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Isuzu MU-X 2019 review: LS-U 4x4

EXPERT RATING
7
The MU-X is a vital vehicle for the small Japanese truck brand's passenger-focused Isuzu Ute range.

The Isuzu MU-X is pretty darn popular. In fact, the seven-seat ute-based SUV is smashing all of its like-minded competitors.

That's right - it may not be as technologically advanced or refined as, say, the Ford Everest, but it outsells it almost two to one. It almost has as many buyers as the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Holden Trailblazer combined.

But why is it so popular? Well, there are plenty of reasons for that. But also some reasons why one of its competitors may be better suited to you and your needs.

Let's run through both sides of the equation.

Isuzu MU-X 2019: LS-U (4x4)
Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency7.9L/100km
Seating7 seats
Price from$50,400

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The exterior design of the MU-X hasn't changed much over the six or so years it's been on sale in Australia - it still has a relatively svelte body on top of the same body-on-frame chassis it shares with the D-Max ute.

There have been some minor visual tweaks over time - in 2017, the Isuzu MU-X range was facelifted with a slightly different look at the front - but honestly, you'd struggle to pick the differences between this MU-X and one from 2013.

If you want to spice things up, you could get a body kit out from one of Thailand's entrepreneurial body shops... or, if you get the top model, you get a rear spoiler. (image: Matt Campbell) If you want to spice things up, you could get a body kit out from one of Thailand's entrepreneurial body shops... or, if you get the top model, you get a rear spoiler. (image: Matt Campbell)

That's good and bad. It's good because resale value of earlier models won't be affected as much, but bad because, well, some of the competitor off-road SUVs out there look a bit... fresher.

Our MU-X has a few accessories fitted to it as well - things like the bonnet protector ($187), weathershades ($220), and the towing kit ($1775 including electric brakes) are all optional additions. I'm not sure they do it any favours visually, but the 18-inch alloy wheels are pretty snappy looking.

If you want to spice things up, you could get a body kit out from one of Thailand's entrepreneurial body shops... or, if you get the top model, you get a rear spoiler.

Our MU-X has a few accessories fitted to it. (image: Matt Campbell) Our MU-X has a few accessories fitted to it. (image: Matt Campbell)

In terms of dimensions, the MU-X is a good size compared with its rivals, measuring 4825mm long (on a 2845mm wheelbase), 1860mm wide and 1860mm tall.

Check out our interior photos for an idea of the design of the MU-X's interior... I'll discuss the good and bad bits of it in the next section.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Inside, you feel like you're stepping into a vehicle that's several years into its life-cycle.

Sure, there's a big 8.0-inch media screen with Bluetooth phone and audio, and you get a couple of USB ports and sat nav included, but it lacks the latest smartphone integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which most of its rivals have.

You can tell you're buying a ute-based model from the materials used in the cabin. None of them are plush, but it's not exactly gross, either.

If you have smaller passengers, you’ll be interested to learn there are ISOFIX anchors for the second row, and three top tether points. (image: Matt Campbell) If you have smaller passengers, you’ll be interested to learn there are ISOFIX anchors for the second row, and three top tether points. (image: Matt Campbell)

I like the fact that you get a leather-trimmed wheel on all grades, and it has cruise control and audio buttons on board, too. But it lacks reach adjustment - which can make finding the ideal driving position a little harder than it should be.

Storage is decent, with cupholders between the seats and decent door pockets, and a twin glove box section. Shame there's nowhere good to slot a large smartphone, though.

Unlike the dual-cab ute it's based on, there's some pretty good comfort in the second row. That comes down to the fact you can recline the seats a bit - but otherwise the legroom, headroom and shoulder room are all good enough for a six-foot tall (182cm) human like me.

The back seats aren’t really big enough for someone my size, but for occasional use it wouldn’t be too bad. (image: Matt Campbell) The back seats aren’t really big enough for someone my size, but for occasional use it wouldn’t be too bad. (image: Matt Campbell)

If you have smaller passengers, you'll be interested to learn there are ISOFIX anchors for the second row, and three top tether points. But, as you know if you're interested in this car, it also has two seats in the back row - neither of which have baby seat anchors.

The back seats aren't really big enough for someone my size, but for occasional use it wouldn't be too bad - and it'd likely be fine if you have children or smaller teens.

And in this spec there are good bits like roof mount air vents for all three rows, and there's a fan controller in the second row, too. I've got some storage back here, and the middle row gets bottle holders in the doors and cupholders as well.

  • There’s not a heap of boot space back there with seven seats up. (image: Matt Campbell) There’s not a heap of boot space back there with seven seats up. (image: Matt Campbell)
  • The numbers suggest it has more cargo capacity than some of the softer SUVs like the Kluger and CX-9. (image: Matt Campbell) The numbers suggest it has more cargo capacity than some of the softer SUVs like the Kluger and CX-9. (image: Matt Campbell)
  • With the seats all folded flat you could easily sleep in there, as there’s 1830L of capacity. (image: Matt Campbell) With the seats all folded flat you could easily sleep in there, as there’s 1830L of capacity. (image: Matt Campbell)
  • With 878L in five-seats-up mode, the cargo area is pretty impressive if you don’t need to use the rearmost seats. (image: Matt Campbell) With 878L in five-seats-up mode, the cargo area is pretty impressive if you don’t need to use the rearmost seats. (image: Matt Campbell)

As you can see if you watch the video, there's not a heap of boot space back there with seven seats up, but the numbers suggest it has more cargo capacity than some of the softer SUVs like the Kluger and CX-9. With seven seats up, there's 235 litres of room.

And with 878L in five-seats-up mode, the cargo area is pretty impressive if you don't need to use the rearmost seats. It's easily large enough for a family's worth of luggage, and/or a pram, and there are accessory items like a rear cargo liner and cargo bay cover to help keep your boot area in good condition, not to mention keeping the stuff you store in there hidden from prying eyes.

If you so choose, you can get a cargo barrier to fit with either five or two seats in use. With the seats all folded flat you could easily sleep in there, as there's 1830L of capacity.

Need even more room? Only the flagship LS-T has integrated roof rails to make adding a set of roof bars even easier, but all models can still fit roof racks if needed.

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

You probably want to know how much a 2019 Isuzu MU-X will cost you, right?

There are three grades you can choose from in the MU-X range - the entry level LS-M, the mid-grade LS-U, and the top-spec LS-T. In all three models you'll need to stack up 4x2 vs 4x4.

To make things a little more confusing, all the 4x2 models are fitted with a six-speed automatic, where you can get a six-speed manual 4x4 LS-U. Anyway, here's a price list (before on-road costs) so you can make your own comparison between each of the models:

4x2 LS-M auto - $42,900 
4x2 LS-U auto - $45,200
4x2 LS-T auto - $48,900
4x4 LS-M auto - $50,200
4x4 LS-U manual - $50,400
4x4 LS-U auto - $52,500
4x4 LS-T auto - $56,200

Standard equipment for the entry-level LS-M consists of a 7.0-inch touchscreen media system with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB connectivity (and a rear-seat USB charger), a reversing camera and parking sensors, plus 16-inch alloys and a cloth interior. Cruise control is standard on all grades and with all transmissions, and - bettering plenty of other makes out there - the MU-X comes with LED daytime running lights and bi-LED headlights on all grades.In general, the MU-X is pretty decently positioned compared with some of its key competitors. For instance: the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport ranges between $46,000 and $54,200; the Holden Trailblazer spans from $47,990 to $53,490; the Toyota Fortuner lists from $44,590 to $56,990; and the overpriced Ford Everest costs from $49,190 to $73,990.

Inside, you feel like you're stepping into a vehicle that's several years into its life-cycle. (image: Matt Campbell) Inside, you feel like you're stepping into a vehicle that's several years into its life-cycle. (image: Matt Campbell)

Stepping up to the mid-spec LS-U we have gets you an upgraded 8.0-inch media screen that adds a GPS sat nav system, rear roof vents, 18-inch rims, rear privacy glass and side steps. You also get single-zone climate control.

The flagship LS-T carries the same media screen with a navigation system, but also adds a 10.0-inch rear seat DVD player for the kids, and has leather-appointed upholstery, keyless entry with push-button start, electric driver's seat, roof rails and a rear spoiler.

What's missing? You can't get a sunroof in any grade, even optionally, and there's no diff lock or limited slip diff available.

A full-size spare comes as standard. (image: Matt Campbell) A full-size spare comes as standard. (image: Matt Campbell)

The accessories list isn't limited to features such as floor mats - you can get genuine Isuzu items such as a bullbar, nudge bar, snorkel and more.

And if you want to, you can opt from an array of colours (or colors, if that's how you spell it wherever you're reading this), including one no-cost option ('Splash White'), plus added-cost options including 'Cosmic Black mica', 'Havana Brown mica', 'Magnetic Red mica', 'Obsidian Grey mica' (which almost looks blue in some situations), then there's 'Silky White pearl' and 'Titanium Silver metallic'.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

Let's talk engine specs.

The engine is the same whether you choose the six-speed manual transmission or the six-speed automatic transmission - a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel motor with 130kW (or about 175 horsepower) and 430Nm of torque.

Those are the specifications whether you choose the 4x2 (rear-wheel drive) or 4x4 (four-wheel drive) model.

The engine is a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel motor with 130kW (or about 175 horsepower) and 430Nm of torque. (image: Matt Campbell) The engine is a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel motor with 130kW (or about 175 horsepower) and 430Nm of torque. (image: Matt Campbell)

The towing capacity specs don't change no matter which drivetrain you opt for, so if you plan to fit a tow bar you'll be able to haul 750 kilograms of weight as an unbraked trailer, or 3000kg for a braked trailer (unfortunately we didn't get a chance to do a tow test in this review - but in previous tests we've had no issues when towing - be it pulling power or suspension problems).

Fuel tank capacity is measly at just 65 litres in size, meaning you might want to reconsider if you need a long range fuel tank.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Fuel consumption is rated at between 7.9 litres and 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres depending on the model you choose (our LS-U 4x4 auto claims 7.9L/100km). In the real world, you can expect to see economy of about 9.5L/100km in normal driving.

Mileage - based on the claimed consumption - should be as good as 800km for a full 65L tank, but we'd expect you'd be more likely to get about 680km of range.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

Don't expect a luxury SUV experience from the MU-X - it cannot entirely hide its dual-cab ute roots, but it doesn't behave too badly as a form of family conveyance.

The ride is what surprised me most. Having driven pre-facelift versions of the MU-X, I remember the suspension to be fairly agricultural in its workings. It felt more like a live-axle, leaf sprung rear end than most competitors.

In fact, the rear is a multi-link coil set-up, and the front is a double wishbone layout, and while there are some instances where the two can feel out of sync, like when you hit a big pothole, in most situations the ride is better than you might expect. It's hardly ever jittery, which is nice.

Admittedly, it's still a big, lumbering, top-heavy SUV - it weighs 2142kg before anything or anyone is added to the cabin! - and it feels as much in corners, with notable body roll. But you're not buying an Isuzu MU-X if you're worried about corner carving or 0-100 times, right?

Even so, the steering could be better. It's quite heavy at low speeds, requires a lot of arm-twirling to get from lock to lock (3.84 turns, to be precise), and it can feel quite cumbersome and hard to locate in its lane at highway speed, too.

The engine is reasonably good in daily duties. There's some turbo lag at low revs, before it kicks with all the torques from 2000-2200rpm. The engine can be noisy under hard throttle, but it doesn't do its best work up high in the rev range, so I'd try avoiding spending much time up there.

The 18-inch alloy wheels are pretty snappy looking. (image: Matt Campbell) The 18-inch alloy wheels are pretty snappy looking. (image: Matt Campbell)

And generally, that's possible, because the six-speed automatic transmission does a reasonable job of keeping things moving along without too much fuss. It is smooth with its shifts, but can be indecisive - typically when it's trying to choose between fifth and sixth gears, between 80-100km/h.

Let's go through some off-road specs, focusing on the LS-U model we're in: ground clearance - 230mm; approach angle - 24.0degrees; departure angle - 25.1deg; ramp-over angle - 19.5deg. One thing Isuzu doesn't officially state is the wading depth, so take care if you're thinking about crossing rivers.

How does that all translate to performance in the rough stuff? Luckily we did an off road review as part of this test, and with the underpinnings of a double cab pick-up, it offers fairly impressive off-road ability.

The vast majority of MU-X buyers will find themselves coping with gravel tracks - pockmarked desert roads or muddy trails down to their favourite campground - and in these situations, there's very little to complain about with the abilities of the MU-X.

If things get a little more serious, though, there are some things that need to be considered. You can't get a rear diff lock on the MU-X in any grade, so if you're looking at buying a ute-based SUV to enjoy the ultimate in off-roading, you might need to shop elsewhere. There's no limited-slip differential, either, so you might end up spinning tyres in slippery situations.

Even so, if you take it slow you'll find that the torque is quite easily accessible down low in the rev range, and in low-range (4L) the transmission is well considered.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / 130,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   6/10

The MU-X scored a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating way back in 2013, which was upgraded for MY17 models. But by ANCAP's ever-tightening regime, it wouldn't score that today.

That's because Isuzu doesn't offer the same level of safety technology as its rivals. There is no auto emergency braking (AEB) or lane keeping tech, and no blind spot monitoring or rear cross-traffic alert, either.

You do get a reverse camera and rear parking sensors, though, which is handy if you're backing up to a trailer or just parking at the shops.

Plus there are six airbags, including dual front, front side and full-length curtain airbags, the latter of which are more comprehensive in their coverage than some of the more passenger-focused family SUVs out there.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

Isuzu offers a five-year/130,000km warranty and the same cover for capped price servicing.

The service costs are reasonable, with intervals set at 12 months/15,000km, and the average cost over the five-year period working out at $418 per visit, if you stick to the set schedule in the owners manual.

If you're concerned about long-term reliability (and the potential effect that could have on your resale value), then you should check out our Isuzu MU-X problems page for the rundown on any issues, complaints or common problems we've had reported to us.

If you look at the overall package, taking into consideration the competitive set, it's reasonably compelling as an ownership proposition. (image: Matt Campbell) If you look at the overall package, taking into consideration the competitive set, it's reasonably compelling as an ownership proposition. (image: Matt Campbell)

Verdict

So, there are good and bad bits to the Isuzu MU-X. If you look at the overall package, taking into consideration the competitive set, it's reasonably compelling as an ownership proposition.

The lack of up-to-date safety equipment and technology let it down to a large degree for some family buyers, but its inherently good engineering and capability mean it'll remain a strong option for those who need those two things above all else, and that's one of the main reasons its sales will keep ticking over.

Does the MU-X do enough to convince you to choose it over a Fortuner, Everest or Pajero Sport? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Pricing Guides

$47,695
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$38,990
Highest Price
$56,400

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
LS-M (4x2) 3.0L, Diesel, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $38,990 2019 Isuzu MU-X 2019 LS-M (4x2) Pricing and Specs
LS-M (4x4) 3.0L, Diesel, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $44,990 2019 Isuzu MU-X 2019 LS-M (4x4) Pricing and Specs
LS-T (4x2) 3.0L, Diesel, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $45,990 2019 Isuzu MU-X 2019 LS-T (4x2) Pricing and Specs
LS-T (4x4) 3.0L, Diesel, 6 SP SEQ AUTO $52,990 2019 Isuzu MU-X 2019 LS-T (4x4) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Design7
Practicality7
Price and features7
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Driving7
Safety6
Ownership8
Matt Campbell
Senior Editor

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