MU-X is a sweet comeback for Isuzu
Isuzu recently launched the MU-X in SA. How does this bakkie-based SUV compare against others?
I drove one of Provincial Motors’ demo vehicles to see for myself what this newcomer has to offer, what its strong points are and where it falls short.
Comfort Tough segment
Isuzu, 30-odd years ago, was the first manufacturer in SA to offer an SUV based on a bakkie.
Remember the Frontier?
It was very popular and racked up decent sales figures for the brand, but then General Motors went and buggered things up, and since then Toyota brought out the Fortuner and has been smiling all the way to the bank.
Ford only recently managed to dish itself a decent slice of the body-onchassis SUV pie with the latest generation Everest, but it still doesn’t sell nearly as well as the Toyota.
Mitsubishi, of course, also competes in this category with the Pajero Sport, but sales numbers are agonisingly low despite it being a very good vehicle.
Taking all this into consideration, moving MU-X metal is going to be a serious job for Isuzu, but there’s hope because in its third month on sale, it’s already outselling the Mitsubishi.
I was pleasantly surprised with the MUX’s cabin because the quality, fit and layout are good.
The black leather seats are firm, yet comfortable and sport neat, contrasting white stitching.
Isuzu did a great job in creating a capsule which is user friendly for both driver and passengers.
For the driver, controls are accessible and easy to operate, and for those with him or her, there’s a large number of oddments storage spaces, including two glove compartments.
Second row passengers get their own USB port and ventilation outlets.
Space in row two is adequate for three adults and right at the back, as in all seven seaters, two children will fit comfortably.
Inside, the only issue I have is the mattsilver trimming on the steering and gear lever, because over time these will surely get scratched.
Isuzu only offers the MU-X with the brand’s tried-and-tested 3.0-litre turbodiesel plant.
In the SUV this unit delivers 130kW at 3 600rpm and 380Nm between 1 800 and 2 800rpm.
Driving around town and on the open road, I got the feeling that the MU-X’s engine is always relaxed and, no matter what you do with the throttle, runs easy.
The six-speed automatic gearbox is very smooth, but almost felt as though it’s holding the engine back a bit with its lazy, easy going shifts.
I like the suspension set-up because in the MU-X I experienced less body roll and nose dipping at stops compared to other SUVs in this class.
Off the road the MU-X really impressed me, the 3.0-litre engine never asking for a lot of revs to negotiate obstacles.
It just idled through everything, however a diff-lock would have been welcome.
On the safety front the MU-X package is comprehensive, with ABS/EBD, stability control, hill-descent and hill-start assist control systems featured as standard in addition to six airbags.
The infotainment screen also doubles as display for the rear-view camera.
A feature that isn’t included is trailersway control, which would’ve come in handy seeing that the SUV has a 3 000kg (braked) tow rating.
Isuzu’s MU-X is right up there with the segment leaders and in no way an inferior product.
The relaxed 3.0-litre turbo-diesel, especially, makes the MU-X stand out because it never asks to be pushed hard.
One really gets the feeling that this ‘unstressed’ engine will keep on running forever.
The cabin has a car-like feel to it with a stylish look and durable, quality trim almost right through.
Given its attractive mix of features (particularly on the infotainment side) and attractive pricing/warranty, the Isuzu MU-X definitely belongs on your shortlist when in the market for a bakkiebased seven-seater SUV.