Range includes Single, Extended and Double Cab (pictured) bodies

Range includes Single, Extended and Double Cab (pictured) bodies

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Despite having a one-model range, Isuzu's UK sales have been rising strongly in 2014, and outpacing the market. In June alone, volumes were up by 85%.

The latest D-Max is of course the reason for the sales surge. Last month's total, 410 vehicles, gave the brand a 1.33% percent share of a British market for sub-3.5-tonne CVs which expanded by 16.77% during the first half of 2014. And Isuzu's rise? That's now 24.77% for the year to the end of June.

“The D-Max continues to break sales records for us in the UK and collect industry awards and we are now by a considerable margin the biggest market for the D-Max in Europe", Isuzu's MD William Brown recently stated. "We will continue to target new sectors who would benefit from the D-Max ownership including the construction industry and fleet buyers.”

Having watched this model's sales performance throughout 2014, I wanted to see why it's doing so well - can you name another one-model brand with more than one percent of the market? After a week's testing, I also now know this is one of the best pick-up trucks in its segment.

The vehicle class in which the Isuzu competes has more players than you might realise. Globally, the Toyota Hilux is the obvious big gorilla but it's now coming up for a decade on the market, which is odd, considering how important its status is to TMC. The challengers in the UK are many, and include the Volkswagen Amarok, Mitsubishi L200, Nissan Navara, SsangYong Korando Sports, Great Wall Steed, and Mazda BT-50/Ford Ranger. Let's not forget a minor player outside these islands, but one which continues to have a cult following here - the Land Rover Defender.

A new Defender is a few years away still, but there should be a fresh Hilux in 2015 and before then, a new L200 - more on that in a vehicle analysis piece to come later this month. PSA, FCA, Renault - all are missing from this class but don't think I've forgotten GM - how could I when the D-Max shares so much with the Chevrolet Colorado? Strangely, that model is not sold in the UK but once the bow-tie brand disappears from European markets in 2015, there's an instant opportunity for Vauxhall, and for Opel too.

D-Max buyers in Britain can choose from either Single, Double or Extended Cab body styles, with the last of these featuring rear-opening side-access panels - that's a strange term but it means the rear doors open like those on a Rolls-Royce. And there's no B-pillar either, which is very handy not only for passenger access, but also for carrying awkwardly shaped objects which need protection from the elements.

All model versions are powered by a 163PS (120kW) 2,499cc diesel which offers 400Nm of torque, though in some markets, a 3.0-litre petrol engine is available too. The standard transmission is a six-speed manual but a five-speed automatic is optional and was fitted to the test vehicle. 

You can have rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive and 4x4 variants are certified to tow 3.5-tonnes (braked) / 750kg (unbraked) and a payload capacity of between 1,058 and 1,136kg depending on model version.

The turning circle of what is considered here to be a big vehicle is one of the things that goes against pick-ups such as this. But it's not too bad, at 11.8m (4x2) or 12.2m (4x4). Don't think you can take mini roundabouts in one go, though - you can't. I would advise going for one of the limited edition trims as that way people will be admiring your truck instead of cursing it - I spent several days with an Audi R8 last week and the Isuzu got almost as many (positive) looks around town. What's more, my next-door neighbour sent a text which said 'Yee Haw' and was accompanied by both a little red truck emoticon and a smiley face. I suspect she found it more enticing to look at than her '14 plate sensible shoes Passat TDI.

The latest D-Max, the replacement for a model of the same name, entered production in Thailand in October 2011 and had its world premiere at the following month's Tokyo motor show. As I mentioned, it's all but identical to the Chevrolet and Holden Colorados, which are also built at the Thai plant. All use a General Motors-Isuzu architecture, said to be called I700.

GMSA also builds the D-Max but in South Africa, it's marketed as the Isuzu KB - General Motors and the Japanese firm have close vehicle production/assembly and powertrain ties in many parts of the world. I did wonder if our model comes from the Struandale plant in Port Elizabeth but no, when I checked, I learned that it's supplied from the IMCT Gateway factory in Thailand. This manufacturing complex is now fairly significant, with a second plant having come on stream to build the current D-Max in 2012. 

The pick-up truck production capacities of IMCT both in Samrong and Gateway plants is now a combined 400,000 units (including KD). Knocked Down kits are not only sent to PE but recently, assembly was added at a Hindustan Motors facility in Thiruvallur (Chennai) for the local market. Isuzu is planning its own Indian plant in the state of Andhra Pradesh but this won't come on stream until 2016.

Back to Britain: it's no longer that rare a sight to see a D-Max on our roads, though Isuzus have been happily traversing many a muddy or otherwise slippery field or track for decades - this brand is truly a legendary friend of farmers across the nation. That's due to reliability, low running costs and excellent value for money.

The UK importer is clearly doing a good job of upselling the go anywhere in any weather ability of the light commercial versions, but modified for people seeking a bit more comfort. Pretty much all the luxury and appearance gear anyone could want can be found in the higher-spec variants: electrically adjustable heated leather seats, parking sensors, roof bars, chrome-effect mirrors and door handles, cruise control and audio system buttons on the leather trimmed steering wheel, and so on (Utah Double Cab).

The handling is much, much better than you could be forgiven for thinking it would be, and these sorts of vehicles - especially the newest designs such as the D-Max - are stable under braking and have a full complement of airbags to protect you should the worst happen. Of course, being designed as an LCV, there are drum brakes and a live axle at the back, but the ride isn't too bad, and its stops pretty smartly too. Just don't expect the D-Max (or any of its rivals) to be like a sports car or a softly-sprung MPV and you'll be happy. As a motorway cruiser, it gathers speed at a competitive pace and is far more firmly planted to the road than the pick-ups in this size class from a decade ago. The only odd thing was door mirrors on the test vehicle which hummed just above 70mph - guessing what it might be, I hit the fold button and the noise stopped. Maybe I should stick to the speed limit.

Pricing for the D-Max range starts at GBP14,749 (CVOTR) - 4x4 Single Cab - rising to GBP21,749 for the top-spec Utah Double Cab.

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