So your love for bakkies is the unyielding kind, ingrained in you somewhere during your adolescence when your manhood was still budding and you knew everything about everything – or so you thought. From the time you could afford a car you’ve remained loyal to the bakkie community, and now you’re at that exciting point where you’ve put your feelers out for the next upgrade. However, after doing your homework and enduring a test drive or two with the suspiciously keen sales rep, something just didn’t feel right with the bakkies you drove.

Aha! It probably has everything to do with how refined these pickups have become nowadays, almost offering the same level of comfort and user-friendliness as small passenger cars. The good news is that there’s still hope for the ‘hardcore’ bakkie fanatics who find joy in driving something hard, mechanical and indestructible. Isuzu is one of the few manufacturers that still cater to this group of purists, and yours truly was fortunate enough to experience their D-MAX 300 first hand.

After taking delivery of the Isuzu for a week-long stay, my first drive in the bakkie was a mini shock to the system. Not due to any fault of the vehicle, but because I had been driving the Volkswagen Amarok, a competitor to the Isuzu and the two could not have been more different. Adapting to the Isuzu’s nature took a few days of being behind the wheel, but once the initiation phase had passed, each drive in the double cab bakkie was a treat and honestly, a boost to my male ego. You see, where the Isuzu differs from many of the other offerings in this space is that it has a large pair of rocks and they still hang as low. This has kept the D-MAX masculine and mechanically robust.

On the design front, it still looks very manly, with a bold squared-off face differentiating it from the more cosmetically refined bakkies it competes with, which some would say appear a bit ‘soft’. Under the bonnet, the Isuzu is powered by a low revving 3.0-litre diesel engine, great for longevity and hassle-free driving. A 6-speed manual was the gearbox of choice here, although it’s also available in automatic. Yes, the manual does require more effort to drive but the experience is a rewarding one. This is the one bakkie that feeds your masculinity whenever you put it on the road. Everything feels mechanical and engaging, from the meaty clutch pedal to the gear action which requires firmness each time you shift. In response, it gives you a satisfying clunk or two as confirmation that your gear has engaged. They just don’t make them this way anymore.

If you’re feeling adventurous and decide to take this plaas bakkie off the beaten path and into the less defined parts of our country, you won’t have to worry about its off-road capabilities. A locking rear differential and being able to select four-wheel-drive with high and low range should get you through anything.

Inside, the Isuzu makes modest use of glitzy bits and bobs and keeps things very simple. It may not offer the highest quality finishes, but what it does have is the robustness of workhorse that won’t have you concerning yourself with scratches and smudges. A touch infotainment screen allows you to connect your smartphone and the instrument cluster gives you the all the necessary information like consumption, range and a trip calculator.

You can expect to pay a reasonable R587 800 for the D-MAX 300 3.0TD double cab LX, which is considerably less than what other brands will demand for a similar product.

By Gugu Masuku