Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
The Isuzu MU-X has continued to hit the right note with local buyers. Despite an increasing number of rivals, the MU-X remains the best-selling off-road SUV derived from a ute.
The MU-X comfortably outsells the Toyota Fortuner, Holden Trailblazer, Ford Everest and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. Not a bad effort for a model that has not been significantly upgraded since its release in 2013.
Like its popular stablemate, the D-Max ute, the seven-seat MU-X is showing its age which leaves it to get by on reputation and price.
Addressing the first of those virtues is simple enough, Isuzu has firmly established a reputation for durable cars that don’t mind being used as intended. Some mud under the arches isn't cause for any concern.
Our tester is the range-topping LS-T variant which can be had from $56,400 plus on-road costs. Those shopping for a large off-road capable SUV can disregard the list price, Isuzu is in a perpetual state of drive-away offers which easily limbo under the official retail price.
Build quality and sharp pricing are welcomed, however, the equipment list is starting to lose touch in terms of safety and technology.
For 2019, the list of upgrades is short. Changes to the exterior are limited to a redesigned grille and fresh 18-inch machined-faced gloss black aluminium wheels wrapped in road-biased 255/60R18 Bridgestone Dueler Highway Terrain tyres. The company says this move delivers better durability, passenger comfort, all-weather grip and lower road noise.
Open the door and it would take an Isuzu trainspotter (if that’s a thing) to detect the extra soft-touch materials, unnecessary gloss black accents and new ambient lighting.
Big-ticket items on the LS-T include keyless entry and push-button start, leather-accented seat trim and an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are unavailable, even as options.
Safety is where the MU-X is really under the microscope, autonomous emergency braking isn't available, not good enough in a car costing $50K plus. Safety-conscious buyers can option blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert for $955 and front parking sensors for $545.
Before taking off, one area where the MU-X continues to impress is packaging, there’s plenty of space in the second-row and unlike the rival Fortuner, the rearmost pews fold into the boot floor when not in use. While in the boot, there’s a storage area under the rear floor that’s perfect for storing wet gear after a day at the beach. Those prioritising space will find much to like about the interior’s flexible layout.
As with the D-Max ute, the steering wheel in the MU-X still lacks reach adjustment, meaning some drivers will find El Dorado faster than their ideal driving position.
There have been no changes to the Isuzu’s powertrain for 2019, power comes from the same 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine which produces 130kW and 430Nm, with a six-speed Aisin automatic transmission sending the torque to all four wheels.
For a model that’s getting on a bit, it offers a pleasant drive, the engine, tyre and wind noise are surprisingly suppressed making the MU-X a lovely long-range cruiser.
Contributing to the ride quality is the supple suspension which easily absorbs undulations on a winding country run.
As a daily conveyance, the big Isuzu is comfortable enough to pilot around town. Isuzu’s engineers have recalibrated the steering tune based on the feedback of local buyers, the result is lighter steering at low speeds which greatly improves manoeuvrability. It goes a long way to disguising the MU-X’s size and weight.
Even at low city speeds, the MU-X possesses an unsettling lean when cornering. Yes, it’s a symptom of a high centre of gravity, though rival brands manage this issue with greater success.
For those wanting to explore beyond the blacktop, the MU-X is equipped with a low-range transfer case along with a very competent hill-descent program, but it misses out on locking diffs and is bereft of any of the latest electronic off-road modes found on newer rivals. Then there’s the switch to road-biased rubber which further detracts from the rugged image the brand has established.
Interestingly, the spec sheet neglects to mention the wadding depth, in other markets, the official figure is 600mm. It’s much easier to discover the other important off-road digits, the ground clearance is 230mm, the approach angle is 24 degrees, the departure angle is 25.1 degrees and the ramp-over angle is 19.5 degrees.
If like many in the segment you have something to tow, the MU-X has a braked towing capacity of 3000kg.
During our test week, we covered 604km in the MU-X, returning a consumption figure of 8.2L/100km. Given the size and weight of the car, this is a competitive result.
In terms of ownership, Isuzu has lifted its after-sale support offering by introducing a six-year/150,000km warranty, six-year roadside assistance coverage and capped-price servicing for the first seven years or 105,000km of ownership.
Under the new capped-price service program, MU-X owners will spend $3600 on maintenance at an average of $514 a throw.
Amongst its rivals, Isuzu’s ownership package is only bettered by SsangYong which backs the Rexton with a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Necessary is the best term to describe Izusu’s moves to tweak the MU-X. Unfortunately, even with the 2019 updates, age has caught up with the big wagon, the lack of up-to-date safety tech and connectivity options detract from what is a mechanically-reliable family car.
The MU-X isn't without charm, it’s a refined, well-packaged seven-seat SUV with a sharp sticker price and a long warranty. These virtues will continue to lure buyers to Isuzu dealers.
2019 Isuzu MU-X LS-T Specifications
Price from $56,400 plus on-road costs Engine 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel Power 130kW @ 3600rpm Torque 430Nm @ 2000rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 7.9L/100km Tank Capacity 65L Length 4825mm Width 1860mm Height 1860mm Wheelbase 2845mm Kerb Weight 2157kg Ground Clearance 230mm Turning Circle 11.6m Wading Depth 600mm Service Intervals 12-months/15,000km Warranty six-year/150,000 kilometre
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