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Isuzu MU-X 2015 review

EXPERT RATING
8

For years the word 'truck' has been rusted on to Isuzu. Now 'SUV', as in sports utility vehicle, has been hooked up to the marque. The result is a big family-friendly wagon with plenty of off-road capability.

Capable of carrying up to seven people or a stack of gear, the Isuzu MU-X is available in three variants in 2WD and 4WD, ranging in price from $40,500, plus on-road costs, for the 4x2 LS-M automatic to $53,500 for the 4x4 LS-T auto, in my case, the test vehicle.

With versatility such as this there is need for a powertrain to cope, and in the case of the MU-X, this comes in the form of a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine mated with a five-speed automatic transmission. A five-speed manual gearbox is an option on some models.

The entry-level LS-M is for those looking for a no-nonsense, all-purpose SUV. Stylish enough for city streets, the LS-M rides on 16-inch alloy wheels with all-terrain tyres, so it's right at home on a work site or farm.

The mid-spec LS-U is the family all-rounder, making it ideal for work but want to get away from it all when the weekend rolls around. LS-U adds 17-inch alloys, fog lights, chrome grille and mirrors, and aluminium side-steps.

The range topping LS-T takes comfort and convenience up a notch with standard features such as leather trim, climate control air-conditioning, touch-screen sat nav, reverse camera and roof-mounted DVD entertainment system. All models are fitted with Rear Park Assist.

Design

Exhibiting cues straight from its cousin, the D-Max Ute, a bold stance is highlighted by a wedge-shaped fascia and flared wheel arches.

The profile speaks to the sturdy underpinnings necessary for taking on any task from carting kids to school and sport, tackling tough off-roading, or towing up to three tonnes.

Inside, there are three rows of seats to take up the passenger count to seven, in theatre-style configuration. The back row folds flat to the floor, while the middle 60:40 seats tumble forward to the backs of the driver and front passenger positions.

Engine / Transmission

Japanese engineering has come up with a powertrain package to perform the above tasks while keeping running costs down with fuel efficiency. The 3.0-litre Isuzu 4JJ1-TC Hi-Power turbodiesel engine delivers 130kW and 380Nm, the latter on hand between 1800 and 2800 rpm.

An automatic transmission with sequential sports mode is electronically controlled by the transmission control module via an adaptive-learning function which constantly monitors the driver's brake and throttle behaviour, selecting the most appropriate shift points.

All 4x4 MU-X models have use of Isuzu's simple-to-use Terrain Command 4WD select dial - 2-high, 4-high and 4-low ranges – on the centre console and auto versions are fitted with hill ascent and descent control.

Features

Isuzu recognises that family feuds can often be unwanted travelling companions and has set out to give the MX-U the ability to keep the peace on long journeys. A premium audio system with six speakers, iPod and Bluetooth phone connectivity is standard across the range, while the top-of-the-range LS-T provides what Isuzu claims is a unique entertainment experience with its Sky Sound roof-mounted sound system and 10-inch DVD monitor for rear-seat passengers.

Along with Bluetooth audio streaming, the LS-T also features a touch-screen satellite navigation system with live traffic updates and more than 10,000 off-road destinations.

Then there's always family stuff to find room for. There is a stack of storage compartments and 14 cup holders to ensure refreshments are at hand.

Safety

The all-new Isuzu MU-X looks are built around a high-tensile steel passenger safety cell with side-intrusion bars, it is fitted with active safety electronics including ABS anti-skid brakes with electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist, as well as electronic stability control and traction control.

Four-wheel disc brakes - front 300mm ventilated front disc with twin piston calipers, and 318mm rear disc with single piston calliper - provide good stopping power.

Passive protection is in the hands of six airbags (dual front, curtain and side) in all model variants.

Some models are fitted with a reverse camera and rear park assist sensors to ensure driveway safety.

Driving

There is no getting away from the fact that the MU-X is closely related to the D-MAX ute. The ride on the bitumen is rocky, with body roll at play on tight bends.

A supersize steering wheel and well over an 11-metre turning circle can make carparks daunting. The addition of a reversing camera is a must across the board.

Isuzu's strengths in diesel power are borne out by the MU-X unit in which a high-pressure common-rail fuel-injection system is said to make the most of every drop of fuel, while the intercooled variable geometry turbocharger provides excellent response over the engine's entire rev range. The test LS-T recorded 7.2L/100km on the motorway and 10, or thereabouts, in town.

The three rows of seats take up to seven occupants in varying degrees of comfort. Front and middle row offer ample legroom and some side support, while the third row is very basic and lacks adequate leg space for grown-ups.

However, the tumble action of the second row and wide back door makes getting in and out of the back easy for those who can handle the big step up.

Pricing Guides

$34,990
Based on 141 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$24,993
Highest Price
$43,984

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
LS-M (4x2) 3.0L, Diesel, 5 SP AUTO $26,771 – 31,995 2015 Isuzu MU-X 2015 LS-M (4x2) Pricing and Specs
LS-M (4x4) 3.0L, Diesel, 5 SP MAN $27,990 – 28,990 2015 Isuzu MU-X 2015 LS-M (4x4) Pricing and Specs
LS-T (4x2) 3.0L, Diesel, 5 SP AUTO $29,984 – 36,990 2015 Isuzu MU-X 2015 LS-T (4x2) Pricing and Specs
LS-T (4x4) 3.0L, Diesel, 5 SP AUTO $29,950 – 43,984 2015 Isuzu MU-X 2015 LS-T (4x4) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8

“Proven in a range of testing environments, Isuzu says each component of the MU-X's engine has been designed to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, as well as decrease wear and maintenance to ensure years of trouble-free motoring, even in third-world areas. One or two shortcomings aside, the same could be said about the wagon's comfort and convenience.”