Isuzu are back and they mean business
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