A rugged take on value
Isuzu makes a virtue of the truck DNA of its seven-seater — and the drive-away deals are permanent
ISUZU likes to keep things simple. Walk into a dealership and you’re met with just two models: the D-Max ute and MU-X seven-seat SUV.
No micro-sized faux-wheel drive or Nurburgring-honed bi-turbo V8 “SUV coupe” here. Isuzu proudly chest-thumps the truck DNA found in its two models, sticks to what it does best and is reaping the rewards.
Sales figures have surprised Isuzu — and the competition.
The mighty MU-X was Australia’s best-selling utebased SUV of 2016, ahead of the likes of Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Toyota Fortuner, Ford Everest and Holden Colorado7/ Trailblazer.
We bought more than 7000 examples of these Thai-built wagons last year.
With Australia now Isuzu’s biggest export market for D-Max and MU-X, the updates for the 2017 version of the seven-seater specifically address Aussie customer and car reviewer feedback. Namely, fewer harsh plastics in the cabin and reduced noise from its 3.0-litre turbo diesel.
Dual-tone dashboards replace the tough plastic trim, aided by new chrome and piano-black highlights and soft armrest and console coverings.
The exterior design has been tweaked as well, with brighter LED headlights, fog lights and new grille and alloy wheels.
Prices are up about $1000 for the three grades.
Rear-drive variants go from $42,800 to $45,100 and $48,800 before on-roads.
All-wheel-drive autos are from $50,100, $52,400 and $56,100 (unpopular manuals are $2100 cheaper).
The good news is you’ll never pay these prices.
Isuzu does permanent driveaway deals, and its adverts show the range-topping new LS-T 4WD is $52,990 drive-away.
A five-year/130,000km warranty and five-year capped price servicing plan also trumps most of the competition. Carried over is the 3.0-litre diesel engine introduced specifically for the Australian MU-X just a few months ago.
With 130kW/430Nm (up from 380Nm) it’s not the strongest in the segment but it is the most economical, returning a claimed 7.9L/100km when mated to Isuzu’s new six-speed automatic.
Standard gear on all variants include seven seats, touchscreen audio, reverse camera with rear parking sensors and LED daytime running lights.
The MU-X lacks the rivals’ increasingly commonplace active safety and driver assistance systemss.
ON THE ROAD
The MU-X is spacious and those demanding a true sevenseater won’t be disappointed, as the third row can accommodate six-foot adults in respectable comfort, even if it’s still a clamber to get into them. Boot space is excellent as a fiveseater but with seven seats up you’ll fit a couple of sports bags.
The cabin is plusher but the Isuzu still doesn’t feel on a par with a lot of the competition, with slightly flimsy door trim, switches and knobs.
Leather accents for the topgrade MU-X, combined with the rear DVD monitor, should make it the family favourite. Isuzu claims a reduction in noise, vibration and harshness over the 2016 model due to better insulation.
The MU-X hums along with little cabin noise.
Stomp on the accelerator — there’s a bit of a delay — and the higher revs reveal the truck lineage. When cruising it’s quiet and unstressed.
The ride is comfortable and less wallowy than some utebased seven-seaters but the steering is vague and the body leans in the turns.
Off-road there’s no locking rear differential unlike in, say, a Toyota Fortuner or Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.
Our muddy, rocky off-road test with steep descents didn’t trouble the MU-X and few owners would push into harder terrain than this.
Sales leader among its utebased seven-seat rivals, Isuzu is already doing plenty right with the MU-X. A better if not classleading cabin and quieter ride improves the breed. Isuzu’s bulletproof 3.0-litre turbo diesel should ensure it remains a rugged value proposition ... but insist on the drive-away price.