Isuzu has developed a diesel engine for Australian conditions. 

Story Bruce McMahon

Japanese auto concern Isuzu has long made respected diesel power plants for trucks, utes and sometimes cars, using engineering acknowledged around the world.

Now, in a first for the company, Isuzu has developed a diesel engine specifically for the Australian market. The three-litre, four-cylinder motor reflects the importance of this market and its end users, the influence of Isuzu Ute Australia, and Isuzu’s willingness to listen. And at the end of the day it is another under-stressed and willing worker, on and off the road.

Isuzu had another, smaller, engine option available in other markets to meet the latest emissions standards, but it was decided Australian customers needed the 3L diesel in its light commercial range.

This new motor, Euro5, finds its way this year into the Isuzu D-Max ute and the Isuzu MU-X, a seven-seat SUV wagon. In both cases, it can be matched to a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox. Both vehicles can be bought with four-wheel-drive or rear-wheel drive.

Both these Isuzus have sold reasonably well since the ute arrived in 2008 and the wagon in 2013. Last year Isuzu Ute sold 223,377 vehicles here and both two-wheel drive and 4WD D-Max utes continue to climb the sales charts with expectations of outselling more fancied nameplates this year.

Both D-Max and MU-X may not be the most sophisticated or polished of utes or SUVs on the market, but both are honest machines, offering good value packages for work and recreation. The revised Isuzu vehicles for 2017, with new drive trains, continue that honest approach.

With the latest ute, there are not too many changes from previous versions, aside from those reworked drive trains. There’s a new bonnet, headlights and grille treatment, plus daylight running lights for some models, while all LS variants score a reversing camera – an option on SX and EX D-Max.

As with the MU-X wagon, the utes have a fair swag of safety gear, with six airbags, ABS with electronic brake-force distribution, stability control, traction control, hill-start assist and hill-descent control, the latter even now fitted to two-wheel drive as well as 4WD Isuzus. And as found across most 4WD utes these days, there is a long list of comfort and convenience features, important when dual-cab versions, in particular, are becoming family ‘wagons’ across the country. So to air-conditioning, power windows and power mirrors, add a seven-inch touchscreen display audio system in D-Max SX and LS-M variants and an eight-inch system, with built-in satellite navigation, for LS-U and LS-T models.

Isuzu cabins tend more toward the commercial vehicle side of the business. Rivals offer softer materials and more current interior design – a little more car-like. Others also offer more shoulder room in the cabin and the D-Max ute could do with more supportive, deeper and lower seat bases – plus extra height adjustment for the steering wheel. Taller drivers, in particular, will find better accommodation in other brands.

Yet the D-Max drives well enough on the highway, allowing for some ute bounce and jounce from an unladen vehicle. It’s a touch quieter than before and there is no doubting the Isuzus’ character and abilities in tackling the tough stuff. As Isuzu Ute is keen to emphasise: “It’s not a toy, it’s a tool”.

For the workmanlike side of the 4WD Isuzus, there is decent ground clearance, up to 235 millimetres on some ute models. Underbody protection includes a steel front skid plate, engine sump and transfer case guards and shielding on the leading edge of the 76-litre fuel tank.

The Isuzu diesel engine has 430Nm from 2000rpm and 130kW at 3600rpm. There is now 380Nm of torque at hand from 1700rpm so there’s more power and good torque at lower revs than with the previous engine.

Chief among changes are new design pistons, fuel injectors, turbocharger and glow plugs. The 3L engine, with its new-found performance, brings better driveability to the D-Max and the MU-X and, with either manual or auto transmission, that means less gear changing. That, in turn, means less stress on mechanicals and drivers.

The Isuzu D-Max, and MU-X wagon may not be the flashiest of light commercials and SUVs out there, but this pair are among the fairest when it comes to a day’s work.

Isuzu D-Max two-wheel drive ute from recommended retail $28,500, four-wheel-drive from $34,800. Isuzu MU-X two-wheel drive wagon from $41,800, four-wheel-drive from $47,000. For more information phone (07) 3151 5888 or go to

This story excerpt is from Issue #114

Outback Magazine: August/September 2017