Isuzu is better known for its trucks and bakkies, but once in a while the Japanese brand does come up with a passenger vehicle. Three years ago the MU-X was launched in South Africa, a body-on-chassis SUV based on the D-Max.
The MU-X faced stiff competition from the start Fortuner and the Everest, and even though it was updated barely two years after it had touched down, sales remain painfully low. Autodealer drove the MU-X to find out how it measured up against rivals.
Compared to the two market leaders, the MU-X looked somewhat outdated when it arrived back in 2018, and while the 2020 facelift did sharpen the SUV’s look a tad, it did not enhance the vehicle’s overall look and stance.
Towards the rear, especially in the C-pillar area, the MU-X looks old compared to the Fortuner and Everest, with Toyota and Ford having long ago given their respective vehicles a more modern look in that area. Up front the Isuzu also lacks the sharp edges of the Fortuner and the bold look of the Everest.
The MU-X buyer, therefore, will have to be someone who favours a more classic look when it comes to vehicle styling.
The MU-X cabin is a pleasant surprise. The quality, fit and layout are good. The black leather seats are firm yet comfortable, and sport neat, contrasting white stitching. Isuzu did a great job in creating a capsule that is user-friendly for both driver and passengers.
For the driver, controls are accessible and easy to operate, and for those with him, there is a large number of storage spaces, including two glove compartments. Second row passengers get their own USB port and ventilation outlets. Space in row two is adequate for three adults and right at the back, as in all seven-seaters, two children will fit comfortably. Inside, the only issue I have is the matt-silver trimming on the steering and gear lever; over time these will surely get scratched.
Trusty 3.0-litre turbo
Isuzu is only offering the MU-X with the brand’s tried and tested 3.0-litre turbo-diesel plant. In the SUV this unit delivers 130kW at 3 600rpm and 380Nm between 1 800 and 2 800rpm. Driving it around town and on the open road, Autodealer got the feeling that the engine was always relaxed and, no matter what you do with the throttle, ran easily.
The six-speed automatic gearbox is very smooth, but felt like it was holding the engine back a bit. Off the road the MU-X really impressed me. The 3.0-litre engine never asked for a lot of revs to negotiate obstacles. It just idled through everything; however, a diff-lock would have been welcome.
Safe family SUV
On the safety front, the MU-X package is comprehensive, with ABS/EBD, stability control, hill-descent and hill-start assist control systems featured as standard in addition to six airbags. The infotainment screen also doubles as display for the rear-view camera. A feature that is not included is trailer-sway control, which would have come in handy seeing that the SUV has a 3 000kg (braked) tow rating.
On the outside, the MU-X looks outdated compared to similar SUVs from rival brands, but inside it is right up there with the market leaders. The engine, while not as modern as that of the Everest, is a tried and tested unit which, theoretically, should last till the planet runs out of Brent Crude if maintained properly. Diehard Isuzu fans will be happy with their choice.