ISUZU MU-X TEST
Dean and Arna evaluate a different sort of SUV, Isuzu’s big ute-based 4x4.
STABLEMATE TO THE D-MAX UTE AND SUCCESSOR TO THE Mu, Isuzu’s MU-X SUV offers a similar full-bodied experience, which is both good and bad.
The ute-to-suv conversion is a sound and logical one. Ford does it with Ranger and Everest, Holden does it with Colorado and Trailblazer, and Isuzu’s D-max ute and MU-X SUV share underpinnings.
But unlike many ute-to-suv renditions, Isuzu doesn’t claim its new MU-X is an entirely different vehicle.
While other manufacturers talk of their utes’ refinement and comfort, Isuzu has no qualms about calling its D-max a truck.
And it says the MU-X (a modernised X-over – crossover – version of the old Isuzu Mu which stood for Mysterious Utility) is always ready for hard work, like towing a boat, caravan or horse float.
With its 3000kg towing capacity and 3.0-litre turbodiesel 4JJ1 engine, we proved the Isuzu engine’s impressive pulling capacity a few issues back in our tow test of the D-max.
Being 140kg heavier than the D-max, the MU-X’S performance and fuel figures are similar, if a little weaker.
In the MU-X, we managed mid-10 litres/100km and 0-100km/h in 10.9 seconds. Both are reasonable rather than remarkable figures, and the fuel consumption was a little off Isuzu’s quoted claim of 7.9 litres/100km on the combined cycle.
Comparisons to the D-max aside, it’s fairer for the MU-X to draw closer examination when compared to its SUV peers, of which there are many.
Only available in fully-loaded single-spec seven-seat guise, the MU-X features a six-speed adaptive grade logic gearbox, and Terrain Command, which allows the driver to shift from 2WD to 4WD High at speeds up to 100km/h.
It also has traction control, stability control, 18-inch alloy wheels, daylight running lights, side steps and roof rails.
Its leather seats can fold flat and there are 60/40 second row and 50/50 third row split seats, so the MU-X can carry from seven passengers down to two.
A host of combinations span from 235 litres of boot space all the way up to a massive 2277 litres, emphasising the vehicle’s loadcarrying versatility.
With the MU-X catering to rear passengers more than the D-max, it’s good to see there are a range of features for rear cabin passengers.
The kit is headlined by a flip-down audio-visual monitor. The large 10.2 inch screen is easily viewed by all occupants in the rear, both left and right sides.
The rear map lights and vents are much appreciated by passengers, especially those in the third row which lacks wind-down windows – though the drivers do need to activate a fan switch near their left knee.
Four rear cup-holders, two in the flip-down armrest in the second row, and two either side in the third row, make life a little nicer, and the left-rear passenger gets a bonus of an extra small storage bin.
Third row leg-room is, as expected. It’s mainly for kids or smaller grown-ups, but still reasonable enough for adults over shorter trips.
The MU-X offers decent safety as well, with six airbags including fulllength curtain airbags to provide protection for all passengers.
Up front, it’s all very similar to the D-max, at least the top-spec LS-T version of the ute.
The high-riding, high-bodied, high seating position offers a very commanding view of the road and other vehicles.
The lack of telescopic steering adjustment is a niggle, otherwise the cabin is neat, functional and clean with a clear dashboard layout, multipage display with trip computer, plus phone, sound and cruise controls on the steering wheel.
The climate-control air-conditioning system has a logical layout with a big set-temperature display.
Isuzu MU-X is based on the D-max ute, but is 468mm shorter and has a 250mm shorter wheelbase.