Per­fect for real fam­i­lies

Cockburn Gazette - - DRIVEWAY - An­drew Baillie

THE lat­est Isuzu ad for the MU-X seven-seat SUV and the D-Max ute on which it is based sees a happy hus­band and wife blast through the bush in these two big cars, as they race each other to their favourite camp­ing spot in the mid­dle of nowhere.

Mean­while, their per­fect kids sit in the back, also smil­ing even though their par­ents are hooning around the coun­try­side, tear­ing up pris­tine pas­tures and for­est floors.

And at the end of it all, a catchy theme tune tells us we can go our own way if we shell out for one of these shiny new cars.

Of course Isuzu isn't the only brand to try and sell us this idyl­lic vision of the Aus­tralian out­doors life­style – the cur­rent Ford Ranger and Nis­san X-Trail ads are very sim­i­lar – and at least it's bet­ter than watch­ing Hyundai Konas get­ting chased by gi­ant psy­che­delic car-wash roller brushes.

But I couldn't help thinking about that ad on a Satur­day morn­ing a few weeks ago as I sat in an MU-X, creep­ing for­ward in the end­less queue to get out of Kingsway net­ball cen­tre. My younger daugh­ter was sit­ting in the back, moan­ing that she was hungry and ask­ing if I could buy her an over­priced smoothie from a cof­fee shop. And, as usual, no one would let me out into the exit lane.

There was no sense of freedom here.

Still, none of that is the MU-X's fault, and once I was fi­nally on Hep­burn Av­enue, I found a lit­tle bit of a smile creep­ing on to my face as I en­joyed what is a de­cent SUV that's be­come more re­fined over the years.

The lat­est model has had a few cos­metic tweaks (a new ver­sion is planned, which will be built in con­junc­tion with Mazda, rather than Holden as is the case now) but is es­sen­tially the same big beast that eats up kerbs, has a bril­liant driv­ing po­si­tion, is tricky to park, has lots of space apart from in the boot when the back row of seats are up, and is a proper off-roader.

As you would ex­pect there is fair bit of clat­ter from the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel en­gine when you take off but it's cer­tainly not a deal killer, though I did feel the D-Max I tried the pre­vi­ous week was more nim­ble.

I was in the base-level 4x4 LS-M vari­ant, which is $50,200 plus on-road costs. How­ever, if you plan to stick to the ‘burbs and ferry schoolkids about, a twowheel-drive ver­sion starts at a very rea­son­able $42,900.

In­side, the stan­dard of fin­ish is de­cent, with cloth seats but touches of leather around the cabin. If you want sat nav, an eight-inch touch­screen rather than a seven, and de­cent-look­ing 18-inch al­loys, though, you'll need to step up to the $52,600 LS-U.

Go­ing for the top-spec LST, at $56,400 adds the likes of chrome door han­dles, roof rails and a ceil­ing-mounted screen for the back-row pas­sen­gers. Maybe that last one would have my kids smil­ing like the young­sters in that ad as we sat in the net­ball traf­fic.

Verdict: The MU-X is a big, tough, ver­sa­tile SUV that shouldn't let you down.

THE ESSENTIALS

MODEL: LS-M PRICE: $50,200 EN­GINE: 3.0-litre four­cylin­der turbo-diesel OUT­PUTS: 130kW/430Nm TRANS­MIS­SION: Sixspeed au­to­matic, 4WD FUEL: 8.1L/100km

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