Vehicle Comparisons

Isuzu D-Max

Isuzu D-Max

The pick-up market has doubled in size and become far more competitive since we saw the last version of Isuzu's D-Max back in 2012. Hence the need for this redesigned tougher, lighter, more sophisticated third generation version which, as before, will be as capable in the Serengeti as it is in Surbiton. It's still the pick-up you'd choose if you want one not afraid to put a bit of serious dirt beneath its wheels. But it's a bit more at home in Surbiton now as well.

As before, there's a 1.9-litre four cylinder diesel engine beneath the bonnet; European markets don't get the 3.0-litre powerplant sold in other markets. Still, the 1.9-litre unit's 148bhp and 360Nm of torque should be sufficient for most D-Max customers. As before, both manual and automatic transmissions are available, Isuzu having re-fettled both gearboxes to allow for smoother changes. There's a 6-speed stick shift or a new Rev Tronic 6-speed auto.

Plenty of work's gone in to make this pick-up better off road than its predecessor. For really gnarly stuff, there's now a diff lock fitted to 'DL20', 'DL40' and top 'V-Cross' models, a feature absent from Isuzu pick-ups since the old Rodeo model finished production in 2012. Plus there's a shift-on-the-fly system, which makes it easier to shift between 2WD and 4WD. The tough ladder chassis has been strengthened thanks to larger rails and an extra panel has been added to provide more extensive underbody protection. In addition, the water fording depth has been increased to 800mm. The 3.5-tonne towing capacity remains the same as the previous model. On tarmac surfaces, Isuzu claims a big reduction in noise, vibration and harshness compared to the old second generation D-Max. The new speed-sensitive electronic power steering system will help here too, improving manoeuvrability and accuracy.

Likely D-Max customers should appreciate the way the styling of this MK3 model has evolved, with its elevated design and sharp contours. The chunky, high-riding looks have been embellished with a more imposing front grille which features a pair of thick chrome bars across its width. This appendage is flanked by distinctive U-shaped LED headlamps - more sophisticated Bi-LED lamps feature on plusher models. At the rear, there's a fresh design for the vertical tail light clusters and an integrated step has been added into the bumper. Under the skin, the chassis is almost completely different from that of the old model and it's shed about 80kgs of weight thanks to a prop shaft fashioned from aluminium and higher tensile steel plates which together have enhanced rigidity by 20%.

Inside, the Mazda influence on this third generation design is obvious with a much higher quality cabin featuring smart contrasts between the hard and soft materials used. The layered dashboard looks far more modern than that of the old car and, if you can avoid the two least expensive variants, it'll now incorporate a central infotainment touchscreen display incorporating 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring and voice control. This will be 7-inches in size on the mid-range 'DL40' variant - or 9-imches in size on the top 'V-Cross' derivative.

If you thought Isuzu pick-ups were a bit rough and ready, it's probably about time you gave the D-Max a try. Once, this brand was really one reserved for the requirements of pure commercial operators. These days though, it'll also suit private buyers looking for an all-terrain utility vehicle that can play the lifestyle card.

But how does this third generation version stack up in what's becoming quite a crowded market? Very well actually. It's still great value, the styling's so much tidier than Isuzus of old and the equipment levels are now a lot better. Plus our experience would suggest that no other pick-up will prove to be more rugged, should you continually subject it to serious off road use. As a result, the brand's appeal has been broadened to suit the sort of buyer who would previously have automatically looked to, say, a Ford Ranger, a Nissan Navara or a Toyota Hilux.

In summary, you can see why so many professional choose this Isuzu. In a marketplace full of pretenders, it's that rarest of things: the genuine article.

Click here to find out more about our Isuzu D-Max range
Nissan Navara

Nissan Navara

Nissan promise that this improved Navara pick-up can manage to offer relatively car-like ride, refinement and performance whilst remaining a dependable workhorse. Plus an even more powerful base engine and a reasonable sense of style allow this truck to appeal to commercial and private buyers alike.

The Navara's 2.3-litre dCi turbodiesel engine has changed significantly in its base 163PS form, where it gains twin turbochargers - like those already fitted to the gutsier 190PS version of this unit. This means this base powerplant now puts out a prodigious 425Nm of torque, a useful 22Nm more than before. Both variants get a new 6-speed manual gearbox that features longer gear ratios and a shorter shift pattern, providing for slicker gear selection. The brakers have been looked at too; you now get disc brakes alkl round (previously at the rear, there were old fashioned drums) and the brake boosters are now bigger. That's a 40% reduction in braking forced and a usefully reduced stopping distance.

Even more significant are the changes made to the multi-link rear suspension system, which is the thing that sets this Navara apart from most of its pick-up rivals who continue to use clunky old leaf springs. This Nissan's multi-link set-up now uses new dual stage coil springs and it's fitted to the King Cab body style for the first time. With a revised set-up, the rear posture is raised by 25mm to give the pickup an upright and more powerful looking stance, whilst continuing to deliver a more comfortable and dynamic 'car-like' driving feel. As a result, Navara's payload also increases by up to 46kg, dependent on model. Otherwise, things are much as before, which means that a seven-speed automatic gearbox remains optional, though once again, this is reserved for the Double Cab model only.

Nissan has updated the look of this Navara - but not very much. Minor changes to this revised model include fresh 17 and 18-inch wheel designs and smarter black bezel inlays for the LED headlamps. Otherwise, it's as you were before with the signature 'V-motion' grille and boomerang shaped daylight running lights. Whether you choose this vehicle in double cab or king cab guise, gone are the sharp creases and flat panels of earlier Navara models, replaced here by curves and contours. From the confident nose rearwards, it looks a modern design but one with a tough edge.

The basic chassis of the Navara may date back rather a long way, but don't let that put you off. The Japanese brand really went to town with this NP300 generation vehicle and improved it in every appreciable area. If you haven't yet tried the current design, you'll be impressed by the way that the smart dashboard lifts interior quality. And you'll like the NASA-inspired seats (yes, really) that aim to create an even more car-like experience. Those that plan on making the Navara work for a living will be more interested in the range's ability to tow 3,500kg and the Double Cab's prodigious bed length.

Nissan's Navara goes up against some tough rivals - primarily Mitsubishi's L200 and the Ford Ranger. In comparison to these two key competitors, this Nissan's clever five-link rear axle gives it a clear advantage for those in search of a more car-like driving experience. With no penalty on load capacity or towing ability, it could be the stand-out feature on this extremely class-competitive pick-up.

That would mean little if this Nissan was ugly, or worse, dull. But it isn't. And it certainly isn't dull in the way that it drives, thanks to that clever suspension. Plus we think safety standards here are class-leading. Which means that as an overall package, the Navara is hard to beat.

Click here to find out more about our Nissan Navara range
Ford Ranger

Ford Ranger

Ford's improved Ranger really has gone large in its appeal as a competitive proposition against tough rivals in the pick-up segment. The idea is to tempt everyone from builders to surf-boarding, mountain-biking families with what is now a very complete product indeed.

There aren't many pick-ups developed first and foremost to prioritise driving dynamics, but this is one of them. So what's it like? Well, really, it depends upon your expectations. Does it ride and handle like a Discovery? Well of course it doesn't. A Discovery isn't built to take a 1.3-tonne payload. But does it set handling standards for the pick-up segment? Very definitely yes, more agile, stable, precise and comfortable than any vehicle of its kind we've seen to date. There's decent steering feel for a pick-up too.

Under the bonnet, the key news lies with the introduction of a new 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine to replace the previous 2.2-litre TDCi unit. It comes in a couple of single-turbo guises, with either 130 or 170PS. Plus there's a flagship bi-turbo 213PS unit with 500Nm of torque. That also features on the top Raptor version with its unique rally-stype coil suspension.

Of course, if you're a typical Ranger owner, you'll want to be putting his pick-up's all-terrain capability to the test on a pretty regular basis. Which is why the range is now entirely built around 4WD variants. As usual with vehicles of this type, this one runs in 2WD unless you rotate this controller to its '4H' '4x4 High' setting, something that can be done on the move. That'll be fine for slippery tarmac and grassy fields, but for anything more serious than that, you'll want to switch further into the '4L' '4x4 Low range' mode that'll give you a seriously go-anywhere set of off road ratios.

There are three Ranger bodystyles - 'Regular' single cab, 'Super' (which has occasional rear seats) and 'Double Cab' with proper rear seats. There are five trim levels - XL, XLT, Limited, Wildtrack and Raptor. As for practicality, well the 'Regular Cab' and 'Super Cab' models offer the largest load area box in the class with, respectively, 1.82 and 1.45 cubic metres, while the Double Cab version is also more than competitive with 1.21 cubic metres. Running costs, meanwhile, are much improved - thanks to the introduction of 2.0 EcoBlue diesel power. The 130PS version manages 43.5mpg on the combined cycle and 171g/km of CO2. Double Cab high-power variants now feature Active Noise Control technology for improved refinement.

And inside? Well, if you go for the four-door Double Cab, there's plenty of space in the back: two six-footers can certainly sit one behind the other with ease. Under the rear seat, you've hidden storage bins to keep tools and valuables away from prying eyes. Or, if the rear bench isn't in use, you can fold down the backrest for packages you may not want to consign to the rear loadbay.

And up-front? Well, you climb up high to perch behind the wheel of any pick-up and this Ranger is no exception, with an airy, commanding cab offering great all-round visibility and class-leading front seat headroom. The instrument cluster with its central LED display was apparently inspired by the design of a G-Shock watch, precision workings protected by a robust casing. And plusher models get an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen on the dash, via which owners can use the latest 'SYNC 3' media connectivity system that Ford now offers in this vehicle.

In summary, when it all comes down to it, the right tool can make child's play of men's work. And if you're looking for one of the best all-round contenders in the pick-up sector right now, then this is the right tool. Job done.

Click here to find out more about our Ford Ranger range