Isuzu Malaysia launched the facelifted D-Max pick-up truck back in September last year, which also saw the debut of the latest-generation 1.9 litre Ddi Blue Power turbodiesel engine in the country.

The new RZ4E-TC 1.9 litre common-rail four-cylinder diesel engine with variable geometry turbocharging makes 150 PS and 350 Nm of torque, which is more than the old 4JK1-TCX 2.5 litre unit (136 PS and 320 Nm) it replaces.

More impressively, despite the higher outputs and smaller displacement – the latter also sees a reduction in road tax – the Isuzu claims a 19% improvement in fuel efficiency. This is thanks to the use of low-friction parts and a lighter engine weight by 56 kg thanks to the smaller capacity.

While these claims certainly do sound good on paper, how does the new engine in the refreshed pick-up truck perform in real life? To answer that question, Isuzu Malaysia recently organised the 1.9 Blue Power Dura Challenge, where a Single Cab variant of the D-max with the RZ4E-TC engine was made to drive through some of the highest hills along the Titiwangsa Range.

The journey, which covered more than 1,000 km, was also done on a single tank of diesel, and to make things even more challenging, the pick-up was loaded up with crates to its maximum permissible payload capacity of 1,000 kg.

To quell any doubts about the challenge’s credibility, the pick-up used was first subject to a thorough inspection conducted by Puspakom to ensure it is identical to a showroom-standard unit. After that, the truck was loaded up, while the bonnet and fuel filler cap were sealed with anti-tamper tape before the start of the journey from the Isuzu-Hicom factory in Pekan, Pahang.

The first day of challenge saw the white D-Max head north along the East-West Highway linking Jeli, Kelantan and Gerik, Pahang, climbing to an elevation of 1,052 metres before heading to Ipoh for the night.

The day after, the pick-up made the 1,112-metre climb up to Tanah Rata in Cameron Highlands before pushing onwards to Fraser’s Hill (1,222 metres) via Raub, followed by a 1,604-metre-high climb up to Genting Highlands.

From there, the pick-up headed all the way back to the Isuzu service centre in Shah Alam, clocking a total of 1,145 km by the end of the two-day journey. According to the trip computer, the pick-up averaged 7.2 l/100 km, or 13.7 km/l, and still had two bars of fuel left (the D-Max has a 76-litre fuel tank).

“The prowess of the Isuzu D-Max continues to astound with its remarkable capabilities. Despite being the pick-up truck with smallest displacement on the market, the 1.9 litre Isuzu D-Max completed the challenge with absolute ease and confidence. It truly suggests that the Isuzu D-Max 1.9 litre Blue Power has what it takes to get any job done,” said Masayuki Suzuki, chief operating officer of Isuzu Malaysia.

“Through advanced technology, the new 1.9-litre RZ4E-TC engine is by far the most fuel-efficient engine ever produced by Isuzu Motors and this was clearly demonstrated in this exercise. Perhaps some vehicles can travel long distances on a tank of fuel, some can probably manage to carry a ton of weight or climb mountains. But to achieve all three criteria with one vehicle is a true feat of a competent vehicle,” added Koji Nakamura, chief executive officer of Isuzu Malaysia.