Isuzu D-Max & Ford Ranger

A decade down the line, Ranger and D-Max are still compelling bakkies

Regular readers, especially those on our social media, will know that we like important birthdays and anniversaries. Now here’s one that’s a little different…


Ten years ago this week, we were finishing off a Bakkie magazine cover story of the brand new Isuzu KB bakkie. Hot off its launch in the Kruger. The previous issue, we dedicated to the also all-new Ford Ranger, fresh from its massive national launch too. Both bakkies have evolved over the decade since, the Isuzu even changed its first name to D-Max. And both are still very much fighting it out for a deserved slice of the market.

And yes, both will be replaced within a year — the Ford by a huge remake, the Isuzu by a brand new bakkie. Which makes us wonder about the future of high value upmarket-oriented models like this Ford Ranger 2.2 TDCi double cab Hi-Rider XL Sport auto and Isuzu D-Max 250 double cab X-Rider auto pair?

Both are also recent run-out additions to their ageing ranges, but the guy who buys either of these will not be fussed that neither is the latest or greatest bakkies. These buyers are after decent value in a reliable and well proven double cab that offers enough extra and different to keep them happy. And these two also make for a difficult choice as to which actually is the one to pick. Because they have different strengths. And weaknesses…


Isuzu tells us that this 2.5 D-Max X-Rider is equally suited to business or family use, as it brings greater driving comfort and convenience to market. Ford reckons that its attractive and comfortable 2.2-litre XL Double Cab Sport adds an extra dose of upmarket flair while enhancing its day-to-day practicality in a value-oriented offering that suits a wide variety of applications. Different words. Same intentions. So we put them both to the test. Together.

Let’s start by calling a spade a spade — neither of these bakkies looks bad at all. Let’s just say they’ve aged quite gracefully. And their 2021 spit and polish has done them well, too. The Ranger Sport is distinguished from its XL worker kin by an eye-catching gloss black grille, a black tubular sports bar and rear bumper, as well as 17-inch plain gloss black alloys. Ours even had dealer-fitted black side steps to assert its more dynamic appearance.

Isuzu says X-Rider’s design cues are bold. We can’t argue. Still a great looking bakkie in spite of its decade’s service, Mr. X gets a striking black front bumper and radiator grille grinning with a bold red Isuzu badge. Projector-style headlamps have LED daytime running lamps. The black treatment spreads to the Isuzu’s B-pillars, tubular side steps and sports bar with X-Rider garnish and slick diamond-cut 18-inch alloys. Full house black effect.


Step inside and X-Rider gets red stitched and you guessed it; black leather for its bucket seats, steering wheel and gear lever, as well as high-gloss piano black and bold red cabin trim. Add a Bluetooth-enabled six speaker audio system run off the centre dash infotainment via the multifunction steering wheel. But while the Isuzu stars in leathery luxury, the Ford goes in the other direction inside to major on connectivity of choice.

The Ranger doesn’t bother with hide and trim in the cabin, but if you want it, the Ford’s in-car entertainment can be stepped up to suit your techy wan. It comes with an entry-level Sync 1 system with Bluetooth like the Isuzu, and a down-spec four-inch display. If you dig the tech however, you can drop an extra five grand to step up to ths eight-inch full colour touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, Bluetooth, WiFi compatibility and two USB slots.

Moving along, there’s no high tech under the bonnet of either of these pickups. Based on the popular workhorse Ranger XL, this Sport is powered by Ford’s veritable old-school 118 kW 385 Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder Duratorq TDCi lump. The Isuzu is also propelled by that company’s equally archaic old faithful 100 kilowatt 320 Newton-metre 2.5-litre intercooled turbodiesel.


Both similarly respond to the recent upswing in demand for automatic bakkies in sensible low-tech fashion. Rather than the expensive 10-speed unit in its flagship kin, the Ford uses the good old six-speed transmission that’s done sterling service over the years. Likewise, unlike the the six-speed that recently stepped up a cog in the bigger 3-litre D-Max, this Isuzu 250 sticks to the capable, reliable and economical old 5-speed formula.

Both get ABS brakes with EBD while the Isuzu also has Brake Assist. Both have ESC and Traction Controls, and hill start and descent assistant. The Ford adds roll-over mitigation, adaptive load and trailer sway controls, a rear diff-lock and a tow bar. Both also have driver and passenger airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners, side impact protection and collapsible steering columns, keyless remote central locking and alarms, too.

Each also stars in different ways in load ability. The Ford’s 3500 kg braked trailer towing ability trumps the Isuzu’s 2100 kg. But then the practical Isuzu wins the payload battle by a similar proportion with over a ton’s carrying capacity versus the 100 kg heavier Ford’s 750 kilo payload. The roller-deck on the Isuzu was an option.


Sitting in these bakkies and on the road, driving and riding in them, the Ford seems to offer the slicker all-round package. It’s been that way since both these basic platforms were first released a decade ago. Let’s just say the Ford is more car-like, the Isuzu more a bakkie. Interesting that, considering we’re taking bakkies here…

The Isuzu has a more agricultural engine too — its rougher, clangier and noisier. But it’s quicker in the testing and pulls harder according to our kit, even if it may not really feel that way. Not that either is a drag queen, as is clear by our test data below. The Ford is however more economical.

The Ford has an exceptional gearbox, which while it may have a bit of a fragile rep, has us scratching our heads why those upper models must have four more cogs, when this one’s so good on the road. The Isuzu box does the job, as you’d expect of a value-angled bakkie.


Service and back-up seems much of a muchness when looking at both the dealer count and the warranty and service on offer. And both of these bakkies will be replaced with far more modern and likely costlier options within the next year. Which means you’d likely be able to negotiate a fair discount on either.

All of which makes this one rather hard to call. Where one of these working man’s family bakkies stars, the other struggles. And where that one battles, the other shines. They also had us bickering a bit as to which was best in this application — was the car like bakkie the answer? Or is the bakkie like-one better?

In the end, it was a split decision and we call this one the way of the Ford. But three other people may have voted it the other way. The upshot is that one way or another, one of these two will suit your personal needs better than the other will, if you’re looking for a decent working man’s family bakkie.

Or is that a family man’s working bakkie? You choose! — Michele Lupini

Images: Giordano Lupini

SHOOTOUT:         Ford             Isuzu 
                  Ranger 2.2 TDCi  D-Max 250
                  DC Hi-Rider XL   DC X-Rider 
                  Sport automatic  automatic
Output:           118 kW 385 Nm    100 kW 330 Nm
Engine:           2.2-litre TD I4  2.5-litre TD I4
Drive:            6-speed auto RWD 5-speed auto RWD
Kerb Mass         2031 kg          1945 kg
Payload:          750 kg           1025 kg
Towing capacity:  3500 kg          2100 kg
0-60km/h:         5.32 sec         4.77 sec
0-100km/h:        12.69 sec        11.93 sec
0-120 km/h        17.67 sec        16.77 sec
400m:             19.4s @ 119 km/h 18.1s @ 122 km/h
80-120km/h:       8.91 sec         10.38 sec
Fuel:             6.5 l/100km      8.1 l/100km
CO2:              172 g/km         214 g/km
Warranty/Service: 4y 120K/6y 90Kkm 5y 120K/5y 90Kkm
LIST PRICE:       R515K            R527K
RATED:            8                7

*Ranger in images is a 4×4 version

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