Isuzu Motors South Africa says the new D-Max bakkie set to go into production in Port Elizabeth will boast “some uniquely South African features and characteristics”.

While the new D-Max has already launched in countries such as Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, Isuzu Motors SA earlier said local D-Max fans would have to wait until the second half of 2021 to purchase the new-generation, locally built version. Now, thanks to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems the local launch has been pushed back to early 2022.

Still, the Japanese company’s SA arm says “work is underway” on the engineering and testing of D-Max that will eventually be manufactured at its assembly plant in the Eastern Cape.

“The local version will have some uniquely South African features and characteristics,” Isuzu said in a press statement.

Dominic Rimmer, Isuzu SA’s senior-vice president of technical operations, added the new D-Max would be a “significant step forward for Isuzu in all respects”.

“It offers state-of-the-art technology to enhance the driving experience, efficiency and safety. As you know, we have very high expectations for the D-Max here in South Africa so a significant amount of work has to be done to ensure that we deliver a vehicle which is capable of coping with our challenging environment and customer demands,” Rimmer said.

Isuzu says “key projects” include testing of the load box, which in the current bakkie “has significantly thicker steel in strategic areas such as the load box inner panels, load box front panel and tailgate”.

Other areas receiving attention from local engineers include dust sealing; suspension tuning and the development of local dampers; and the development of all-terrain tyres, a rear differential lock and axles, wiring harnesses and accessories such as canopies, roll bars and nudge bars.

The fresh-faced D-Max is powered by a “newly developed” version of the Japanese firm’s familiar 3,0-litre turbodiesel engine, with peak outputs hiked to 140 kW (at 3 600 r/min) and 450 N.m (between 1 600 and 2 600 r/min).

The new Mazda BT-50, of course, shares much with this new D-Max thanks to an agreement signed by the two companies in 2016.