At last, says Charlie Flindt, someone has listened to despairing owners of country transport. The result? A Defender-sized hole in the market has been filled
Charlie Flindt is so impressed by the ISUZU D-Max Huntsman that he has gone all Henry Higgins. Has the Defender-sized hole in the market finally been filled?
For more on which motors could replace the Defender in the countryside, read Charlie Flindt’s review of the Dacia Duster Commercial.
ISUZU D-MAX HUNTSMAN
After a minute or two strolling round Isuzu’s new Huntsman special edition, I went all Henry Higgins: “By George, I think they’ve got it. I think they’ve really got it.”
By “it”, I mean “what we really want from our countryside vehicles”. And good old Isuzu, niche maker of pick-ups and lorries (and the much-missed Trooper), has obviously been lurking in a rural pub or two, eavesdropping on the conversations of discontented owners of “country” transport. “We don’t want to drive a chrome-clad monstrosity with ‘THROB’ written down the side in 8in letters,” they sob into their pints of Gribble’s Old Gruntyfusters.
The result? The Huntsman. Isuzu has taken the already excellent D-Max Utah Doublecab and given it a rural makeover. It comes in a lovely green (among other colours), with black wheels and a complete lack of chrome; perfect for stalking up on animals and skiving tractor drivers. There’s the small matter of the lurid day running lights, but they’re nothing a bit of black tape, or a trip to the fuse box, or a club hammer, won’t sort out.
The inside is spacious and comfortable with easy-to-clean leather seats (or were they quality plastic? Some serious seat sniffing produced nothing but funny looks from the children). The view out is fantastic through the four-door windows but less than brilliant through the pick-up cover.
The transmission is proper old school, with 2wd high and 4wd drive high/low. First gear in high is low enough to cover the vast majority of off-roading situations. There’s a bit of drive-line shunt and the six-speed box feels a bit secondhand. Third gear was particularly reluctant to be found. You get (Lord be praised!) real off-road tyres and a full-sized spare.
On the road, the old-fashioned diesel gives lots of grunt at low revs and pushes the Isuzu to respectable speed. You know you’re in a pick-up, with a skittish rear end thanks to the leaf springs (even with the fancy red bits that come with the extra accessory pack) and a vast, unwieldy turning circle, not helped by the sheer length of the Huntsman. Avoid multistorey car parks at all costs.
Some serious work has gone into the pick-up bit: there are gun drawers in a false bed, sturdy and easy to use. There’s room above for all but the largest of dogs (although some non-slip covering would be welcome on the nicely damped tailgate). It’s a field sports conversion that really works. (Bentley, take note.) To make up for the poor visibility, a pick-up cover has to be good and do more than just provide extra security. The Huntsman’s certainly earns its keep.
In fact, it’s not just the tilt that works. The whole concept is right. Isuzu has indeed “got it”. It has spotted the large Defender-sized hole in the muddy-car market and the Huntsman fills it very well; it will be hugely popular, well beyond the narrow niche that its name suggests it’s aimed at. I predict they will be filling up rural pub carparks in no time at all. Let’s hope there’s enough room to turn – especially after one-and-a-half pints of Gribbles.
ISUZU D-Max Huntsman
♦ Engine: 1,898cc diesel
♦ Power: 164PS
♦ Max speed: 112mph
♦ Performance, 0 to 62: 12.7 seconds
♦ Combined fuel economy: 40.4mpg
♦ Insurance group: 40A
♦ Price: £37,125