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Isuzu MU-X LS-T 2017 review

It's feeling pumped: the Isuzu MU-X is a bold-looking beast
EXPERT RATING
7.4
Not as bold or plush as some of its competitors, the Isuzu MU-X is well-equipped, competent and nicely screwed together. But is it bland, or pleasingly fuss-free? You be the judge.

Something for nothing. Two for one. Extracting maximum value; like the president of the United States having a daughter, and a special assistant, all in one. And you get her husband as a senior advisor, free!

Getting more than you expect  is a feel-good experience, right? And the big players in the dual-cab ute and seven-seat SUV game are all over it. 

Ford has the increasingly popular Ranger, Holden the sturdy Colorado, Mitsubishi its Triton workhorse, Nissan the tough-as-nails Navara, and Toyota’s HiLux was inducted into the tradie hall of fame decades ago.

So why not make these tough trucks work even harder by sliding an SUV body onto the same platform, morphing them into strong and dependable family trucksters?

Hello Ford Everest, Holden TrailblazerMitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Pathfinder, and Toyota Fortuner.

Another skilled player in this game is Isuzu, which has been transforming its D-Max ute into multi-seat wagons forever.

Launched in 2004, the last generation D-Max's twin, the MU-7, never saw the light of day here (although, the model prior to that was rebadged as the Holden Frontera). We had to wait until its successor, the Isuzu MU-X, launched in 2013. A substantially upgraded version, with a new turbo-diesel engine, was released in May this year.

We've put the top-of-the-heap MU-X LS-T 4x4 through the wringer, to see how it stacks up for your very own first family.

Isuzu MU-X 2017: LS-T (4x4)
Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency7.9L/100km
Seating7 seats
Price from$37,888

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

If we had a dollar for every time Isuzu has referred to the latest iteration of its MU-X as "pumped up", we'd already be installed in Point Piper, clinking champagne flutes with a certain Wunulla Road resident.

That well-used line - which is so old that Reebok once used it to shift basketball shoes - is primarily directed at the new 3.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-diesel engine, but it's equally applicable to the exterior design.

A monster, two-part chrome grille sits between a pair of angry bi-LED projector headlights, with LED daytime running lights (DRLs) built into their upper edges. There’s more chrome around the standard front fog lights, so you won't miss the LS-T as it approaches.

The MU-X LS Terrarin comes with bright and angry bi-LED projector headlights. (image credit: James Cleary) The MU-X LS Terrarin comes with bright and angry bi-LED projector headlights. (image credit: James Cleary)

The really pumped bits are the guards, which look like The Rock’s biceps, with an extra steroid jab in the fronts for good measure. There’s also plenty of fresh air between the tyres (sitting on 18-inch alloy rims) and the top of the wheelarches, giving the MU-X a typically macho, high-riding four-wheel drive stance.

Standard alloy side steps, chrome door handles and exterior mirrors, as well as full-length roof rails keep the bold look going. And the rear door is topped by a high-mount spoiler, with more chrome above the licence plate recess.

It's a subjective call, but we reckon the rear window and side glass's clever wrap-around effect, created by the blacking out of the rear pillars, doesn't gel with the tapered rise of the side glass and angle of the jagged tail-lights.

The interior is inoffensive and unexceptional, with dark grey tones highlighted by splashes of high-gloss 'piano black' on the doors, and metal effect around the centre console.

The 'tuck and roll' pleat effect on the front and centre-row seats is a nice touch, and the 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen adds a hint of tech, but for us, the overall appearance is a generation behind the game.

Bland, or pleasingly fuss-free? You be the judge, but it certainly doesn't look expensive.

The 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen adds a hint of tech. (image credit: James Cleary) The 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen adds a hint of tech. (image credit: James Cleary)

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

Practicality should be any seven-seat SUV's strong suit, and the MU-X offers plenty of room in the front, with lots of storage, including a decent glove box (with 12-volt socket), two USB inputs and another 12-volt outlet in the console, a lidded dash top compartment, a covered bin between the front seats, two cupholders, pockets with space for bottles in the doors, plus a drop-down sunglass case overhead.

Second-row occupants are also provided with a generous amount of space. This 183cm tester, sitting behind his own driving position, enjoyed good head and legroom. There are also adjustable air vents and fan controls in the roof panel, door bins with bottle holders, a central USB socket, and a pair of cupholders in the folding centre armrest.

But the parental brownie point balance skyrockets when the standard 10.0-inch, roof-mounted DVD screen flips down. Winner! And not just for the kids. Feel the serenity when it's on!

  • The overall appearance of the interior is a generation behind the game. (image credit: James Cleary) The overall appearance of the interior is a generation behind the game. (image credit: James Cleary)
  • Second-row occupants are provided with a generous amount of space. (image credit: James Cleary) Second-row occupants are provided with a generous amount of space. (image credit: James Cleary)
  • Passengers in the second row get a 10.0-inch, roof-mounted DVD screen. (image credit: James Cleary) Passengers in the second row get a 10.0-inch, roof-mounted DVD screen. (image credit: James Cleary)

The way-back seaters (as the Cleary family likes to call them) are provided with another pair of cup and bottle holders, as well as a handy oddments tray on the left-hand side.

Access to that last pair of chairs is easy, thanks to a nifty roll-and-fold operation of the centre-row seats, although, as expected, leg and headroom are decidedly cozy for grown-ups. It's fine for kids up  to teenage-size, though.

With all seats upright, luggage capacity is understandably modest at 235 litres; enough to house our large (105-litre) suitcase and some soft bags. But that swiftly increases to 878 litres with the 50/50 split third row folded. Enough to swallow our entire three-piece suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres), the CarsGuide pram, and more.

Drop the 60/40 split folding centre row as well, and your voice will be echoing down a 1830-litre cavern, with a largely flat floor. There's an additional 12-volt outlet back there, as well as tie-down anchor points and useful lighting.

  • With all seats upright, luggage capacity is understandably modest at 235 litres. (image credit: James Cleary) With all seats upright, luggage capacity is understandably modest at 235 litres. (image credit: James Cleary)
  • There's enough to swallow our entire three-piece suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres), the CarsGuide pram, and more. (image credit: James Cleary) There's enough to swallow our entire three-piece suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres), the CarsGuide pram, and more. (image credit: James Cleary)

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

The eight model MU-X range starts at $42,800 (plus on-road costs) for the front-wheel-drive LS-M, rising to $56,100 for the LS-T 4WD tested here.

That's no small chunk of change in the family car market, and the top-spec MU-X is suitably well equipped, with standard features including 'leather accented' trim on the first and second row seats, six-way electrically adjustable driver's seat, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, the LED headlights and DRLs, front fog lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, climate control air conditioning, central locking with passive entry and start system, cruise control, 'Sky Sound' eight-speaker audio, 8.0-inch central touchscreen, sat nav, a reversing camera, and the 10.0-inch roof-mounted DVD monitor (with remote control).

Not bad at all, although there are several notable absences, like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, auto headlights, and rain-sensing wipers. They really should be there in a $55k-plus car.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

The MU-X LS-T's 3.0-litre, four-cylinder, 16-valve, turbo-diesel engine is compliant with Euro5 emissions regulations, and Isuzu claims its tune was developed exclusively for the Australian market, after "exhaustive local research".

Featuring a mix of cast iron and cast alloy in the block, an alloy head, and direct-injection, the (4JJ1-TC) 'Hi-Power' unit has been comprehensively upgraded with everything from redesigned pistons and fuel injectors to a new variable geometry turbo and a diesel particulate diffuser.

The MU-X LS-T's 3.0-litre, four-cylinder, 16-valve, turbo-diesel engine has to shift 2.2 tonnes. (image credit: James Cleary) The MU-X LS-T's 3.0-litre, four-cylinder, 16-valve, turbo-diesel engine has to shift 2.2 tonnes. (image credit: James Cleary)

It feeds 130kW at 4600rpm, and a handy 430Nm from 2000-2200rpm, to a six-speed automatic transmission incorporating a lock-up torque converter, 'Adaptive Logic Control' and sequential shift mode.

The 4WD system includes low- and high-range transfer gearing, with 'Terrain Command' control enabling 'on-the-fly' shifts between two- and 4WD high range, at speeds up to 100km/h.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

Isuzu claims the LS-T will consume 7.9L/100km on the combined (urban/extra-urban) fuel economy cycle, and emit 209g/km of CO2 in the process.

Over roughly 300km of city, suburban and freeway running we recorded 8.8L/100km courtesy of the 'Multi-Information Display' trip computer.

With a 65-litre tank, that equates to a range in excess of 700km.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

Just 130kW to shift close to 2.2 tonnes of seven-seat SUV isn't exactly mega, but the turbo-diesel's 430Nm of low-down torque is the key number here. In fact, 380Nm of that is available from just 1700rpm.

As a result, mid-range urge is solid, even with several passengers and related gear on board, while the adaptive auto quickly picks up on your driving style and seamlessly adjusts its shift pattern to suit.

Overall refinement is on target for the class, but diesel clatter starts to creep into the cabin at moderately high revs. It's quieter than the previous generation, though.

Suspension is double wishbone front, five-link rear, with coil springs and gas shock absorbers all around. Tyres are 255/60 x 18 Dunlop AT25 all terrains, and ride over typically crap suburban surfaces is best described as unsettled, which is the price you pay for a body-on-frame design with genuine off-road chops.

Tyres are 255/60 x 18 Dunlop AT25 all terrains which give an unsettled ride over suburban surfaces. (image credit: James Cleary) Tyres are 255/60 x 18 Dunlop AT25 all terrains which give an unsettled ride over suburban surfaces. (image credit: James Cleary)

Despite the dual-purpose rubber, steering feel is good, although with 3.8 turns from lock-to-lock you feel like you're twirling the wheel madly just to go (straight ahead) through a roundabout. Speaking of steering, the column adjusts for tilt but not reach, which is annoyingly off the pace.

It comes as no surprise when body roll makes its presence felt in tighter bends, but it's never dramatic, and braking, by discs front (300mm) and rear (318mm), is reassuringly solid and progressive.

Although the dash and console layout is sound from an ergonomic point-of view, you do feel like you're sitting on, rather than in, the driver's seat, with lateral support lacking.

This test was exclusively bitumen based, but for those after the critical numbers for off-highway work, front and rear track is 1570mm, ground clearance is 230mm, turning circle is 11.6m, approach angle is 24 degrees, departure angle is 25.1 degrees, and ramp-over angle is 19.5 degrees.

Mud pluggers will be happy to note all MU-X 4WD models are fitted with a 2.0mm (steel) front skid plate, steel sump and transfer case guards, and protection for the leading edge of the fuel tank. (image credit: James Cleary) Mud pluggers will be happy to note all MU-X 4WD models are fitted with a 2.0mm (steel) front skid plate, steel sump and transfer case guards, and protection for the leading edge of the fuel tank. (image credit: James Cleary)

Mud pluggers will also be happy to note all MU-X 4WD models are fitted with a 2.0mm (steel) front skid plate, steel sump and transfer case guards, and protection for the leading edge of the fuel tank. 'Hill Descent Control' is standard, as are 'snorkelled diff breathers' to increase fording depth and reduce mud blockage.

Then, for the towing community, Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) is 2.75 tonnes, payload is 593kg, Gross Combination Mass (GCM) is 5.75 tonnes, maximum towing weight (with a braked trailer) is 3.0 tonnes, and 750kg if the trailer is sans brakes. Maximum tow ball download is 300kg.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / 130,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

The MU-X rates a maximum five ANCAP stars with an overall score of 33.58 from a possible 37. There were no 'marginal' or 'poor' results, except in the area of pedestrian protection.

Active safety tech includes ABS, EBD, ESC, TCS, EBA, a reversing camera, and rear parking sensors. Notably, AEB is missing in action.

If all that fails, and a crash is unavoidable, six airbags (dual front, front side, and full-length curtain) are standard across the range.

There are three child seat top tethers, and two ISOFIX compatible anchor points on the outer positions of the second-row seat.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Isuzu covers the MU-X with a five year/130,000km warranty, with five years roadside assistance running in parallel.

Recommended maintenance kicks off with a free three-month or 3000km inspection (whichever comes first), and a five year capped price servicing plan (transferable to subsequent owners) is available.

Scheduled costs line up as follows: 10,000km/12mth - $200, 20,000km/24mth - $400, 30,000km/36mth - $260, 40,000km/48mth - $590, 50,000km/60mth - $50.

Verdict

The Isuzu MU-X is well-equipped, competent and nicely screwed together. Not as bold or plush as some of its competitors, the top-spec LS-T is all the money, but will appeal to traditional, no-nonsense buyers who prefer an honest, hard worker over a tricked-out flash Harry.

Is the Isuzu MU-X LS-T your kind of seven-seat SUV? Tell us what you think in the comments below. 

Pricing Guides

$39,249
Based on 66 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$28,913
Highest Price
$47,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
LS-M (4x2) 3.0L, Diesel, 5 SP AUTO $28,913 – 29,490 2017 ISUZU MU-X 2017 LS-M (4x2) Pricing and Specs
LS-M (4x4) 3.0L, Diesel, 5 SP MAN $32,990 – 44,290 2017 ISUZU MU-X 2017 LS-M (4x4) Pricing and Specs
LS-T (4x2) 3.0L, Diesel, 5 SP AUTO $32,710 – 40,990 2017 ISUZU MU-X 2017 LS-T (4x2) Pricing and Specs
LS-T (4x4) 3.0L, Diesel, 5 SP AUTO $37,888 – 47,990 2017 ISUZU MU-X 2017 LS-T (4x4) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.4
Design7
Practicality8
Price and features7
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption8
Driving7
Safety7
Ownership7
James Cleary
Deputy Editor

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