This review was originally posted on AutoCar NZ.

Double cab utes might dominate the Kiwi market but there is still demand for a more workhorse oriented vehicle such as the single-cab chassis Isuzu D-Max 4x4.

It’s been eight years since I last drove a single-cab D-Max which is absolutely the fleet and rural focused workhorse of the Isuzu New Zealand ute line-up, so it was interesting to see what refinements have been made in that time.

While the basic engine block remains the same, there have been huge advances in power, torque and fuel efficiency, and as Isuzu Motors is continually improving and developing the D-Max line up it has also upgraded many of the safety and convenience features, to better suit its intended market.

But, just because a vehicle has to be tough and durable to be fit for its intended purpose, doesn’t mean it needs to be spartan and unattractive.

It is fair to say that Isuzu ute customers are looking for a comfortable workhorse which will provide longevity and few mechanical issues. They like a few nice touches but are not necessarily focused on the latest and greatest in driver assistance features offered by other brands.

Our test vehicle arrived in the fetching shade of Obsidian Grey which contrasted nicely with the factory-standard 16-inch steel wheels, and the Isuzu-branded steel and marine plywood ute deck which is made by a local supplier to factory specifications.

It’s a sturdily-built deck which will accommodate two-full Kiwi (Chep) wooden pallets or four of the smaller European size pallets which are becoming more commonly used in the freight and logistics sector. The deck offers plenty of tie down rails to secure loads using webbing strops with hooks and a belt tensioner.

Inside the cabin occupants will find a pair of comfortable cloth upholstered seats, and the back of both seats can be tilted forward allowing for small bags, rain coats and other such items to be safely stored away.

There is more storage offered in the twin-glove boxes, one of which has a USB power connection. The D-Max single cab also comes equipped with a touchscreen for audio, Bluetooth telephony, and the reversing camera screen.

Manual air-conditioning, cruise-control, twin cup-holders, and remote controls on the leather-bound stereo for the air and audio are all useful and practical features.

The cab also has easily-wiped-clean vinyl flooring and Isuzu New Zealand had kitted out the vehicle on test with a pair of deep dished rubber mats for the very reasonable price of $90.

The D-Max single cab 4x4 automatic retails for $46,390 including GST. As well as the accessory rubber mats, our test vehicle was fitted with a bonnet protector for $281.75, a tow bar package was $1436.35, and the flat deck ute body was $4715, which brought the on road price to $52,913.25.

It shares the same 3-litre Isuzu 4JJ1 four-cylinder inline turbo diesel engine, and six-speed automatic transmission as it’s double cab and space cab siblings, but because the single cab has less tare weight to lug around, it’s a very responsive performer, particularly when unladen.

Driver’s can shift into high-ratio four-wheel-drive on the fly up to 100km/h per hour, however for low-ratio four-wheel-drive, the vehicle needs to be stationary and the gear selector placed in neutral before switching the rotary dial on the console near the handbrake to 4L, and then re-engaging D for drive.

For those people who venture off-road regularly the LX single cab 4x4 offers a front departure angle of 29.4 degrees, a rear departure angle of 27.4 degrees, and a ramp over angle of 49 degrees.

As for the rest of the D-Max range, the towing capacity (braked) is 3500kg , but the LX single cab/chassis provides a total load capacity of 1275kg in the bed of the flat deck.

This workhorse offers many safety features found in its more expensive siblings, which is probably just as well in the current health and safety focussed workplace environment in which such vehicles now operate.

The D-Max LX single cab/chassis has six airbags including dual front, side impact and curtain airbags, electronic stability control, hill start assist, hill descent control, and there are side intrusion bars in both of the doors.

Driving along the motorway we noticed there is a bit of wind noise generated by the decks cab protector, but given that the LX is a workhorse rather than a family vehicle and is being driven for work purposes, the level of noise is not that significant and won’t bother most people.

Amongst a sea of high-end utes, it’s nice to drive an old-school working vehicle which makes no pretence about its purpose. The LX single-cab 4x4 will become a trusted and valued work mate for buyers who prefer function over form.