ISUZU MU-X

4 x 4 Australia - - Driven -

VALUE is a key sales pitch for the MU-X, some­thing that makes it a pop­u­lar choice for out­back trav­ellers. Its three ri­vals here re­quired mid-spec models to get near our $60,000 tar­get, but for the MU-X we went straight to the top of the tree, the LS-T. And even then, at $54,000, it left plenty in the pocket for ac­ces­sories.

For that price, there’s plenty of ex­tra kit such as leather seats, a pow­ered driver’s seat, and a rear DVD screen to keep the kids con­tent. Plus, it matches the For­tuner with smart key en­try, while things such as the chrome doorhan­dles add a rare touch of bling.

On the in­side it’s more about func­tion than lux­ury and there’s noth­ing flashy about the pre­sen­ta­tion. The plas­tics and fin­ishes look old school, although some streaks of sil­ver help break up the dark greys. The stor­age bin­na­cle atop the dash is a win for maps and other odds and ends, while the cir­cu­lar tem­per­a­ture se­lec­tor is a snip to use on the move. Speak­ing of which, the MU-X’S seat­ing po­si­tion is quite high and its seats could do with more lat­eral sup­port. On the cruise out of Perth, the MU-X felt the least com­posed of our assem­bled quar­tet.

Tip­ping into slower stuff, though, the seat­ing po­si­tion gives great vi­sion, although we still wish there was reach ad­just­ment for the steer­ing wheel. Still, the MU-X be­gan to thrive on the more chal­leng­ing terrain, in­stantly feel­ing more in its com­fort zone.

Its 230mm of ground clear­ance is the high­est here and it was rarely caught out, while the part-time 4x4 sys­tem is

no-fuss and ef­fec­tive, al­beit with­out the ad­di­tion of a rear diff lock (some­thing the Ever­est and For­tuner get).

The MU-X some­how felt bet­ter on more chal­leng­ing terrain, and its sus­pen­sion deals ad­mirably with big hits and cor­ru­ga­tions; put that down par­tially to the am­ple ar­tic­u­la­tion and rel­a­tively sup­ple springs. Our shock tem­per­a­ture mea­sure­ments (see ‘Shock­ing Stuff’ side­bar on page 58) showed they soaked up the least amount of heat.

The 3.0-litre four-cylin­der turbo-diesel en­gine is a gruff unit, al­ways re­mind­ing you it’s chug­ging away, but the pay­off is de­cent re­sponse. Its 380Nm peak is the low­est here by some mar­gin, yet it’s eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble and quickly on-tap. And de­spite be­ing down a ra­tio – it’s a five-speeder ver­sus six for the rest – it never feels want­ing once off-road, where slower speeds are the norm.

Its lithe weight no doubt played a part in help­ing it feel rel­a­tively sprightly. At 2075kg, the Isuzu car­ries less than its ri­vals. That also helps with fuel use and, de­spite a medi­ocre 65-litre tank, the MU-X re­turned im­pres­sive fuel fig­ures. Its av­er­age con­sump­tion of 11.4L/100km made it one of the more fru­gal ve­hi­cles on this test.

No dif­fer­en­tial lock? No wor­ries!

Has the CSR claimed yet an­other vic­tim?

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