Isuzu MU-X 2022 review
Isuzu can make a good ute, there's no doubt about it. But can it make a good ute-based SUV? We've put the rugged but family friendly MU-X to the CarsGuide test to find out.
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With most Australian families unable to holiday overseas for obvious reasons in 2020 and 2021, sales of ute-based large SUVs have boomed.
After all, they are among the very few vehicles that can do it all, making them a great option for those looking to instead tour our great country.
The SsangYong Rexton is one such model, and its mid-life facelift has arrived at the perfect time, ushering in revised looks, more technology, a punchier engine and a new transmission.
|Ssangyong Rexton 2022: Ultimate (awd)|
|Engine Type||2.2L turbo|
As part of its facelift, the Rexton’s entry-level EX grade was discontinued, and with it the availability of rear-wheel drive and a petrol engine.
The mid-range ELX and flagship Ultimate grades have, however, carried over alongside their four-wheel drive system and diesel engine, but more on all that later.
For reference, the EX was priced from an attractive $39,990 drive-away, while the ELX is now $1000 dearer, at a still very competitive $47,990, and the Ultimate has become $2000 more expensive, at a just-as-impressive $54,990, both drive-away.
Standard equipment in the ELX generously includes dusk-sensing lights, rain-sensing wipers, 18-inch alloy wheels (with a full-size spare), puddle lights, keyless entry and roof rails.
Inside, push-button start, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, and a six-speaker sound system feature.
And then there’s power-adjustable front seats with heating and cooling, heated middle seats, dual-zone climate control and synthetic leather upholstery.
The Ultimate adds 20-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, a power-operated tailgate, a sunroof, a heated steering wheel, memory functionality, quilted Nappa leather upholstery and ambient lighting.
So, what’s missing? Well, there’s no digital radio or in-built satellite navigation, but the latter isn’t a total deal breaker due to the fitment of smartphone mirroring – unless you’re out in the bush with no reception, of course.
The only option for the Rexton is metallic paintwork for $495, with five of the six available colours commanding that premium.
Well, hasn’t a literal facelift done wonders for the Rexton? Its new grille, LED headlight inserts and front bumper combine to deliver what I think is a much more attractive – and modern – look.
Around the side, the changes aren’t as dramatic, with the Rexton getting fresh sets of alloy wheels and revised body cladding, which makes it appear tougher than before.
And at the rear, the Rexton’s new LED tail-lights are a huge improvement, while its tweaked bumper is a lesson in subtlety.
Overall, the Rexton’s exterior design has mercifully come leaps and bounds, so much so that I’ll go as far to say it is now one of the better lookers in its segment.
Inside, the facelifted Rexton continues to stand out from the pre-facelift crowd, this time with its new gear selector and steering wheel with paddle-shifters.
But the big news is what’s behind the latter: a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, which is standard range-wide. It alone helps to contemporise the cabin.
That said, disappointingly the rather dim touchscreen to the left hasn’t grown in size, remaining at 8.0 inches, while the multimedia system powering it is largely unchanged, although it does now have dual Bluetooth connectivity and useful rear-cabin sleep and talk modes.
The Rexton also has new front seats that feel pretty good alongside the rest of the interior, which is a lot more premium than you’d expect, as evidenced by the high-quality materials used throughout.
The Ultimate grade, in particular, is a cut above the competition with its quilted Nappa leather upholstery, which adds a level of suppleness that just isn’t associated with ute-based large SUVs.
That said, whereas the Rexton now looks fresh outside, it still feels aged inside, particularly its dashboard design, although the centre stack’s user-friendly physical climate controls are much appreciated.
Measuring 4850mm long (with a 2865mm wheelbase), 1950mm wide and 1825mm tall, the Rexton is slightly on the smaller side for a large SUV.
That said, its boot’s cargo capacity is still solid, at 641L with the 50/50 split-fold third row stowed, an action that’s made simple by easily accessible pull tabs.
And with the 60/40 split-fold second row also not in use, the storage area increases to a cavernous 1806L. You’ll need to go to both rear doors, though, to flatten the middle bench.
To create a flat floor, there’s a parcel shelf behind the third row, which creates two levels for items, although it’s only rated for 60kg, so be careful with what you put on top of it.
The load lip is also small with the parcel shelf removed, meaning loading bulkier items isn’t too difficult. And the boot has two hooks and four clips for bags, as well as a 12V power outlet on hand.
Now, how do you access the third row? Well, it’s relatively easy, as the second row can also tumble forward, and along with the large rear door openings, getting in and out is relatively easy.
However, you will need some assistance getting out, as while a pull table allows third-row passengers to easily fold the second row flat, they can’t exactly reach the lever required to tumble it forward. Close, but close enough.
Of course, the third row is clearly designed for young children, because teenagers and adults aren’t given a whole lot of room to move. For example, my 184cm frame’s knees rest on the second row’s backrest, while my head presses against the roof, even with my neck bent.
Unfortunately, the second row doesn’t slide to offer the option of more third-row legroom, although it does recline, so some relief can be achieved – but not much.
Either way, third-row occupants aren’t treated to a whole lot, missing out on cupholders and USB ports, with only the driver’s side passenger getting directional air vents. However, both get a long, shallow tray that can be used for storing… sausages?
Moving to the second row, where, behind my driving position I have inches of legroom, and decent headroom. And the central tunnel is rather small, so there’s enough footwell space to go around for three adults abreast on shorter journeys.
Three top-tether and two ISOFIX anchorage points are on hand for fitting child seats, but they’re only located in the second row, so plan accordingly if you have young ones.
Amenities-wise, there’s a fold-down armrest with a lidded shallow tray and two cupholders, while the rear door bins can accommodate a stellar three additional regular bottles each.
Coat hooks are near the roof handles, and map pockets are on the front seat backrests, while the rear of the centre console features directional air vents, a 12V power outlet, two USB-A ports and a decently sized open cubby.
In the first row, the central storage bin has a 12V power outlet and is on the larger side alongside the glovebox. Ahead are two cupholders, two USB-A ports and a new wireless smartphone charger (Ultimate only), while the front door bins take two regular bottles apiece.
The Rexton comes with a good, if not comprehensive safety suite.
Advanced driver-assist systems in the ELX and Ultimate extend to city-speed AEB (up to 45km/h), brake-based lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, high-beam assist, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and tyre pressure monitoring.
Meanwhile, the Ultimate also gets surround-view cameras.
In Australia, no matter the grade, the cruise control fitted isn’t of the adaptive variety, despite it becoming available from factory with the facelift.
And in any market, intersection assist is unavailable alongside steering assist with emergency functionality.
Other standard safety equipment includes nine airbags, but disappointingly, none of them cover the third row. There's also hill-descent control, hill-start assist, anti-skid brakes (ABS) and the usual electronic traction and stability control systems. Plus, all seven seats now come with seatbelt reminders.
Interestingly, neither ANCAP nor its European counterpart, Euro NCAP, has assessed the Rexton’s crash performance and given it a safety rating, so keep that in mind if it’s important to you.
While we didn’t test it out in this review, the Rexton has also added 'Trailer Sway Control', which gently applies brake pressure if lateral movement is detected while towing.
Speaking of which, braked towing capacity is a segment-leading 3500kg.
As mentioned, the Rexton used to be available with two four-cylinder engine options, with the now discontinued entry-level EX motivated by a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol with rear-wheel drive.
But with the facelift, the Rexton is now exclusively powered by the mid-range ELX and flagship Ultimate’s 2.2-litre turbo-diesel with a part-time four-wheel drive system, which features a low-range transfer case and a rear differential lock.
The 2.2-litre turbo-diesel has been upgraded, though, with its outputs increased by 15kW, to 148kW at 3800rpm, and 21Nm, to 441Nm from 1600-2600rpm.
For reference, the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol developed more power (165kW at 5500rpm), but less torque (350Nm from 1500-4500rpm).
Better yet, the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel’s Mercedes-Benz-sourced seven-speed torque-converter automatic transmission has been replaced by a new eight-speed item.
While we’re used to seeing fuel consumption improve with updated, facelifted and new models, the Rexton has gone down a different path.
Yep, the improved performance of its 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine has unfortunately come at the cost of efficiency.
On the combined-cycle test (ADR 81/02), the Rexton now returns 8.7L/100km (+0.4L/100km), while its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are correspondingly up to 223g/km (+5g/km).
In our real-world testing, though, I averaged a much higher 11.9L/100km, although a better result would’ve inevitably been achieved with more highway driving.
For reference, the Rexton comes with a 70L fuel tank, which equates to 805km of claimed range.
7 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
Service intervals, at 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first, are on par for the category.
And service cost over the warranty period is a minimum total of $4072.96, or an average of $581.85 per visit (if serviced annually).
Behind the wheel, one of the first things you notice is how much more punch the Rexton's upgraded 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine has.
Stick the boot in and acceleration is solid, especially when overtaking on highways and the like. That 148kW of power and 441Nm of torque certainly make their presence felt.
However, the delivery of these outputs isn’t the smoothest. Off the line, the Rexton hesitates before the turbo spools up and delivers maximum shove from 1500rpm. In this instance, the transition is rather jerky.
Of course, once the new eight-speed torque-converter transmission gets out of first gear, it all settles down as you almost never find yourself outside of the fat torque band.
The two-pedal set-up does a nice job, offering up smooth (if not quick) gear changes. It’s also relatively responsive to inputs, so count it as another step in the right direction for the Rexton.
But when it comes to stopping, the brake pedal leaves a lot to be desired, lacking the initial bite you’d hope for. Point being, you need to push to get the brakes to start properly doing their thing, with performance otherwise fine.
Handling-wise, the Rexton is far from sporty, but so is every other large, ute-based SUV. With 2300kg of kerb weight and a high centre of gravity to manage, you can imagine body roll is prevalent when pushing hard. And it is.
The power steering could make it feel more nimble around the corners, but it doesn’t. In fact, it’s really slow.
Again, that’s not an unprecedented characteristic in this segment, but it feels like a bus to manoeuvre at times, especially when parking and doing three-point turns.
It’d be great to see a more direct tune introduced, one which would significantly reduce the number of wheel turns required to go from lock to lock.
That said, the Ultimate’s speed-sensitive system helps with its low- and high-speed weighting.
The Rexton’s ride isn’t too inspiring, either, with its independent double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension with coil springs seemingly promising car-like comfort, but not delivering it.
And I know I sound like a broken record already, but ride comfort isn’t a trademark of the Rexton’s class. Even so, it’s not as good as it should be, with occupants feeling nearly every bump and lump roads have to offer.
Don’t get me wrong, the Rexton’s ride isn’t harsh, it’s just ‘communicative’ but certainly liveable around town.
Keep in mind our Ultimate test vehicle came standard with 20-inch alloy wheels, which never bode well for comfort. The ELX on 18s should do a better job.
When travelling at speed, another thing you notice is the Rexton’s relatively high noise levels, with the most obvious source being the engine under moderate to hard acceleration. It penetrates the cabin with ease, more so than the tyres and wind.
Now, if you’re keen to hear about how the Rexton performs off-road, stay tuned for our upcoming Adventure Guide review.
The facelifted Rexton is something of a sleeper in its segment. It doesn’t get the level of attention the MU-X, Everest and Pajero Sport do, but it arguably deserves to be in the same conversation.
The question marks over financially troubled SsangYong’s long-term future certainly don’t help, but objectively speaking, the Rexton is a surprisingly good ute-based large SUV.
After all, it caters well for larger families and is more or less capable of doing the trick on- and off-road. And on price alone, it should be on the shortlists of more buyers – particularly the ELX.
|ELX (awd)||2.2L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO||$47,990||2022 Ssangyong Rexton 2022 ELX (awd) Pricing and Specs|
|Ultimate (awd)||2.2L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO||$54,990||2022 Ssangyong Rexton 2022 Ultimate (awd) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||8|