Isuzu workhorse gets a makeover

As pick-ups go, the Isuzu Denver Max LE is certainly a good-looking one. It’s one of those Darcyesque – all brooding and stern-looking – vehicles that means business without scaring small children at the zebra crossing.

Looks-wise, it stands out without shouting, with a chrome front grille replacing the distinctive angled-front arrangement. Full leather, stainless-steel running bars and attractive light casings gives the Rodeo a fresh, attractive look over the 2003 models.

Isuzu large

Isuzu interior

But with features like the characteristic Isuzu rear axle snorkel as standard, this truck is also designed to be good off-road. Eighteen inch alloys sporting 255/60 Pirelli Scorpian Zero tyres and an LE-branded hard top with tough loadliner complete the look.

The Max now has a 3-litre common-rail turbodiesel engine, topping off the 2007-launched updated range of Isuzu workhorses. Available with either manual or automatic transmission, the 3-litre replaces the previous 2.5-litre Prodrive chipped version, puting out an impressive 163hp. Top speed is an amazing 109mph and surprisingly it manages more than 33mpg on the combined cycle.

This double-cab sits comfortably on the motorway, but with 163hp, you can’t help thinking that it could be a bit quicker off the mark. Drive is smooth, although the gearbox wallows a little, and for its length – just over 5m – the Max drives and manoeuvres a lot more like a car than a pickup.

Corners haven’t always been the Rodeo’s strongest quality and, because it drives like a car, you’d expect it to deal with them more confidently. That said, it doesn’t have the characteristic wander at speed that some pickups do and acceleration generally is far from sluggish, with a 0-60 time of 10.3 seconds.

Off-road, despite the wide road-biased tyres, the truck performed well and the “shift on the fly” 4wd change, which works at up to 60mph, was easily done.

Inside, seating is spacious and you can get five in comfortably, though I’m not sure about five burly farmers. The DVD/satnav/radio affair is complicated and somewhat dangerous to operate on the move, so my own TomTom stayed firmly stuck to the windscreen.

Cubby holes were in handy places, although extracting your drink from behind the gearstick proved a little problematic at times. A centre storage box and extra 12V charger add to the overall practicality.

You can’t help thinking the flagship model isn’t so much aimed at farmers looking for a workhorse, though, as those looking to pose. But it will fill both roles quite happily.

Fond memories of the old L200 still spring to mind, but with smoother lines, more grunt and nicer finishing, and for those looking for a good all-rounder, the Rodeo could well fit the bill.

Isuzu facts

  • Power: 3-litre common-rail 163hp diesel
  • Payload: 1060kg
  • Towing capacity: 3000kg
  • Price: £19,999 + VAT


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