Isuzu D-Max V-Cross diesel AT Review: Easier to live with and better than faux SUVs

New updates, features, a smaller and more refined engine with the convenience of an automatic gearbox, has the V-Cross become a better and easier everyday utility vehicle to live with? We find out.

By: | Updated: November 11, 2019 4:02 PM

The automotive world is obsessed with SUVs. These days you get an SUV styled entry-level hatchbacks like the S-Presso or the Renault Kwid, MPVs that look like SUVs like the Renault Triber, Mahindra Marazzo and the XL6 from Maruti, and even some jacked-up wagons and sedans like the Volvo V90. However, to be a true SUV, it should be a 4x4, it should be body on frame design and it should have a true presence on the road as you cruise along. But above all else, it has to be properly utilitarian.

That’s where utes like the D-Max V-Cross come along. Built for utility and designed to be comfortable as a daily driving vehicle. However, it hasn’t been the easiest vehicle to live with daily being heavy and large with minimal creature comfort features. However, Isuzu has attempted to make it a little more comfortable with some updates and features and also comply with the new safety norms. Some of the major updates include a new engine, automatic transmission and some comfort features. But have these changes made a difference allowing the V-Cross to be more user-friendly? That’s what we wanted to find out.

The new motor

Till now, the V-Cross was offered with a sole 2.5-litre engine. Isuzu has now introduced a new 1.9-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel engine which develops 150hp and 350Nm of torque. What is also new is that this engine is mated to a new 6-speed automatic transmission which sends the power to the 4WD system which is offered as standard. However, the engine is currently BS4 compliant and might see an upgrade to BS6 emission standard soon.

Exterior updates
The V-Cross sees minimal changes to its styling but it all accumulates to a larger package upgrade. At the front, you get a new chrome garnish on the front grille, the headlamps are new and come with LED DRLs, the front bumper and the fog lamps are new as well. Isuzu has also thrown in a new set of larger 18-inch alloy wheels all of which add up to an air of more premium-ness to the V-Cross. On the sides, the V-Cross comes with proper side steps for easier ingress and egress.

Aside from new colour options, one change that I feel is worth mentioning is if you tried to open the tailgate of the older V-Cross, it would drop down immediately and the heavy weight could hurt your hand. The good news is that Isuzu has ironed that out with a slightly softer opening of the tailgate which itself feels lighter than before. It is not a hydraulic system with a proper soft opening, but it does a good job nonetheless.

Updated Interior
As for the interior, the overall the design is pretty much the same. However, it now replaces the black and beige dual-tone for an all-black interior. The seats are now leather-wrapped with black and brown colour scheme, while soft padding has been added on the door panels and the centre console which makes it easier to rest your arms, so with the new seats and the pads, travelling in the V-Cross is now more comfortable for sure. The engineers have also worked on improving the NVH levels of the car to make the cabin quieter than before and that has helped in a more providing a more comfortable driving experience.

Other interesting updates in the cabin include a brand new 8-speaker sound system which includes roof-mounted speakers and the sound quality is pretty good. While the V-Cross still doesn’t get parking sensors, to make life easier, the vehicle now comes with a rear parking camera, which does make parking this behemoth pretty straight forward and easier. The driver also gets a new MID system in the instrument cluster which it borrows from the MU-X SUV.

As far as safety is concerned, the V-Cross will now come with a total of 6-airbags which include a driver, front passenger, two front side airbags and two curtain airbags to ensure that not just the driver is safe, but all the passengers are equally protected. Isuzu has also worked on making the V-Cross comply with the latest safety regulations in India with over speeding alert, front seatbelt reminder along with changes to meet the crash norms for Indian roads. Additionally, Isuzu has also thrown in features like cruise control and hill descent control to make life on and off-road more comfortable and convenient.

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That pretty much covers everything about the updates to the V-Cross, but the most important one to address is how the V-Cross is like on the road from behind the wheel

Driving dynamics
As the updates are designed to make it more comfortable, the seating position is something important to address. Firstly, you sit quite high up even at the lowest seating position setting from the electrically adjustable driver seat. You do have a good view of the road in front and great visibility all around. One gripe I do have is that the angle of the dead pedal is steep which makes it a little uncomfortable to place your left foot and this might be an issue for some on long journeys.

Now to address the elephant in the room, the new engine and the 6-speed automatic transmission. The engine although downsized to 1.9-litres is more powerful as it develops around 150hp and 350Nm torque. The motor seems extremely refined and the response is pretty good. There is a hint of turbo lag at slow speeds, but not troublesome when driving through traffic as the torque is available pretty early in the rev band at 1,800rpm.

The transmission is a new torque convertor unit for the V-Cross. The 6-speed automatic is smooth to shift up and down and it does a pretty decent job. As the V-Cross now also comes with traction control, the transmission is also pretty clever as it will hold the gear off-throttle when it senses the vehicle going downhill. The added feature of hill-descent control also make sit easy to crawl down steep declines and the low-ratio gearbox does extremely well to scale steep inclines. While the departure angle on the V-Cross is not the best as it has a large overhang at the rear due to the rear bed, Isuzu claims that the V-Cross can climb up a 30-degree incline. While the engine and gearbox combination in the V-Cross may not be the sportiest pairing, it is ideal for what the V-Cross is intended to be used as. Fuel economy is also pretty decent thanks to the downsized engine. In a mixed city and highway condition, we were getting about 11.6kmpl, however, that could improve if you’re driving extensively on the highway. Which is commendable because it weighs nearly two-tonnes.

Using an old fashioned hydraulic steering rack, the feedback from the steering is very good. It is relatively light to use, but there is some weight due to the large tyres and heavy diesel engine upfront. Through the corners, there is some noticeable understeer even when you’re in 2WD mode and the turning radius is not the best. Taking bends at medium speeds, the V-Cross behaves like an SUV usually does with the significant body through the corners and the softly sprung suspension setup, the nose does pitch up during hard acceleration and down during braking. When it comes to parking, if you get used to it and are confident enough, the rear parking camera does help the driver park the V-Cross into tight parking spots.

When it comes to the suspension setup, although it is softly sprung, the front end balance is exceptional featuring an independent double-wishbone setup. However, the overall ride is quite bouncy due to the leaf-springs at the rear. Without any load on the rear bed, the ride is pretty bouncy for Indian road conditions. However, I have noticed rear passengers can fall asleep comfortably despite the ride and the upright rear seating position so its not all that bad.

When it comes to braking, the V-Cross is pretty stable under hard braking. While it may not stop on a dime, it performs well for something of its size and weight. With the new traction control system, the V-Cross also has Brake Override System which is good in case you mistake the brake for the accelerator and hit both pedals, especially when driving off-road.

The final word
For the kit that Isuzu offers at the price point of Rs 20 lakh ex-showroom, there is no competition if you're looking for a brute that can haul goods, accommodate your family, take you almost anywhere off-road and let you have a commanding presence on the road, unlike some of the hatchbacks that have been styled to looks like SUVs. With the added features, safety tech and the automatic transmission, the V-Cross is much easier to live with than before. The V-Cross may not be perfect, but then what is?

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