mu-X has moxie

ALWYN VILJOEN pon­ders time­less­ness v timeous in the mu-X

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

THE ques­tion I had be­fore driv­ing the mu-X was whether Isuzu has waited too long to bring us their mu-X sport util­ity ve­hi­cle.

The mu-X was first launched in Thai­land in 2013; al­ready had its mid-life facelift in 2017 and on pa­per, the num­bers sug­gest the mu-X’s un­der­pin­nings are aimed at time­less dura­bil­ity rather than set­ting faster times be­tween the traf­fic lights like all Ranger driv­ers seem in­tent on do­ing. This is all in keep­ing with Isuzu’s rep­u­ta­tion for slow but steady, which has cer­tainly not dam­aged the mu-X sales in Aus­tralia, where this SUV has been known to out­sell the Toy­ota For­tuner and Ford Ever­est.

South African buy­ers, how­ever, are a breed apart and we have al­ready spurned Isuzu’s first SUV, the Fron­tier, when it was launched here in 1998.

We are now also spoiled for choice not just with a slew of th­ese en­closed bakkies, but nor­mal dou­ble-cabs that de­liver car-like han­dling and a lux­ury car com­forts in spades.

Here, the Nis­san Navara, Mercedes-Benz X-Class and VW Amarok set the bench­marks, but all the oth­ers try their best to be race cars in­stead of the top-heavy utes they are.

To not top­ple over in the first fast swerve, the For­tuner’s sus­pen­sion is tuned rock hard, while the Ever­est uses a Watts link lifted straight out of oval rac­ing cars.

Com­pared to them, the mu-X is a hippo that wal­lows when the oth­ers pirou­ette. Part of this is be­cause the mu-X weighs 2 650 kg, but the Ever­est weighs 307 kg more and still man­ages to hug the cor­ners.

A steady work­horse

Un­der the hood, Isuzu’s proven 3.0-litre four-cylin­der in­ter­cooled turbo diesel en­gine does not help mat­ters in the car-like han­dling stakes ei­ther. It makes the least power (130 kW and 380 Nm) of the three and clat­ters like a Massey Fer­gu­son while at it. But as Wheels have shown by go­ing up a wet On­geluk­snek with the same en­gine, it’s all how those New­tons are put down.

This en­gine is a steady work­horse, send­ing power to the rear via six-speed auto that is tuned to keep the revs near 2 000 rpm, more or less in the mid­dle of the nicely level torque curve be­tween 1 800-2 800 rpm.

With all four wheels en­gaged, this driv­e­train will main­tain speed over hill and dale even while tow­ing a heavy car on the back. The dad who needs to load a lot will be happy to know the cabin takes 612 kg, ex­clud­ing all the cuphold­ers — there’s one for each of the seven seats.

Driv­ers with a tow­ing li­cence can also hook a three­ton, braked trailer or car­a­van.

A stan­dard sump guard and diff lock on the 4x2 al­low one to be braver on farm roads with high mid­del man­netjies, sand or mud.

On long roads, the mu-X’s 65-litre diesel tank should give over 890 km range.

This is far enough for most blad­ders, but the com­peti­tors have 80-litre tanks in the Ford and Toy­ota, al­low­ing them to travel all the way back to KZN, where fuel is cheaper.

So, did Isuzu en­ter South Africa’s much-con­tested SUV fray with too old a model?

After a week with the mu-X, I say no. Sure, the driv­e­train and sus­pen­sion are not aimed at driv­ers who feel any need for speed, but the en­gine is proven and the ride pli­ant.

One needs not be timeous if one is time­less, right?

Be­sides, in­side the mu-X, it’s bang-on 2018, with all dig­i­tal giz­mos mod­ern par­ents and their kids de­mand, in­clud­ing eight speak­ers and a rear­fac­ing cam­era that aids re­vers­ing and park­ing on a large, full colour dis­play. The 5-Volt USB charg­ing ports front and rear are also a wel­come mod­ern ad­di­tion to any ve­hi­cle whose pas­sen­gers have to charge smart­phones and such.

The mu-X also passed its crash tests with the max­i­mum of five stars and at night, its lights are, well, light years re­moved from the dim Halo­gens we got used to on the first KBs.

At the rear, ul­tra-bright LED tail lights re­main vis­i­ble even in the thick fogs that one finds on the es­carp­ment.

The mu-X also comes with a five-year or 120 000 km bumper-to-bumper war­ranty and a five-year or 90 000 km ser­vice plan, with ser­vice in­ter­vals once a year or ev­ery 15 000 km.

Buy­ers can choose from four colours — all cov­ered by a five-year, un­lim­ited kilo­me­tre anti-cor­ro­sion war­ranty.

Prices

mu-X 3.0 4X2 AT6 R568 000 mu-X 3.0 4×4 AT6 R629 100

PHOTO: ALWYN VILJOEN

Look again, that colour is not black, but Isuzu’s mu-X painted in Orchid Brown, which shines with a hint of pur­ple depend­ing on how the light catches it. The mu-X gives buy­ers who want their bakkies en­closed a solid al­ter­na­tive to the Ever­est and For­tuner.

PHOTO: ALWYN VILJOEN

The start of a leg­end — the Isuzu Fron­tier, first launched in 1998, was SA’s first en­closed bakkie that also man­aged to look good. We now call them SUVs and the 2018 mu-X aims to suc­ceed where its pre­de­ces­sor failed to win hearts.

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