Isuzu are back and they mean business

Car India - - CONTENTS - Story: Ravi Chand­nani Pho­tog­ra­phy: San­jay Raikar

IN­DIA’S LOVE AF­FAIR WITH SUVS IS AN OLD ONE. We are in­fat­u­ated with these giants — just take a look at the sales charts of sev­eral com­pa­nies sell­ing SUVs. In­di­ans have a burn­ing de­sire to own a big and butch SUV, and this has fu­elled sales over the years. Man­u­fac­tur­ers like Toy­ota and Ford have cap­i­talised on this trend and the lat­est en­trant in this seg­ment, Isuzu, have also tried their hand at get­ting a piece of this en­tic­ing pie with the MU-7.

How­ever, since the launch of the MU-7, the com­pe­ti­tion has moved on; up­dat­ing their prod­ucts quite ag­gres­sively. So where do Isuzu stand to­day?

Well, to counter the likes of the For­tuner and En­deav­our, Isuzu have launched the mu-X, suc­ces­sor to the MU-7. We spent a day be­hind wheel of this big SUV to find out just how good it re­ally is.

‘All Mus­cle. All Heart’. This is the tagline for the mu-X and, hon­estly, it does jus­tify the ‘all mus­cle’ part to the fullest. The mu-X is based on the D-Max V-Cross, which is a huge life­style pick-up. Hence, the mu-X mea­sures al­most 16 feet in length, six feet in width and six feet in height. That’s more than im­pres­sive for any­one look­ing to buy a “big” SUV.

De­sign-wise, the mu-X clearly draws its in­spi­ra­tion from the D-Max, which looks pretty good; how­ever, the styling still looks quite con­ser­va­tive for an SUV. Isuzu have taken care of one thing that we In­di­ans love, and that’s bling.

There is an am­ple dose of chrome on the fas­cia and a gen­er­ous help­ing at the back as well. The 17-inch al­loy

wheels of the mu-X also have a nice shine to them, adding more bling to this SUV. Mus­cu­lar wheel-arches, tall 65-pro­file tyres, wrap-around rear glass house and a strong shoul­der-line clearly de­fine the butch na­ture of the de­sign. It may not look as mod­ern as some its com­peti­tors but it gets the job done none the less.

On the in­side, things are just as con­ser­va­tive as on the out­side. Be­ing based on the D-Max V-Cross, the cabin is essen­tially the same as in the pick-up, although a few things have been re­done to give the mu-X a more pre­mium feel: such as the pi­ano black ac­cents on the dash­board, par­tic­u­larly around the air-con vents and the lower cen­tre con­sole. There is also a seven-inch touch­screen that dou­bles up as the dis­play for the rear park­ing cam­era. It works well but misses out on mod­ern-day fea­tures such as smart­phone in­te­gra­tion and satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion.

Leather up­hol­stery, power-ad­justable driver seat, au­to­matic cli­mate con­trol, roof-mounted sound sys­tem, a 10-inch screen for video play­back, key­less en­try, and start-stop but­ton are things that give the mu-X a more pre­mium feel than the D-Max V-Cross. How­ever, in terms of equip­ment the mu-X still doesn’t match up to the com­pe­ti­tion.

Nev­er­the­less, the cabin does im­press when it comes to space. Be­ing al­most five me­tres long has its ad­van­tages as there is more than am­ple space in all the three rows, plus there is good head- and shoul­der-room to go along with the spa­cious knee-room. The sec­on­dand third-row seats can be folded down to lib­er­ate even more space to ac­com­mo­date more lug­gage for those ex­tended trips. Over­all, the cabin of the mu-X has goodqual­ity ma­te­ri­als and fit-and-fin­ish. The lay­out, how­ever, is more util­i­tar­ian than funky, which might ap­peal to some, if not all.

Isuzu have equipped the mu-X with a big­ger, 3.0-litre, four-cylin­der tur­bocharged diesel mo­tor that is mated to a five-speed au­to­matic gear­box. It pro­duces 177 PS and 380 Nm, which is lower than what its com­peti­tors of­fer but ad­e­quate for the mu-X. More on that later. The first thing you no­tice about this en­gine is not the low torque but the re­fine­ment lev­els, which are not re­ally up to the mark: diesel en­gine chat­ter and vi­bra­tions do make their way into the cabin. Although this doesn’t bother so much at lower revs, it be­comes quite no­tice­able above 2,000 rpm. What we ap­pre­ci­ated, how­ever, was the torque de­liv­ery. That 380 Nm ar­rives at 1,800 rpm, and there is enough of it be­fore that mark to pro­pel the mu-X for­ward with­out any hes­i­ta­tion, giv­ing it de­cent drive­abil­ity. Sur­pris­ingly, the turbo-lag has been kept to the min­i­mum. The fivespeed au­to­matic gear­box shifts smoothly, though the shift tim­ings are not as quick as we would like them to be. The elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled four-wheel-drive sys­tem utilises a knob that fa­cil­i­tates shift­ing from two high to four high on the move.

Per­for­mance-wise, the mu-X did not dis­ap­point a s it turned out to be on a par with the com­pe­ti­tion... well,

The mu-X is an SUV made for those who like to spend more time off the tar­mac than on it due to its truly com­mend­able off-road­ing cre­den­tials

al­most so. Our test fig­ures re­vealed that the mu-X can go from 0 to 100 km/h in just 12.46 sec­onds and can at­tain a top speed of more than 170 km/h. Even in terms of roll-on tim­ings, it takes 10.19 sec­onds to go from 40 to 100 km/h, which is slightly more than the more pow­er­ful Ford En­deav­our.

In terms of han­dling, the mu-X be­haves more like a pick-up rather than an SUV. The first thing you no­tice is the heavy steer­ing, which re­mains so at al­most any speed. It helps at high speeds but at low speeds you need to put in some ef­fort to turn it. Feed­back, too, needs some im­prove­ment. Next is the su­per-soft sus­pen­sion, which peo­ple may think is a good thing so far as ride qual­ity is con­cerned, but it gives the mu-X a very bouncy ride qual­ity. Be­sides, the body-roll caused by the tall stance and the su­per-soft sus­pen­sion of this SUV may not be ap­pre­ci­ated by many.

This sus­pen­sion setup shines brightly when it comes to tack­ling off-road ter­rain. It takes ev­ery­thing in its stride off the tar­mac, putting a smile on your face while tack­ling ditches, un­du­la­tions, boul­ders, rivers, hills and, maybe, even hillocks, we guess. The four-wheel- drive sys­tem works flaw­lessly on the afore­men­tioned ter­rain and so does the Hill Start As­sist. On tar­mac the mu-X is not as good as the com­pe­ti­tion but when it comes to hard­core off-road­ing, it may sur­pass the com­pe­ti­tion.

Keep­ing a two-tonne SUV safe is no easy task and for that Isuzu have equipped the mu-X with a host of safety fea­tures. Its high-ten­sile steel body con­struc­tion with side in­tru­sion bars gives the struc­ture good rigid­ity and crash pro­tec­tion. More­over, the pres­ence of ABS, ESC, Trac­tion Con­trol, and airbags makes it quite loaded in terms of pas­sive safety fea­tures.

Over­all, the mu-X is an SUV made for those who like to spend more time off the-tar­mac than on it due to its truly com­mend­able off-road­ing cre­den­tials. Its on-road man­ners and fea­tures might not be on a par with the com­pe­ti­tion, but the mu-X makes a lot of sense in terms of per­for­mance, de­sign, space, and prac­ti­cal­ity. At Rs 26.18 lakh (ex-Mum­bai) for the four-wheel-drive vari­ant, the mu-X is an SUV that will im­press the off-road­ing en­thu­si­ast more than any­one. For oth­ers, we rec­om­mend that you give it a try be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion.

Cabin lacks the ex­cite­ment of­fered by the com­pe­ti­tion

Apart from re­fine­ment, the turbo-diesel mo­tor is pretty good ev­ery­where else

Cen­tre con­sole looks sim­i­lar to that of the D-Max V-Cross

Only Isuzu of­fer en­ter­tain­ment op­tions for the rear seat pas­sen­gers in this seg­ment

Four-wheel-drive modes can be en­gaged on-the-fly via this knob

Fold­able seats lib­er­ate loads of cargo space

Sec­ond row seats have good thigh sup­port, and a lot of knee- and head­room

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