Roughly based on the Isuzu D-Max ute and designed to carry the fight to the likes of the Colorado 7, SsangYong Rexton, Ford Territory, Toyota Prado, Mitsubishi Challenger and the like, the well put together MU-X will impress potential buyers with its excellent design, roominess and performance both on and off road.
Available in LS-M, LS-U and top of the range LS-T models, it’s the LS-T reviewed here. Although there’s a massive list of features, many of these goodies are also offered in the other models that are well worth a look at if the budget is running a bit tight.
Well equipped by any standard, the MU-X LS-T offers power-operated leather-appointed seats, reversing camera, rear park assist (I sure loved that!) alloy side steps, 17” alloy wheels, projector headlights, climate control air with pollen filter, keyless entry, cruise control, touchscreen sat nav’ and audio system, Bluetooth iPod and USB connectivity, rear roof mounted DVD monitor to keep back seat passengers happy, an 8 speaker audio system, power windows plus electric fold mirrors, roof rails and a tailgate spoiler. And it comes with a 5 star ANCAP safety rating!
There’s also a 60/40 split fold for the second row of seats, and 50/50 split fold for the third row, which can actually accommodate adults for short distances. The interior of the wagon was dark charcoal, with bright dash highlights to catch the eye. In typical Isuzu fashion, all dials and gauges were very well laid out and easily monitored. One thing I really liked when at the wheel was the very comfortable infinitely adjustable seats, plus the brilliant headlights when night driving.
Powered by a 4cyl 3l common rail diesel engine with variable geometry turbo charger, the twin cam Isuzu powerplant has a maximum power of 130kW and maximum torque of 390Nm. The figures, on the face of it, don’t appear extraordinary, but bear in mind that this is a time-proven engine with steel timing chain — hence no replacement necessary — roller rockers, and is very much under-stressed; all factors that lead to a long work life with easy maintenance. While the engine does not rev as freely as some of its European counterparts and tends to rattle and vibrate a tad at idle, it has a lot of fat torque in hand from quite low revs. And aside from all that, the MU-X in no way feels under-powered, thanks to a 5 speed auto with its Adaptive Grade Logic and hill ascent/descent control. The wagon, incidentally, is a 4WD in every sense of the term, with both all wheel drive plus low range gearing controlled via a console mounted dial.
On highway runs I saw the tacho sitting at 1700rpm with the speedo on 100 kays, while a towing stint involving our Trek Trailer (the wagon has a 3000kg rating for a braked trailer) saw a fuel consumption of 11.2l/100km, which impressed me considerably.
Isuzu have obviously spent some time refining the 7 seater’s ride. With independent coil springs, gas shockers and upper and lower wishbones mated to a stabiliser bar, the front suspension was very compliant and offered considerable front wheel travel. The wagon’s rear suspension was just as good, with a multi link high ride setup incorporating gas shockers plus a stabiliser bar again. All-in-all, the suspension was very capable of insulating passengers from road undulations and was particularly good off-road and on gravel surfaces. There was a small amount of lean on really tight corners at times, but this was quickly corrected when the suspension took up.
Off-road, the MU-X is a surprise packet. Thanks to the very generous wheel travel plus the easy lugging power of the 3l diesel mated to the slick auto unit, the vehicle took a lot of quite nasty off-road terrain in its stride in a journey to cod country where — a drum roll please — we actually caught some fish! Denise scored 1 first cast, but that’s another story. This is about a car: a good 1 at that.
Low range saw the MU-X sneaking carefully through long grass and some rocky going to get to the river, but although the suspension was obviously working below the floor pan, we took it pretty easy inside on the very comfortable seating.
Seven seaters are flavour of the month these days and I was interested to see just how easy or otherwise access to the third row of seats would be. Surprise, surprise, I easily scrambled in thanks to a fair amount of room between the folded/tumbled down rear left centre seat and the third row. There was even head room. Amazing. All that aside, the rearmost seats were likely best left for youngsters to enjoy.
With third row seating folded flat and the second row likewise, I measured a very useful 1800mm long by 1100mm wide (between wheel arches) available for cargo storage, which was very handy on country runs. Pack it in, stack it in, that’s my motto.
In summary, the Isuzu MU-X LS-T rates as a very strong contender for family 4WD honours. It looks pretty good, drives very well, has real off-road cred’, and has a very solid feel about it, whether on or off-road. That solid engine should last for a very long time and is built to work, as is the gear train — both are commercial grade units. The Mu-X comes with a 5 year 130,000km warranty plus roadside assist. Price was quoted as $50,990 drive away. And there’s a full sized spare wheel.Reads: 2004