Isuzu MU-X 2020 review: LS-T 4WD
The Isuzu MU-X is a no-fuss seven-seat SUV with heaps of space, and in top-spec LS-T trim, plenty of value for money. What better way to put it to the test, than a week-long family road trip holiday.
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Cars are big business in China, with the massive market there making up the lion's share of total worldwide new-vehicle sales.
But while China might be the biggest – and most lucrative – car market in the world, it's not necessarily home to the best car makers, with its domestic brands often struggling against their South Korean, Japanese, German and US counterparts around the world.
Styling, quality and cutting-edge technology have seldom been at the forefront of vehicles from China, but that hasn’t stopped a handful of brands from trying to penetrate the ever-competitive Australian market.
But it's this D90 SUV, which shares the same underpinnings as the T60 ute, that might be LDV’s best shot at mainstream success in a market so in love with high-riding crossovers.
|LDV D90 2020: Executive (4WD) Terrain Select|
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The LDV D90 is about as subtle as a brick through a window, but don’t get us wrong - that’s not meant as a criticism.
A gaping front grille, boxy proportions and high ride height combine to create an imposing figure on the road, though our test car’s black paintwork does a decent job at hiding a bit of the bulk.
We dig the fact that LDV has tried to differentiate the D90 front end from its T60 ute sibling, with the former scoring a horizontal-slat grille and slender headlights, while the latter has a vertical grille and chunkier lighting elements.
The contrasting satin-silver highlights found on the foglight surrounds, front fenders and roof racks also tip the D90 more towards the ‘refined’ style spectrum, rather than the ‘utilitarian’ approach of something like the Isuzu M-UX.
Step inside and LDV has tried its best to elevate the cabin with a faux-woodgrain dashboard, swathes of black leather with contrast white stitching, and large displays.
It all certainly looks the part, but is let down a little in functionality (more on that below).
Some design elements are not to our taste, such as the high sheen of the fake wood and unintuitive drive-mode selector, but as a whole, the cabin is a nice enough place to be.
Measuring 5005mm long, 1932mm wide, 1875mm tall and with a 2950mm wheelbase, the LDV D90 is certainly on the larger side of the large SUV spectrum.
What this means is that the D90 is absolutely cavernous on the inside, regardless of where you are sitting.
Front-row occupants are treated to large door pockets, a deep central storage bin and a sizeable glovebox, though we will point out that the nook positioned ahead of the shifter is rather small.
Second-row space is again excellent, serving up heaps of headroom, shoulder-room and legroom for my six-foot-tall frame, even with the driver’s seat set to my driving position.
The usually unenviable middle seat is also serviceable in a car this size, and we could easily imagine three adults sitting comfortably abreast (though we were not able to test this due to social distancing rules).
It’s the third-row however, where the D90 really shines. In a first for any seven-seater we’ve tested, we actually fit in the rearmost seats – and somewhat comfortably at that!
Is it perfect? Well no, the raised floor means that adults will have their knees and chest at about the same height, but the head and shoulder-room, as well as air vents and cupholders, were more than enough to keep us comfortable over extended periods of time.
Boot space is also generous, with at least 343 litres of storage capacity with all seats in place. Fold the third row flat and volume expands to a sizeable 1350L, and with all seats folded down you'll get 2382L.
Suffice to say, if you needed an SUV to haul your family and a fair bit of gear, the D90 certainly fits the bill.
Pricing for the LDV D90 starts at $35,990 drive-away for the entry-level, rear-wheel-drive model, while the 2WD Executive grade can be had for $39,990.
Our test car however, is the flagship all-wheel-drive D90 Executive, which carries a $43,990 drive-away price.
There’s no getting around the fact that the D90 is great value for money, as the cheapest version undercuts all of its ute-based rivals. The Ford Everest is $46,690, Isuzu's MU-X is $42,900, the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is $46,990, SsangYong's Rexton is $39,990, and the Toyota Fortuner is $45,965.
The cherry on top of the cake, though, is that the D90 comes standard with seven seats, whereas you would need to step up from the base grade in the Mitsubishi, or pay extra in the Ford, for third-row seating.
And it’s not like LDV has skimped on the equipment to get it down to a lower price point either, with our D90 Executive test car fitted with 19-inch wheels, keyless entry, push-button start, electronically folding side mirrors, LED headlights, sunroof, puddle lamps, electric tailgate, three-zone climate control and leather interior.
Driving information is displayed through an 8.0-inch screen, flanked by two analogue dials with a tachometer that goes anti-clockwise – like an Aston Martin!
As for multimedia duties, a 12.0-inch touchscreen is fitted to the dashboard, and it sports three USBs, an eight-speaker sound system, Bluetooth connectivity and Apple CarPlay support.
While the D90 might tick all the spec boxes on paper, using some of the in-car tech can be, at best, a minor annoyance, and, at worst, downright frustrating.
For example, the 12.0-inch multimedia screen is sizeable, sure, but the display is horribly low resolution, touch inputs can often fail to register, and it’s angled in a way that the bezels will often cut off the corners of the screen from the driver’s position.
Now, if you had an iPhone that might not be too much of an issue, as you can just hook up your phone and make use of a much better interface. But I have a Samsung phone, and the D90 lacks Android Auto support.
Similarly, the 8.0-inch driver display can be nice to look at, but its often a chore digging around in the menus to find display soughT after information. The buttons on the steering wheel also feel cheap and spongey, lacking any sort of satisfying feedback from a press.
Though as a whole, these might be small nitpicks, do keep in mind that these elements are the parts of the D90 you will be interacting the most with.
Powering the LDV D90 is a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine, feeding 165kW/350Nm to all four-wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.
A rear-wheel-drive version is also available in base form, and all cars come with idle start/stop technology.
Yes, you did read that right, by the way, the D90 has a petrol engine, not a diesel like its ute-based SUV rivals.
This means the D90 is down on the torque outputs offered by the likes of the Toyota Fortuner (450Nm) and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (430Nm), but a little up on power.
We do miss the punchiness of a diesel engine, especially in an SUV that weighs a hefty 2330kg, but the petrol engine and six-speed transmission is a smooth enough combo for low-speed driving.
The problem, though, is getting up to freeway speeds, as the D90 starts to run out of breath when the speedometer starts to climb towards triple digits.
We wouldn’t go so far as to say the 2.0-litre engine is mismatched to such a large and heavy vehicle because the D90 is spritely enough around town, but it is noticeable when its competitors offer a bit more oomph.
The D90 Executive also boasts a braked towing capacity of 2000kg, which is less than diesel-powered rivals, but should still be enough for a small trailer.
LDV has also now introduced a 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel four-cylinder to the D90 line-up for those diesel diehards, which pushes out a healthy 160kW/480Nm.
The diesel is hooked up to an eight-speed automatic that drives all four wheels, and also bumps the D90’s braked towing capacity to 3100kg, though pricing also moves up to $47,990.
The official fuel consumption figure for the LDV D90 Executive is 10.9 litres per 100km, while we managed 11.3L/100km after one week of testing.
Our driving was primarily through Melbourne’s inner city, with large swathes of start/stop traffic, so we were impressed with how the D90 came to the official figures.
It must be said that the fuel consumption is a little high compared to rivals, owing primarily to the petrol engine.
With a long list of equipment and a value-driven pricetag, everything about the D90 might sound good on paper, but get behind the steering wheel and it is evident where LDV cut corners to keep the price so low.
The tall ride height and large mass means the D90 is never going to feel like a Mazda CX-5 carving through a corner, but the unsettled suspension makes it feel especially awkward in the bends.
The bouncier ride does make things fairly comfortable in the cabin, but we’d prefer to sacrifice a little comfort for more confident and communicative handling.
While the D90’s large dimensions serve it well for practicality, its size is often a detriment when manoeuvring into a car park or navigating tight inner-city streets.
A surround-view monitor would go a long way in making the D90 a little more user friendly in this regard. Poor rearward visibility also doesn’t help, as the tall position of the second- and third-row seats mean you will not see anything but headrests in the rear-view mirror.
The rear glass is also small and positioned so high that all you can see of a following vehicle is its roof and windscreen.
We will point out though, that front and side visibility are great, making forward manoeuvring much easier.
5 years / 130,000 km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The LDV D90 was awarded a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested in 2017 with a score of 35.05 out of a possible 37 points.
As standard, the D90 comes with six airbags (including full-length curtain airbags), autonomous emergency braking, front-collision warning, hill decent control, hill-start assist, blind-spot monitoring, drive attention alert, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitor, and adaptive cruise control.
It’s certainly a long list of gear, which is especially impressive given the D90’s affordable pricetag.
However, there were some problems with the safety equipment we discovered after one week with the car.
The adaptive cruise control would consistently sit 2-3km/h under our set speed, regardless of what was in front of us. And the lane departure warning system would light up on the dashboard, but without an audible noises or other feedback to tell us were straying from the road.
The menu for controlling these systems is also buried in the hard-to-navigate multimedia system, making them a chore to configure.
While these do amount to just small annoyances, they are annoyances nonetheless.
The LDV D90 comes with a five-year/130,000km warranty with roadside assist over the same period. It also has a 10-year body anti-perforation warranty.
Service intervals for the D90 are every 12 months/15,000km, whichever occurs first.
LDV does not offer a capped price servicing plan for its vehicles, but has given us indicative pricing for the first three years of ownership.
The first service is priced around $515, the second is $675 and the third is $513, though these figures are just estimates and will vary depending on dealership due to labour rates.
The LDV D90 might not be the first, or obvious, choice when looking for a new seven-seat SUV, but it certainly puts a strong case forward for why it should be considered.
A low price point, long equipment list and strong safety credentials mean the D90 will certainly tick lots of boxes, but the below-average driving experience and rough-around-the-edges multimedia system could hold it back for some.
It’s a shame, too, because all the ingredients are there for a winning SUV that could take on the more popular segment leaders, but a little more time spent on polish and refinement could have gone a long way for the D90.
Sure, some of these things can be ironed out in an update, or with a new-generation model, but until then, the appeal of the LDV D90 is for those looking for the most value for money.
|(2WD)||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$25,700 – 34,100||2020 LDV D90 2020 (2WD) Pricing and Specs|
|Executive (2WD)||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$28,600 – 37,840||2020 LDV D90 2020 Executive (2WD) Pricing and Specs|
|Executive (4WD)||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$32,900 – 43,120||2020 LDV D90 2020 Executive (4WD) Pricing and Specs|
|Executive (4WD) D20||2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO||$36,400 – 47,080||2020 LDV D90 2020 Executive (4WD) D20 Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||6|