Isuzu reckons it has improved refinement and quality in its new D-max pick-up while losing none of the ruggedness and off-road ability on which its predecessor, the Rodeo, built its reputation.

In four-wheel drive double-cab guise the brand is offering the D-max in four trim levels; we got behind the wheel of the lower mid-range spec Eiger with six-speed manual transmission.

Priced at £18,499, excluding VAT, the Eiger is priced competitively against its rivals’ mid-spec products and comes in £750 more expensive than the D-max base model.

Power comes from a 163hp 2.5-litre common-rail diesel engine, official combined fuel consumption is 38.2mpg, and emissions are put at 194g/km – figures that more than hold their own in the sector, with economy only bettered, marginally, by the Toyota Hilux.

The D-max is a handsome beast in a butch, muscular kind of way. The wedge-shaped front end now sports flared fenders, giving it a broader appearance than the old Rodeo. The bigger grille has been raised and butts up to the bonnet, and the Isuzu badge is also enlarged. At the rear the tail lamps are also much larger than before. The Eiger rides on 16-inch alloy wheels and features body-coloured bumpers.

Step into the cab and the impression is underwhelming, with the fittings reminiscent of the far cheaper Great Wall Steed.

The radio/CD player facia looks dated and has tiny, fiddly controls, plus the gear stick is long and flimsy-looking, and initially we struggled occasionally to select the right gear.

However, there is plenty of useful storage space and the cup holders are sturdy and strong.

The steering wheel and driver’s seat are height-adjustable, providing reasonable comfort, and on the move the interior is quiet.

The Eiger handles well – the steering is light and easy – and there is plenty of punch from the engine. Off-road the Eiger is an accomplished performer.

First gear is set as a ‘crawling gear’ for traversing very rough terrain and steep inclines and declines. Ground clearance has been raised 30mm over the Rodeo to 235mm and the D-max boasts a maximum traversing angle of 49°.

We also drove the flagship Utah on-road. Our model had the five-speed automatic transmission with the option of sequential manual shift. The system worked smoothly and predictably in both modes. The level of refinement inside the cabin is a considerable step up compared with the Eiger, with features such as cruise control, automatic climate control, parking sensors and leather seats. But on the downside there is no factory-fitted satnav as yet.

Isuzu D-Max Eiger
Price (ex-VAT) £18,499
Price range (ex-VAT) £14,499-£21,499
Insurance group tbc
Warranty 5yr/120,000mls
Service intervals 2yrs/12,000mls
Load length 1552mm
Load width 1530mm
Load bay height 465mm
Gross payload 1096kg
Load volume n/a
Engine size/power 2.5-litre/163hp
On sale July 2011
Combined fuel economy 38.2mpg
CO2 194g/km