Launch Review: Isuzu MU-X
After much speculation and anticipation Isuzu Motors South Africa have launched their seven-seater MU-X taking aim at the Toyota Fortuner, Ford Everest and Pajero Sport. It’s a significant improvement on the outgoing model in every respect and because it’s an Isuzu you know exactly what you’re getting in terms of reliability and longevity.
We got to take a closer look at it in the metal during an impressive reveal on the Garden Route and first impressions are that it was worth the wait if you’re an Isuzu fan, of which there are many in South Africa.
Built in Thailand, it’s based on the the upcoming D-MAX bakkie (which will be produced locally) with a ladder frame, and while the D-Max will be fitted with leaf springs at the back, the MU-X is coil sprung, which adds to its ride comfort.
There are three variants in the form of the MU-X LS in 4x2 and 4x4, the mid-range LSE with only 4x2 and the range-topping ONYX in 4x4 only.
It’s a completely new design with their new “World Crossflow” grille and arrow-shaped Bi-LEd headlamps connected by a signature line to the rear, linking the headlamps with the rear light 3D winglets. Overall it’s a pleasing look with no big talking points or anything that will offend prospective owners.
All three variations are fitted with alloy wheels with the ONYX on 20-inch, the LSE models on 18-inch and the LS with 17-inch wheels.
Should the ONYX be your vehicle of choice you will be able to change the rim diameter to fit a higher profile off-road tyre.
You can choose between Splash White, Dolomite White, ONYX Black, Mercury Silver, Obsidian Gray, Red Spinel, Santos Brown, and Sapphire blue.
Under the bonnet many will be glad to see that it’s still their trusty 3.0-litre turbo-diesel that’s been refined and tweaked to produce a much less agricultural sounding 140kW and 450Nm; and the engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Inside is a vast improvement with piano-black surfaces, chrome highlights, aluminium and soft leather in what is a very spacious interior. There’s quite a bit of plastic that’s not too obvious or intrusive except inside the glove compartments and centre console where it looks cheap.
The new 9- or 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system has good resolution but is a bit difficult to see during the day and is limited in functionality unless you connect Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
As you would expect from a modern car, the Isuzu MU-X is loaded with technology and active and passive safety features, including their Intelligent Driver Assistance System in the ONYX model that monitors your surroundings with a windshield-mounted stereo camera to act autonomously to avoid a crash or minimise accident damage.
It’s also the first middle airbag that prevents the driver’s and passengers’ heads colliding in an accident.
Our first drive was in the entry level LS 4x2 and the first thing you’ll notice are the incredibly comfortable seats with superb lumber support that allows you to frolic around corners without being thrown around.
The steering wheel is smaller, allowing for a more comfortable and direct drive, although over corrugations there’s a bit too much feedback as the front wheels bounce without traction – as we experienced in the LSE going down the Swartberg Pass.
On tar though it’s not as pronounced and the engine smoothly purrs through the gearbox with no fuss getting up to speeds that you wouldn’t ordinarily drive with the family on board.
Apart from the wind noise coming from the side mirrors, interior noise levels weren’t intrusive, testament to the improved door-sealing structure and the areas surrounding the A-pillar.
Handling for a big SUV is top notch with very little body roll around corners and sharp bends through some of the Garden Route’s more spectacular passes.
Behind the wheel of the ONYX over the old Montague Pass the advantage of four-wheel drive, easily done with a turn of a dial on the centre console, was very apparent with a more sure-footed drive over loose sand and rocks. If it was me I would opt for either of the 4x4 versions.
For a standard SUV the Isuzu MU-X impressed with its off-road prowess with decent articulation and minimal fuss over some fairly difficult obstacles. With diff lock engaged and the right lines you could have a lot of fun on a weekend 4x4 outing, with the added bonus of 800mm wading depth.
The new Isuzu MU-X has a lot going for it, including a braked towing capacity of 3.5 tons as the company focuses more on it’s leisure market vehicles. It remains to be seen though how it measures up against the competition when they start selling them in December, considering most of their direct competition undercuts them in price.
It comes with the Isuzu Complete Care package with a warranty of five years or 120 000 km.
Isuzu MU-X pricing
3.0 Ddi 4x2 LS A/T: R693 800
3.0 Ddi 4x4 LS A/T: R771 600
3.0 Ddi 4x2 LSE A/T: R763 300
3.0 Ddi 4x4 ONYX A/T: R860 500