It’s been branded as the tough, rugged, go-anywhere 7 seat SUV, and we’ve been fortunate enough to spend two weeks with the range topping LS-T variant of the Isuzu MU-X line up, to put those statements to the test.
If you look around on VFACTS and search for SUV’s under $70k, you are definitely spoilt for choice, with close to 30 vehicles on the list. The Isuzu MU-X comes in at third place as the best-selling vehicle in that category (and likely to retain that position by the end of this year), but takes top honours as the number one selling ute-based SUV.
All MU-X models are powered by a 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine that produces 130kW of power and 430Nm of torque from 2,000 rpm, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Whilst the highly respected ‘4JJ1’ engine could do with a bit more refinement and power, its reliability is something that doesn’t need questioning. It’s somewhat quiet and composed putting around the suburbs under the 2,000rpm mark, but if you do need to get moving and raise the revs past the 3,000rpm mark, the engine noise is quite noticeable (even though Isuzu attempted to reduce this via firewall insulation) and there is a slight vibration felt through the pedal. The official combined fuel consumption figure for the MU-X is 7.9L per 100km. We found an average of 8.5L, with a variety of driving styles and surfaces.
As a testament to the confidence instilled within the Isuzu DNA, Isuzu Ute Australia has also improved the service and warranty plan for all MY19 models, which now come with 6 Years/150,000km Warranty, 6 Years Roadside Assistance and 7 Years/105,000km Capped Price Servicing programme. Service intervals are every 12 months, or 15,000km.
With our test vehicle being an MY19 LS-T, it has the restyled, more aggressive front grille finished in Chrome and Black, designed to route airflow to the engine and cooling components, whilst still paying tribute to the iconic horizontal bar look made famous by the Isuzu Trucks over the past century. 18-inch machined-face and gloss black aluminium wheels enhance the visual appeal even further, wrapped in 255/60R18 Bridgestone Dueler Highway Terrain tyres, that offer terrific comfort, all weather grip and low road noise. Even though they are a highway terrain, we found them to be relatively and surprisingly capable, once the tarmac turned to sand and gravel.
Inside the MU-X you’ll find a well-equipped, aesthetically pleasing interior with a high focus on user friendly functionality, durability and overall passenger comfort, with our LS-T variant gaining new ambient lighting that automatically turns on and off with the use of the headlights. The LS-T variant also gains a proximity key with single touch central locking, an electric drivers’ seat, push button start, partial leather seats and fog lamps. ISOFIX is also a standard feature, and the MU-X is capable of fitting three ISOFIX children car seats across the 2nd row, something that not many vehicles can do.
Across the entire MU-X range you will find elegant, soft touch materials in key areas, with lashings of piano black trim touches. The seats provide a good level of comfort, although some extra lumbar support wouldn’t go astray. It took some time finding a reasonably comfortable driving position, due to the fact that the steering wheel is not telescopically adjustable, however once you do find the seating position that’s suitable, you get fantastic visibility, as you sit relatively tall compared to other vehicles.
Regardless of trim level, all MU-X models come standard with a number of safety, comfort and convenience features such as Cruise Control, Reverse Parking Sensors, Reverse Camera, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, eight-speaker sound system with Bluetooth connectivity, hill descent control, hill hold assist, three USB ports – (one in the second row, two in the front row), LED daytime running lights and a full size spare wheel.
Seating in the rear we found to be rather impressive, with more than ample legroom in the middle row for an average sized adult, and even managed to get some folks in the third row without too much hassle and complaint about space, which does offer a step down in the floor to help with seating comfort. Another positive was the fact that there climate vents on the ceiling, for all three rows, regardless of trim level (LS-U, LS-M or LS-T). The second row passengers are treated to a flip-down 10-inch DVD player in LS-T trim.
Should you choose to purchase a MU-X 4×4, and want to take it off-road, you will probably be surprised at just how capable it is, straight off the showroom floor. Equipped with a proper low-range transfer case, 230mm of ground clearance and decent underbody protection and hill descent control, the only downside we could mark against the MU-X was the lack of locking differentials.
performance and handling is adequate – and by that we mean it’s not something
we would call exciting, but it will get you and your passengers from A-B in
relative comfort. There is some noticeable body-roll through the corners, but
bear in mind this is a seven seater, large SUV with a tare mass over two
tonnes, and it’s certainly not the worst we’ve experienced. The five-link coil
suspension setup in the rear gives some really generous articulation when you
need to cross over some decent size ruts and ditches, and definitely does its
job in providing a respectable level of comfort and ride quality when the going
gets bumpy. Up the front end is the usual MacPherson strut like most of the
vehicles in this segment.
In terms of cargo space, the MU-X has 235L of boot space with the third row seats put up. Tuck them away, and that 235L turns into 878L of space. Fold the middle row down, and you are presented with 1830L of space to load up for the weekend. As a comparison, the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado has 1833L, and the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport has 1624L.
And it’s not just boot space that the MU-X has abundance. The interior designers have done an incredible job finding space for the occupants to store their personal items. There are decent size door pockets for occupants seated in the front and the rear (with bottle holders), two glove boxes, a storage tray located on top of the dash with a pop-up cover, bottle holders located in front of the Driver and Passenger air vents, overhead sunglass holder and more cupholders in the centre console, located in front of a decent sized storage bin located under the armrest. In total, there are 12 cup-holders, and 18 storage compartments.
On the safety front, the MU-X comes with six airbags, including full-length curtain air bags for occupants seated in the third row. It has received a five-star ANCAP safety rating. There is the option to add Blind Spot Monitoring (which works with a yellow warning light embedded into the A-pillar) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert ($955) and Front Parking Sensors ($545).
All in all, the entire MU-X range is a well-packaged, highly capable seven-seat SUV, with a competitive price and one of the best vehicle warranty and service plans around. Yes, in certain aspects it lacks the “wants” of some of the latest automotive technologies that are found in its competitors (such as adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking), but it’s got everything that you might actually really need, to get out there and enjoy our big country and embrace the outdoor lifestyle. With it’s extremely reliable and proven engine, it’s not hard to see why it’s a popular choice among buyers in this segment.
The Isuzu MU-X is a terrific option for families wanting a seven-seat SUV that does have capability to go most places, straight off the showroom floor. There’s no real pretending to be more than it actually is, which is an honest, hardworking vehicle that won’t let you down. Yes, it could do with some updated technology, and with a new Isuzu D-MAX ute arriving shortly, we can assume a revised MU-X is not long behind. That said, even with it’s current range, it might not have everything you want, but it’s probably got everything you’re going to need.
What we liked:
On and Off-Road Ride and Comfort.
Warranty and Service Plan.
The Reliability of the 3.0-litre Turbo Diesel.
What we didn’t like:
The engine can be a bit noisy, especially higher in the rev range, and does feel a bit lethargic at times.
Lack of Dual Zone Climate Control – even in top LS-T trim.
Definitely some updated tech and standard safety features such as AEB, Adaptive Cruise, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, Lane Departure Warning (hopefully in the near future for the next version)
Interior is starting to look a bit dated, especially compared to it’s competitors.