THE ISUZU pick-up range was once the chart-topping favourite, but has in recent years lost ground to the Ford Ranger and now the revitalised Nissan Navara.

It’s hard to pin down just why the D-Max from Isuzu lost ‘it’, but one theory is that it chopped and changed what’s in it’s engine bay too much. We’ve had a 2.5, then a really grand 3.0-litre turbo diesel and back to the 2.5, and now the dust has settled, it’s a 1.9-litre power unit that sits within.

As one of many pick-up manufacturers struggling to get within the ever more stringent emission levels, the latest (and only choice) engine is a bit of a compromise on allowing that to happen. While it certainly lacks the grunt that the 3.0-litre had, it’s been tweaked and boosted to get 163bhp out of it, though the gearboxes have been fiddled around with to make better use of the torque available.

So, it actually doesn’t feel that bad as it is the same power output as the 2.5-litre it replaced, though it will puff and pant a bit when asked to haul its rated 3.5-tonne towing capacity. Unlike some other brands, one bonus is that it does not require AdBlue to get it within the emission standards.

What the D-Max excels in is offering a range of spec’ levels and functionality that suits just about every need ... and pocket. There’s the functional Utility, followed up the ladder by the Eiger, Yukon, Utah and Blade models for increasing amounts of luxury. More recently, Isuzu brought in the exciting new XTR totally bonkers version of the D-Max, which is up there with Ford’s Ranger Raptor in boy racer appeal – but, sadly only on looks, as much of the difference is in looks only, though there’s 32-inch tyres sitting on 18-inch alloys and an uprated suspension.

It’s no surprise, then, that it is a fleet favourite, having just won the ‘Pick-up of the Year’ award at the Commercial Fleet Awards’ ceremony for the second consecutive year.

The Utility is a building site favourite, offered in single cab, extended cab (more storage behind the front seats) and double cab bodies. As the name suggests, it’s pretty basic with steel wheels, unpainted bumpers and a flush through interior.

Next up, the Yukon gets the club cab and double cab options, while the models above can only get the double cab styling.

Equipment gets progressively better and more sophisticated up through the Eiger and Yukon models, with the best-selling Utah and Blade versions taking on the main rivals for standard kit.

Prices for the D-Max start from around £16,800 (plus VAT) for the Utility version, going up to the top of the standard range, the Blade, which costs getting close to £30,000 with the auto box (plus VAT). The bonkers XTR starts at £33k.

Running costs are pretty good for this type of vehicle and that’s mainly down to the change to the 1.9-litre engine. In six-speed manual form, the 4 x 4 versions – there is a two-wheel-drive Utility option that few people buy – you can get near to 40mpg under normal driving, while the six-speed auto gearing takes a hit of 10% on mpg.

On the road, it’s a pretty neat performer, though the engine can be a bit noisy at start-up. As usual, it benefits from a bit of a load in the back to make it less ‘tail-happy’ and it pulls away easily in second gear without much in the way of a load.

Given Isuzu’s accent on ‘workhorse’ rather than ‘leisure’, there’s another added bonus of the new engine, which is lighter than before, thus allowing the payload on board to increase. As such, that pretty much makes it king of the hill in terms of load capacity across the range.

The single cab’s load bay is a pretty gargantuan 2305mm by 1570mm, with a payload of 1282kg, or 1196kg on the four-wheel-drive version. The extended cab’s load area is 1795mm by 1530mm and a payload of 1141kg, while the double cab has 1552mm by 1530mm in the back and payload depends on the model – the maximum is 1126kg, which satisfies the VAT threshold.

Isuzu also offers a wide range of covers and hardtops for the D-Max’s load bay, plus roof bars, frames and cargo rails. Special upgrades include the Huntsman pack, designed for field sports and adds black trim and wheels, a lockable drawer system in the load bed and a truck top, plus off-road tyres for around £700.

Another big selling point that should not be lost in the mire, is that Isuzu’s warranty, at five years or 125,000 miles, beats that offered by Nissan’s and Mitsubishi’s pick-ups. As for regular maintenance, service intervals are 12,000 miles, or every two years.

All D-Max models come with ABS brakes, electronic stability control (ESC) and traction control as standard. Even the most basic models have Bluetooth connectivity, air-conditioning, LED daytime running lights and electric windows.

Most above the Utility model, also get a rear parking camera, with the Yukons getting 18-inch alloys, a seven-inch touchscreen display, leather steering wheel and cruise control and the Utah model adds sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB radio, leather heated seats, roof bars and automatic air-con.

Blade spec’ gets an upgraded touch-screen plus better leather seats while a limited edition Blade+ model has a choice of load bay covers, 19-inch alloys in gun-metal grey, Pro-Lift tailgate assist for the outside and a natty branding job on the inside

An upgrade in size and style, this also comes with a full-size spare alloy wheel and locking wheel nuts included as standard, plus a comprehensive safety package including front camera, reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.

This edition is priced at £29,999 CVOTR for a manual and £30,999 CVOTR for the automatic and as such, the Blade+ offers a considerable amount of equipment for a price walk of only £1190 over a standard Blade double cab.

Aimed firmly at farmers and builders, another upgrade, the Workman+ is equipped with practical spec’ to help get the job done. A tow bar and 13 pin electrics are compatible with trailers that have LED lights and customers can choose to fit an over rail or under rail load liner according to their preference.

Elevating the exterior from ‘basic’ are side steps and 18-inch alloys, plus a full-size spare alloy wheel, an upgraded audio system and a reversing camera with the image displayed in the rear-view mirror for hooking up trailers.

Price for the new Workman+ is £21,495 CVOTR, which is only £700 more than a standard Utility double cab, but with a lot of extras for the money.