New Zealand LCV - - NEW MODEL FOCUS | 2017 ISUZU MU-X -

A NEW FACE, A CLEANER-RUN­NING ENGINE, A RE­VAMPED in­te­rior with softer-touch ma­te­ri­als and re­designed seats are key fea­tures of the 2017 MU-X seven-seat SUV in­tro­duced to the New Zealand mar­ket in May.

It has a new-de­sign chrome grille, head­lights that slant down to em­pha­sise the grille’s cen­tral hor­i­zon­tal bar, a re­designed bon­net, day­light run­ning lights, and LED head­lights.

The wind­screen pil­lars are rel­a­tively slen­der to im­prove for­ward quar­ter vi­sion, and there’s a re­designed and big­ger rear rooftop spoiler.

Isuzu doesn’t re­gard the 2017 model year RF20 MU-X as a new model – nor as a facelift of its pre­de­ces­sor – but as what the Ja­panese fac­tory calls a “big run­ning change” in which fea­tures and com­po­nen­try are up­graded.

“The Isuzu fac­tory is con­stantly chang­ing ve­hi­cles on the pro­duc­tion line, in­tro­duc­ing mul­ti­ple run­ning changes (dur­ing the SUVS pro­duc­tion life),” says Isuzu Utes NZ’S managing di­rec­tor, Mur­ray Green­halgh.

Only one MU-X model is be­ing im­ported, an up­scale ver­sion that lists at $65,990 which makes it very com­pet­i­tively-priced against the op­po­si­tion.

Green­halgh says the New Zealand MU-X is made to a build code that is unique to this mar­ket – “this model is not built for any other mar­ket.”

The MU-X’S engine is the 4JJ1-T Hi-power 3.0-litre four­cylin­der tur­bod­iesel that de­vel­ops max­i­mum power of 130kw at 3600rom, and 430Nm of peak torque at 2000rpm. The lat­ter is a use­ful rise over the pre­vi­ous model’s 380Nm.

The engine’s dual over­head camshafts are driven by a chain rather than a cam­belt, and the mo­tor meets Euro 5 emis­sion stan­dards. Isuzu quotes com­bined cy­cle fuel econ­omy of 7.9 litres/100km.

It’s mated to a six-speed au­to­matic gear­box with a man­ual over-ride and adap­tive grade logic con­trol that holds a gear on var­ied grade climbs and se­lects a lower gear on steep de­scents to keep speed steady.

The se­lectable four-wheel drive sys­tem al­lows the driver to switch be­tween two- and four-wheel drive on-the-fly at up to 100km/h. It has a high/low ra­tio trans­fer case.

The front sus­pen­sion is by coil-sprung dou­ble wish­bones, and the coil-sprung solid rear axle is lo­cated by a multi-link set-up.

Un­like the D-max ute which has disc/drum front/rear brakes, the MU-X has discs all-round.

The MU-X rides on 18-inch al­loy wheels shod with 255/R18 HT tyres, and has a full-sized al­loy spare wheel.

There’s the ex­pected suite of safety equip­ment – the manda­tory elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol along with ABS ant-lock brak­ing, trac­tion con­trol, elec­tronic brake-force dis­tri­bu­tion, brake as­sist, and hill-start as­sist – along with off-road ori­ented hill de­scent con­trol.

The MU-X has solid off-road cre­den­tials, with se­lectable low ra­tio four-wheel drive, and has an ap­proach an­gle of 30.1 de­grees, a de­par­ture an­gle of 25.1 de­grees and a ramp-over an­gle of 22.6 de­grees. Ground clear­ance is 230mm.

In the cabin, there are re­designed and up­graded front bucket seats – the driver’s is elec­tri­cally-ad­justable in six directions – and the sec­ond row can be split-folded 60/40, with the third row of­fer­ing 50/50 split-fold­ing. The seats are up­hol­stered in char­coal leather high­lighted by stitch­ing.

The MU-X gets a re­designed dash­board, chrome and gloss pi­ano black ac­cent­ing, grips on the A-pil­lars to help front seat oc­cu­pants get into and out of the cabin, and cli­mate-con­trol air-con­di­tion­ing with a sep­a­rate sys­tem for the rear cabin. GPS satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion is stan­dard.

The AM/FM en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem in­cludes eight speak­ers,

can play CDS and DVDS, and is MP3, ipod and Blue­tooth hands-free phone com­pat­i­ble. A roof-mounted fold-down video screen can be viewed by sec­ond and third row pas­sen­gers.

There are three USB ports, and three Isofix child seat at­tach­ment points.

There’s greater use of soft and padded sur­faces in the cabin, and Green­halgh says Isuzu has worked to re­duce noise gen­er­ated in the body­work and ve­hi­cle un­der­car­riages.

The MU-X is an im­por­tant part of Isuzu Utes’ New Zealand’s range, mak­ing up about 10 per­cent of to­tal sales.

It’s been part of the lo­cal model mix for three years, and Green­halgh says buy­ers fall into three main cat­e­gories.

The first is peo­ple who have owned older Isuzu SUVS like the Bighorn and MU, and have wanted to move from their high­mileage ve­hi­cles into a brand-new SUV ca­pa­ble of han­dling ex­treme off-road con­di­tions.

The sec­ond is four-wheel drive en­thu­si­asts who want to be able to use their ve­hi­cle in the rough­est con­di­tions.

The third is peo­ple who want an SUV with se­ri­ous tow­ing abil­ity, and need a ve­hi­cle that can tow three tonnes with ease.

Green­halgh says he has towed ex­ten­sively with the MU-X, and it will tow “3000kg day in and day out – it en­joys tow­ing.”

Isuzu Utes NZ sold about 254 MU-XS last year, and has sold about 700 since the model en­tered the mar­ket in 2014.

Green­halgh says he ex­pects sales of the new ver­sion will in­crease in par­al­lel to the growth in D-max ute sales.

He also ex­pects a big up­take of items from the wide range of ac­ces­sories avail­able for the MU-X, with tow­bars be­ing es­pe­cially pop­u­lar. Eighty per­cent of the pre­vi­ous model MU-XS were fit­ted with a tow­bar, and 90 per­cent of utes.

Isuzu MU-X gets fresh styling for 2017 with re­designed grille and sleeker head­lights.

Above left: Though it shares its engine with the D-max ute, the MU-X is shorter in length and has a unique lad­der chas­sis. Above: MU-SUV is highly off-road ca­pa­ble and ac­counts for around 10 per­cent of the brand’s NZ sales. Left: MU-X is avail­able in...

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