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Isuzu MU-X 2020 review: LS-T long term

I've long mused over the MU-X's enduring popularity. (Image Mark Oastler)

Mark Oastler is spending three months with the Isuzu MU-X LS-T to see how it suits his family's needs.

Part 1: December 2019

I love reading stats. To some they may seem as dry as a packet of Weetbix but in these days of increasing public scepticism about the accuracy of information published online, there's something reassuring about hard, indisputable stats produced by trusted sources.

A good example is the VFACTS report issued each month by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries or FCAI. A dozen times a year it provides the automotive industry with sales figures for all new vehicles in Australia. It's a brutally accurate snapshot of how the industry and its many players are performing, broken down into numerous segments showing the makes and models which compete in each.

One of the most competitive of those, with almost 30 contenders, is for large SUVs under $70,000. It's long been dominated by Toyota's Prado and Kluger twins, but the numbers that consistently jump off the page for me belong to the third best-seller – Isuzu's MU-X.

Sheez, talk about a quiet achiever. Holding just under 8.0 per cent of this hotly-contested segment up to and including November 2019, Isuzu's venerable SUV comfortably outsells perpetual favourites including the Mazda CX-9, Subaru Outback and Hyundai Santa Fe to name a few.

If you need even more space, the second row can be folded flat to extend the load floor to the front seats or tumbled forward if more load volume is required. (Image: Mark Oastler) If you need even more space, the second row can be folded flat to extend the load floor to the front seats or tumbled forward if more load volume is required. (Image: Mark Oastler)

And given that it's derived from Isuzu's D-MAX ute, it also comfortably outsells all other high-riding body-on-frame SUVs sharing similar utilitarian parentage. With annual sales of 7616 units so far, the MU-X attracts more showroom traffic than the ute-derived Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (6073), Ford Everest (4892), Toyota Fortuner (2808) and Holden's distant relative Trailblazer (2596).

Excuse me for indulging in one of my favourite pastimes (yeah, I need to get out more) but those VFACTS figures don't lie. Isuzu Ute Australia's MU-X seven-seater is consistently kicking the backsides of some good players with a vehicle which, apart from relatively minor mechanical, exterior and interior revisions along the way, is effectively the same as that launched here in late 2013.

So when the good people at Isuzu Ute Australia offered CarsGuide the keys to a 2019 MU-X in premium LS-T grade for an extended three-month review, I put my hand up because I've long mused over the MU-X's enduring popularity. By making it the honorary member of a busy family with two teenage kids over a longer time-frame, its strengths and weaknesses in this 'real world' role can be more meaningfully assessed.

So why is it such a strong seller? For a start it's competitively priced. Our Magnetic Red LS-T test vehicle has a recommended retail price starting at $56,400, which compares well with its ute-based premium-grade rivals including the Holden Trailblazer Z71 ($53,490), Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed ($54,490), Toyota Fortuner Crusade B+R Trim ($58,490) and the considerably more expensive Ford Everest Titanium ($73,990). However, IUA tells us that razor-sharp drive-away deals can be as low as $54,490.

Another reason is its enviable reputation as a competent all-rounder, with reliability and build quality on its side. There's definitely a peace-of-mind factor at work here, that comes with owning a vehicle that's been designed and built by one of the world's leading commercial truck manufacturers.

The MU-X has been rarely mentioned in factory recalls since its launch in 2013 and those items were non-mechanical and only minor in nature, so buyers must feel comfortable when parting with their hard-earned dollars here. The six years/150,000km warranty with six years roadside assist and capped-price servicing shows plenty of confidence by Isuzu in the product too.

I also put the standard wheel-changing equipment through its paces to see how it might perform if we’re unlucky enough to need it in a remote area with patchy phone coverage. (Image: Mark Oastler) I also put the standard wheel-changing equipment through its paces to see how it might perform if we’re unlucky enough to need it in a remote area with patchy phone coverage. (Image: Mark Oastler)

It adheres to a design blueprint shared by all of its ute-based SUVs rivals. They're all body-on-frame with shorter wheelbases and lengths than the utes on which they're based. And they all have coil-spring rear suspensions in preference to their parents' harsher-riding leaf springs.

However, at 3.0 litres in cubic capacity (130kW/430Nm) the MU-X has the largest turbo-diesel of them all which is highly prized, particularly by those who need to tow up to its 3000kg braked towing capacity. Combined with a sweet-shifting and intelligent Aisin six-speed torque converter automatic, part-time dual-range 4x4, four-wheel disc brakes and speed-sensitive power-assisted steering, it's a well-engineered and proven package.

There's nice external detailing with plenty of chrome and colour-coded highlights. The LS-T interior also appeals with its plush leather-appointed trim and thick carpets which are comfortable and easy to keep clean. It's also equipped with most of the usual bling we associate with premium-grade models, highlighted by an overhead fold-down 10-inch DVD screen with remote control for movie-goers seated in the back stalls.

However, it does miss out on numerous features found in some of its rivals like 'active' cruise control,  dual-zone (rather than single) climate control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and DAB+ digital radio, steering wheel reach adjustment, rear diff lock, heated front seats, power-adjustable front passenger seat and power tailgate to name a few.

The MU-X wears a five-star ANCAP badge (albeit from its first and only test in 2013) but also misses out on useful safety tech found in some of its peers like AEB and lane-keeping assist.

So, when comparing spec sheets, the MU-X looks a bit light-on for luxury appointments and the latest safety features. However, its kick-arse sales suggest that what it does have is more than enough, for both Isuzu loyalists and newcomers to the brand. Bottom line is, whatever Isuzu is doing, it's working!

When we collected the MU-X LS-T in Melbourne it had 3733km on the odometer and in our first month of ownership we've added 1430km. Isuzu claims an official combined figure of 7.9L/100km, which compares to the dash readout's 9.3L average. Our own figures based on fuel bowser and trip meter readings varied between 10.6 and 10.9L/100km. Yes, that's higher again, but still respectable given it was achieved during mostly suburban driving including morning and afternoon school runs, party drop-offs, weekly grocery shopping and a weekend run to the tip.

In this typical suburban family car role, the MU-X is practical and easy to live with. The third row of seats is ideal for primary school-sized kids but, like all seven-seat SUVs, becomes increasingly squeezy for rapidly-growing teenagers. It's okay for short runs but on longer trips you'll get complaints.

Two rows of folding seats are also useful in being able to adjust load areas to suit different tasks. For example, if you leave the third-row upright it leaves a compact space behind it that's ideal for snug containment of small shopping loads. Folding the third-row flat opens up ample space for larger shopping trips, or for carting around the family pooch.

If you need even more space, the second row can be folded flat to extend the load floor to the front seats or tumbled forward if more load volume is required. We've already found this particularly useful on two occasions; one was swallowing a large IKEA cabinet in DIY flat-pack form and the other was filling it with cardboard to offload at the local recycling centre. It can also easily accommodate an adult-sized mountain bike lying on its side.

  • In this typical suburban family car role, the MU-X is practical and easy to live with. (Image: Mark Oastler) In this typical suburban family car role, the MU-X is practical and easy to live with. (Image: Mark Oastler)
  • Two rows of folding seats are also useful in being able to adjust load areas to suit different tasks. (Image: Mark Oastler) Two rows of folding seats are also useful in being able to adjust load areas to suit different tasks. (Image: Mark Oastler)
  • Folding the third-row flat opens up ample space for larger shopping trips, or for carting around the family pooch. (Image: Mark Oastler) Folding the third-row flat opens up ample space for larger shopping trips, or for carting around the family pooch. (Image: Mark Oastler)

Good news for potential family buyers too is that the MU-X appeals to both mum and dad drivers. It might be a high-riding off-roader but my 168cm-tall wife is a fan, praising its commanding view from the driver's seat, ease of entry/exit with the side-steps and truck-like solidity that makes her feel safe. Happy wife, happy life.

She also likes the large windows and mirrors, front/rear parking sensors and large crystal-clear view provided by the reversing camera, which make regular suburban chores like shopping centre parking remarkably stress-free. She also says it's easy to load.

Under-the-bonnet maintenance items like the engine oil dipstick, windscreen washer bottle etc are easy to access. I also put the standard wheel-changing equipment through its paces to see how it might perform if we're unlucky enough to need it in a remote area with patchy phone coverage.

It's always best to familiarise yourself with this process at home, rather than be trying to figure it out for the first time on a dark, rainy night with no torch. It was a fiddly process, but it did the job as instructed. However, not included in the standard tool kit is a block of hardwood for jacking, a pair of overalls to keep clean and a torch, which we'd also recommend.

So the first month of MU-X ownership has already provided a clearer understanding of why this vehicle is such a popular choice for Aussie buyers. Next month we're travelling further afield to provide insights on how it performs away from the big smoke.

Acquired: December 2019

Distance travelled this month: 1430km

Odometer: 5163km

Average fuel consumption for December: 10.6 to 10.9L/100km (measured at the pump)

Part 2: Jan 2020

Since our previous report, which capped the completion of the first month of MU-X ‘ownership’ in December 2019, we’ve clocked up another 1632km in January 2020. This was a larger tripmeter figure than our first month, as we squeezed in a coastal escape to Inverloch on Victoria’s Bass Coast.

It’s been interesting to see the MU-X’s fuel consumption calculator becoming more accurate after each refill of the 65-litre tank. The biggest discrepancy was noted after our first refuel to kick off the month. The dash readout claimed an average combined figure of 9.2L/100km, compared to our higher 11.4 figure calculated from actual fuel bowser and tripmeter readings.

From then on, though, these two figures became more closely aligned, as fuel consumption dropped due to an increase in prolonged highway driving at consistent speeds. The stars aligned after the last refill for the month resulted in identical 9.5L/100km figures from both the dash readout and our own maths.

So the greatest discrepancies between the MU-X’s figures and ours have occurred during daily stop-start city and suburban driving, when fuel consumption is at its highest. That’s why if you’re planning a big trip away in a newly purchased vehicle, it’s a good idea to firstly string together a few full-tank runs on the highway to get a feel for what ‘real world’ economy you can realistically expect and then plan for.

And if that planning also includes towing a trailer or caravan or even carrying a roof-top camper, they will obviously increase that thirst so it’s a good idea to test the whole rig while you’re at it.

So, in preparation for our quick trip to the Bass Coast in early January, I discovered that the MU-X’s generous 878 litres of cargo volume behind the second row of seats (with the third row folded flat of course) was not going to accommodate the luggage required for two adults and two teenagers for a week away.

The MU-X has 878 litres of cargo volume behind the second row of seats. The MU-X has 878 litres of cargo volume behind the second row of seats.

Well, it probably could have done if I wanted to pile the luggage right up to roof height, but I’ve never been a fan of that on longer journeys for several reasons. Firstly, it creates a driving hazard by blocking both the driver’s rear-view mirror and over-shoulder view. Secondly, it creates a claustrophobic feeling in the cabin, particularly for rear seat passengers. And thirdly, without a cargo barrier, it presents an obvious safety hazard for occupants in the event of a crash.

  • The adjustable boot and seating arrangement makes the MU-X incredibly versatile. The adjustable boot and seating arrangement makes the MU-X incredibly versatile.
  • If you need even more space, the second row can be folded flat to extend the load floor to the front seats. If you need even more space, the second row can be folded flat to extend the load floor to the front seats.

The solution was to dust off my trusty Thule Ocean 200 roof pod, offering up to 450 litres of extra load volume above the roof. However, although our LS-T came equipped with roof rails as standard equipment, we needed a pair of roof racks to go with them. The good people at Isuzu Ute Australia were quick to oblige, dispatching a pair of new genuine accessory racks which arrived within a couple of days. Now that’s service!

The aero-friendly racks came with fitting instructions and all the bits needed to fit them. However, two problems emerged that changed our planning. One was that my Thule roof pod brackets - and another aftermarket set I keep handy to suit Thule and non-Thule racks – were both not wide enough to fit around the Isuzu racks. We also discovered that these racks ‘piggybacked’ the same bolt holes in the roof that secured the rails, so they could not be adjusted fore and aft once bolted in place.

Therefore, to use the Isuzu racks would have required mounting the roof pod further forward than I wanted, trying to find another wider set of brackets to fit around them and drilling a series of new holes in the floor of my roof pod to fit them, which I was not prepared to do

Although our LS-T came equipped with roof rails as standard equipment, we needed a pair of roof racks to go with them. Although our LS-T came equipped with roof rails as standard equipment, we needed a pair of roof racks to go with them.

So, Plan B was to hire some Thule racks instead, which featured a simple but effective clamping design that provided a robust connection with the MU-X roof rails. Their 60kg weight rating was also compatible with the roof pod’s 50kg maximum load.

This hire fee added some unexpected costs but ensured that the racks could be easily adjusted to get the pod in the right position, the brackets and racks were compatible and I didn’t need to drill new holes. Problem solved and good to know MU-X owners have this load-carrying option available.

So the internal cargo area swallowed our two largest travel bags plus a big esky, a cardboard box full of food supplies/cooking utensils, two boogie boards plus another large and bulky zip-up bag. We needed two of these bags in fact, which between them contained four bed pillows, four sets of bed linen, bath towels, flannels etc, because our holiday cottage accommodation (as nice as it was) required guests to provide all of this.

The boot swallowed two travel bags, an esky, food supplies/cooking utensils, two boogie boards plus a large zip-up bag. The boot swallowed two travel bags, an esky, food supplies/cooking utensils, two boogie boards plus a large zip-up bag.

These two bags were bulky but not particularly heavy, so one was loaded into the cargo area and the other was carried in the roof pod, along with the remaining travel bags. This load was comfortably below the pod’s 50kg limit. And the cargo area, using the two tie-down points at the rear combined with the unused child seat anchorage points on the seat backrests, allowed a cargo net to hold this lot securely in place. So, we were good to go.

Inverloch, if you don’t know, is a pretty beachside town on the Bass Coast about 140km south-east of Melbourne, not far from Wonthaggi. You can take a variety of routes to get there but the driving time is usually under two hours. We took some roads less travelled and stopped at a few spots along the way, so ours was a more leisurely three hours.

We were travelling to Inverloch, a beachside town about 140km south-east of Melbourne. We were travelling to Inverloch, a beachside town about 140km south-east of Melbourne.

This was a good chance to see how accommodating the MU-X was for a family of four on an extended drive, particularly with a teenage son and daughter seated in the second row. Given the potential for sibling conflict, I’m pleased to say the MU-X helped to make it a pleasant trip.

Features they liked included the adjustable backrests, which given the second row’s 60-40 split meant they could be adjusted individually (although on this occasion slightly limited by the packed cargo area behind them). There was also adequate head, shoulder and particularly knee room, even behind my driver’s seat which was positioned more rearward than my wife’s seat given my 180cm-plus frame.

There was adequate head, shoulder and knee room, even behind my driver’s seat. There was adequate head, shoulder and knee room, even behind my driver’s seat.

They also liked the fold-down centre armrest with its two cup holders (there’s a total of 12 cup/bottle holders throughout the cabin) and the ability to independently control the fan speed for the roof-mounted air conditioning vents with adjustable vanes. There’s only one USB outlet in the rear of the console but their fully-charged portable devices managed to hang in there for the duration of the trip.

The LS-T's DVD player, with its roof-mounted 10-inch swing-down screen and eight-speaker ‘Sky Sound’ audio for the enjoyment of rear seat passengers, offers numerous picture and audio settings using the remote control. However, without wireless headphones for the rear stalls, it can became wearing for those in the front row sharing a booming action movie soundtrack while driving.

There’s a total of 12 cup/bottle holders throughout the cabin. There’s a total of 12 cup/bottle holders throughout the cabin.

On the open road the MU-X proved to be a smooth, relatively quiet and comfortable cruiser. With the six-speed auto in top gear it cruised effortlessly on motorways and highways, with the 3.0 litre diesel showing just 1500rpm at 100km/h and 1600rpm at 110km/h. This was below maximum torque between 2000-2200rpm, but the engine has plenty of useful pulling power well below its peak.

On narrower, winding and patchy secondary roads, the long travel of its coil-spring suspension produced a  supple ride that floated over bumps and other road irregularities with ease, but its off-road ground clearance and high centre of gravity also created plenty of body lean in corners.

With the six-speed auto in top gear it cruised effortlessly on motorways and highways, with the 3.0 litre diesel showing just 1500rpm at 100km/h and 1600rpm at 110km/h. With the six-speed auto in top gear it cruised effortlessly on motorways and highways, with the 3.0 litre diesel showing just 1500rpm at 100km/h and 1600rpm at 110km/h.

However, when driven with a sensible degree of restraint, the MU-X proved to be as sure-footed and competent on sealed roads as you could realistically expect for such a heavy-duty off-roader. It made the return trip to Inverloch (which combined with sightseeing covered more than 500km on a single tank) a comfortable and trouble-free week on the coast.

So with the odometer reading 6805km at the end of our second month with the MU-X, it’s been hard to fault its reliability, versatility and general ease of use. However, like any vehicle it’s not without its glitches, which are minor but worthy of note.

A plastic cap covering a securing bolt for the A-pillar grab handle on the passenger side fell to the floor during a drive in early January, but couldn’t be clicked back in place as the internal retainer tab had snapped off. However, after closer inspection we suspect that this cap had been opened and bent back too far by another party at some stage (perhaps to tighten one of the securing bolts) which weakened the tab.

The push-button catch to open the ‘clam-shell’ storage compartment in the centre of the dash-pad has also proved to be a bit sticky at times. Sometimes it opens, sometimes it doesn’t, which might be a design flaw or just an issue unique to our test vehicle.

And the rear windscreen washer also stopped working during our Inverloch trip, even though the rear washer’s pump motor could still be heard whirring away when prompted. Based on past experience, I had a hunch that the washer reservoir’s water level may have become too low for the rear pump to pick it up, even though the front windscreen washers were still working fine. Sure enough, after refilling the reservoir to the brim (it holds a lot of water) the rear washer immediately squirted back into action. That’s a handy thing to remember.

So, with only one month remaining for our long-term loan we’ll be shifting up another gear in February which, among other things, will include assessment of the MU-X’s towing ability. 

Acquired: December 2019

Distance travelled this month: 1632km

Odometer: 6805km

Average fuel consumption (at pump): 9.5L/100km

Part 3: March 2020

February was the third and final month of our long-term test, which was also the busiest. We clocked up 1606km, which combined with our other two monthly totals added up to 4678km in three months, at an average of just under 1560km per month. The LS-T had fluctuations in fuel consumption, indicative of the different tasks it performed which I’ll expand on later.

The highest real-world consumption figure of 12.9L/100km, based on fuel bowser and tripmeter readings, occurred early in the month when we were doing some heavy towing combined with plenty of city and suburban traffic.

That dropped to 11.2 for the next fuel load, which was mainly suburban driving with a couple of day trips on weekends. The third and final load returned the best figure of the month at a neat 10.0, which reflected off-road testing combined with more highway and motorway driving.

Through all of these variations the dash readout remained resolute with its figure of 9.4L/100km, compared to Isuzu’s official combined 7.9L/100km. However, our real-world average after 4678km was 10.9L/100km, which is excellent for a vehicle weighing more than two tonnes being subjected to many different driving conditions and tasks.

Towing

Given the MU-X’s reputation as a good towing platform, we had to try it for ourselves. New Age Caravans in Melbourne were most helpful, loaning us a twin-axle Manta Ray 19-footer which with its 2430kg tare weight was ideal for the MU-X’s 3.0-tonne maximum braked towing capacity.

Keep in mind that with the MU-X’s big 5750kg GCM (or much it can legally carry and tow at the same time) it can tow up to 3000kg of braked trailer without any reduction of its 593kg maximum payload required. And that’s a very practical set of numbers, given you could increase the Manta Ray’s tare weight by 570kg and not exceed the near-6.0 tonne GCM.

Lining up the Manta Ray’s coupling with the MU-X’s tow-ball was easy with the reversing camera. Given that the tow test was to be completed within a day on a well-known test route, we decided to see how well the MU-X performed without a weight distribution hitch or a mechanical trailer-sway device, as electronic trailer sway control is part of the vehicle’s stability control menu.

  • New Age Caravans in Melbourne loaned us a twin-axle Manta Ray 19-footer. New Age Caravans in Melbourne loaned us a twin-axle Manta Ray 19-footer.
  • New Age Caravans in Melbourne loaned us a twin-axle Manta Ray 19-footer. New Age Caravans in Melbourne loaned us a twin-axle Manta Ray 19-footer.

We were impressed firstly by how level the tow vehicle and caravan sat when hooked up together. The minimal amount of squat displayed by the rear suspension showed good tuning on Isuzu’s part. And in addition to the ample 430Nm torque from the 3.0 litre turbo-diesel fed through the adaptive Aisin six-speed automatic, the MU-X also has a relatively short distance between the rear axle line and tow-ball. This is an important dimension in a tow vehicle because the shorter this distance is, the less potential there is for sideways or ‘yaw’ movement of the tow-ball.

Although the highest posted speed limit was 110km/h, we were happy to cap our speed at 100km/h to allow a decent safety margin. It didn’t take long for the intelligent transmission, with its fuel-saving overdrive on fifth and sixth gears plus full torque converter lock-up from third to sixth, to adapt its shift protocols to suit.

After several attempts to pull top gear, which at 100km/h was causing the engine to labour at only 1500rpm, it soon settled primarily in fifth gear for the rest of the tow, keeping the engine right on its sweet spot for maximum torque at just under 2000rpm. On some inclines it shifted back to fourth when extra pulling power was needed, but there was no frantic hunting between these two gears; just smooth and decisive shifts when needed.

We were impressed firstly by how level the tow vehicle and caravan sat when hooked up together. We were impressed firstly by how level the tow vehicle and caravan sat when hooked up together.

The automatic also impressed with its sensitivity to incline changes. As soon as it detected a shift in road angle from flat to downhill, it started downshifting to assist with engine braking even before the brake pedal was applied. This engine retardation, combined with the electronic trailer brake controller and the MU-X’s inbuilt trailer sway control, resulted in a stress-free and enjoyable towing experience.

There was only one potential white-knuckle moment when we detected a small sway at play on a downhill run, when hit by a sudden side-wind gust. However, a gentle brush of the brake pedal was all that was needed to bring everything smartly back into line.

Combined with its sub-13L/100km economy under these loads, it helps to explain why we often see MU-Xs with caravans in tow.

Off-road

During our final month we also wanted to squeeze in some off-road adventuring, but with time and weather working against us for a planned escape to the Victorian high country, we settled instead for a day of play at Melbourne’s excellent 4x4 Training and Proving Ground at Mount Cottrell. This is one of the best ways to assess an off-roader’s performance, as it offers just about every type of terrain challenge you’re likely to come across.

The MU-X has a console-mounted control dial for the ‘Terrain Command’ system with shift-on-the-fly high range 4x4 engagement at speeds up to 100km/h. There’s no rear diff lock for the part-time, dual-range system like some rivals, but it does have electronic traction control, hill-start assist and feet-off-the-pedals hill descent control, plus 230mm of ground clearance, 600mm wading depth, good approach and departure angles and solid protection underneath.

  • The MU-X is a more than competent performer for most recreational off-road touring. The MU-X is a more than competent performer for most recreational off-road touring.
  • The MU-X is a more than competent performer for most recreational off-road touring. The MU-X is a more than competent performer for most recreational off-road touring.

Its compact length and height combined with short overhangs and 11.6-metre turning circle give the MU-X good off-road agility. It easily cleared most of the obstacles we pointed it at, except for a couple of climbs turned boggy by overnight rain, which we put down to two reasons.

One was the absence of a rear diff lock and the other was lack of bite from the 255/60R18 HT (Highway Terrain) tyres, which are clearly more road-biased in their tread design. As a result, they quickly clogged with mud and turned into slicks. We could have improved their grip by lowering the pressures of course, but only to a point. Fact is, for serious off-roading we’d recommend a light truck tyre with a more open and aggressive tread pattern.

Its compact length and height combined with short overhangs give the MU-X good off-road agility. Its compact length and height combined with short overhangs give the MU-X good off-road agility.

Overall, the MU-X is a more than competent performer for most recreational off-road touring. However, a different design of tyre and perhaps an aftermarket rear diff locker would make it even better if you want to regularly tackle really rough stuff.

12-month/15,000km service

Given that our MU-X (April 2019 build date) was approaching its first 12 month/15,000km schedule service towards the end of our test, IUA offered to include it on our job sheet to provide some insights on the Isuzu ownership experience.

The dealership that carried out the service was Pakenham Isuzu Ute, located in Melbourne’s fast-growing satellite suburb of Pakenham about 50km south-east of the CBD. Although the cost of the service was covered by IUA, I asked service advisor Marc Scott to otherwise treat me as he would any other customer.

The service for the MU-X was carried out at Pakenham Isuzu Ute. The service for the MU-X was carried out at Pakenham Isuzu Ute.

Marc firstly explained what the initial 12-month service included under Isuzu’s excellent six years/150,000km warranty, with six years complimentary roadside assist and capped-price servicing for the first seven scheduled services.

This first service ($350 capped price) included not only the usual engine oil and filter change but front and rear differential oil changes too. Additional costs would come from replacing the damaged A pillar grab handle mentioned in my January report, plus a wheel alignment and balance requested by IUA which the dealership’s workshop performs in-house.

I dropped the MU-X off at 8am on a busy Tuesday morning. Scheduled services can be performed while you wait of course, which is a great option for retirees I guess. However, given that I had work commitments until mid-afternoon, I took advantage of the dealership’s loan car offer which allowed me to climb aboard a nice new demonstrator for a few hours, in this case an X Rider D-MAX ute.

Marc Scott phoned just after midday to advise that the MU-X was ready for collection and I returned  the D-MAX just after 3pm. Again, Marc provided a detailed explanation of work that was carried out, including replacement of the damaged grab handle and a full wheel alignment, which including the $350 capped-price service resulted in a total bill of $500.05.

While the MU-X was in for a service, I was given a D-Max X Rider as a loan car. While the MU-X was in for a service, I was given a D-Max X Rider as a loan car.

An interesting addition to the customer paperwork, which was a first for me, was a printed report based on data logged by the vehicle’s ‘black box’ that assesses driving behaviour, to assist owners in maximising efficiency and minimising fuel consumption.

The judging criteria is presented under four headings comprising vehicle speed, engine speed, idle time and acceleration. Each has a detailed performance graph, a written assessment with driving tips and a score from one to five stars with emojis to match.

Sad to say our MU-X test vehicle, after its first 8400km, only scored two stars (rating of Fair) or 47 out of 100. That’s a big F for fail as far as I’m concerned, but then I don’t know how it was driven for the first 3733km of its life before we got the keys. And we’ve done heavy towing, off-roading and lots of city driving since then, so I didn’t take it too personally.

Marc Scott told me that he knows of several owners that have scored a perfect 100 (yeah, I bet they were teachers’ pets at school too!) so it is achievable. In all seriousness though, it’s a unique and useful tool in monitoring and improving driver behaviour for the good of the vehicle and your wallet. And it’s included with each scheduled service.

After the service, I was treated with a complimentary bag of jellybeans from Isuzu. After the service, I was treated with a complimentary bag of jellybeans from Isuzu.

The MU-X was also returned washed and vacuumed plus tyres shined, cabin freshened and a complimentary bag of red and white jellybeans waiting in the console, with the bag displaying the dealership’s logo. The kids said the jellybeans were excellent too.

I did also notice that after mentioning in the morning that the catch on the centre-dash storage bin lid was sticky at times (also mentioned in last month’s report), Marc explained that it was a common ‘new owner’ complaint usually cured by simply pushing the button a certain way which he demonstrated.

However, he also admitted it was sometimes caused by the lid’s opening spring mechanism being too soft to properly release the catch. Sure enough, after collecting the vehicle, the lid clearly had a lot more spring in it and has opened perfectly ever since – and at no cost.

Overall the Isuzu service experience was friendly, courteous and without fault. If this is the way all Isuzu Ute Australia customers are treated – and I have no anecdotal evidence to suggest otherwise - then it's another clue that helps to explain why the MU-X (and its D-MAX ute sibling) has built such a solid and loyal customer base.

Acquired: December 2019

Distance travelled this month: 1606km

Odometer: 8411km

Average fuel consumption (at pump): 11.3L/100km   

Average fuel consumption over three months (at pump): 10.9L/100km


The Wrap

So, it’s time to return the MU-X LS-T and the fact that I do that with some reluctance shows how  this vehicle has become a popular member of the family over the past three months.

Sure, it doesn’t have some of the bells and whistles of other premium grade ute-derived SUVs like AEB, Apple CarPlay etc. And some design upgrades we identified, like larger drink bottle holders/storage bins in the doors and a reach-adjustable steering wheel, would make such a good vehicle even better.

However, all that really matters in the end are sales numbers and customer loyalty. Clearly, the MU-X continues to shine in both of those areas - and now we know why.

Likes

Fuel economy
Solid build quality
Practical GCM rating

Dislikes

No AEB
Small door bin storage
No steering wheel reach adjustment

Scores

Mark:

4.5

The Kids:

4.5

$57,400

Based on new car retail price

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