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