-cab ute, but you can’t argue with its level of ability that ensures it performs well off-road, is comfortable and connected inside the cabin, and stocks a trusty 3.0-litre engine.

The problem with the D-Max LS-U+ is the fact that the higher-end D-Max X-Terrain variant often comes at a $64,990 drive-away discount. It’ll turn out more affordable to get the higher-spec variant in the range, considering an LS-U+ variant costs close to $70,000 once it’s delivered and on the road.

In that case, it’s probably worth opting for the flagship variant of the range, especially if it turns out ~$5000 cheaper.

How do I buy an Isuzu D-Max – next steps?

For that reason, it’d be very odd for buyers to go past the range-topping X-Terrain variant. That’s our pick of the range, and we’ve spent countless hours behind the wheel of the range-topper confirming it as such.

“The delivery estimation on a 23MY Isuzu D-Max LS-U+ will depend on a few factors, including the choice of colour and extras ordered, while also factoring in any complexities surrounding shipping and logistics,” an Isuzu representative told Drive.

“That said, there are limited numbers (and colours) of this grade available for immediate delivery at some dealerships, so it will be a matter of contacting [a] local dealer to see if [buyers] can secure a vehicle.”

The next steps on the purchase journey are to contact local Isuzu dealerships for stock of your preferred D-Max variant. You can also find Isuzus for sale at Drive.com.au/cars-for-sale.

If you want to stay updated with everything that’s happened to this car since our review, you’ll find all the latest news here.

Ratings Breakdown

2023 Isuzu D-MAX LS-U+ Utility Crew Cab

7.5/ 10

Infotainment & Connectivity

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Tom started out in the automotive industry by exploiting his photographic skills but quickly learned that journalists got the better end of the deal. He began with CarAdvice in 2014, left in 2017 to join Bauer Media titles including Wheels and WhichCar and subsequently returned to CarAdvice in early 2021 during its transition to Drive.

As part of the Drive content team, Tom covers automotive news, car reviews, advice, and holds a special interest in long-form feature stories.

He understands that every car buyer is unique and has varying requirements when it comes to buying a new car, but equally, there’s also a loyal subset of Drive audience that loves entertaining enthusiast content.

Tom holds a deep respect for all things automotive no matter the model, priding himself on noticing the subtle things that make each car tick. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t learn something new in an everchanging industry, which is then imparted to the Drive reader base.

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