Port Elizabeth - The seven-seater Mu-X SUV, released in South Africa this week, is the first model to be launched by newly-formed Isuzu SA and the first SUV from this maker seen locally since the demise of the Frontier.

Isuzu's challenger to the Toyota Fortuner and Ford's Everest may be new here, but it’s an established model, launched in Thailand in 2013. The Mu-X was originally developed, pre-divorce, alongside the Chevrolet Trailblazer, with which it shares its platform and bodyshell, but with its own external panels and styling, and more importantly, its own drivetrain.

Where the Bowtie version had a 2.8-litre oil-burner, the Mu-X boasts a three-litre intercooled turbodiesel four, rated at 130kW and 380Nm, driving either the rear wheels, or all four, via a six-speed automatic transmission with sequential sport mode, giving it a three-ton towing capacity.

The all-wheel drive derivative has Isuzu’s familiar Terrain Command set-up, with electrically selected two and four-wheel drive modes, as well as low-range 4x4 mode for serious beetle-crushing. Both models run 18 inch alloys on independent suspension all round, with a five-link set-up at the rear for maximum articulation with minimum body roll.

Self-levelling Bi-LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED tail-light clusters, privacy glass and aluminium side-steps are standard kit across the range, as are dual-zone climate control, and flat-folding second and third-row seats.

The infotainment system is built around 23cm colour touchscreen display for the satnav, audio and communication systems, which include a DVD and MP3-compatible CD player, Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with further input from front and rear USB slots, an auxiliary iPod input and an HDMI port.

Standard trim includes leather-upholstered seats, with six-way electric adjustment for the driver’s seat and a leather-trimmed steering wheel with fingertip controls for audio, telephony and cruise control functions. Keyless entry and start functions are backed by touch sensor opening and push-button locking on the door handles.

Active safety kit includes an electronic stability program with traction control, hill hold and hill descent control (in conjunction low range) and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera.

PRICES (including VAT and emissions tax)

Mu-X 3.0 4x2R568 000
Mu-X 3.0 4x4R629 100

These include a five-year or 120 000km bumper-to-bumper warranty and roadside assistance, and a five-year or 90 000km service plan; service intervals are 15 000km or 12 months, so your first five or six services are free, depending on how much you drive your Mu-X.

4x2 RIVALS

Ford Everest 3.2 XLT147kW/470NmR584 400
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport 2.4 D4133kW/430NmR569 995
Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 Auto 130kW/450NmR583 800

4x4 RIVALS

Ford Everest 3.2 4x4 XLT147kW/470NmR655 000
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport 2.4 D34 4x4133kW/430NmR599 995
Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4x4 Auto130kW/450NmR646 800

IOL Motoring