Isuzu MU-X VS Audi Q2
- Reversing camera as standard
- Suspension upgrade
- Off-road capability
- No AEB
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
- Still noisy when driven hard
- Good value
- SQ2 has great performance
- Angular looks
- Cabin feels old
- Could have more standard safety tech
- Rear legroom limited
While MY17 MU-X signalled a massive change for the better in Isuzu Ute Australia’s (IUA) SUV line-up, this year is more of a subdued affair.
Last year heralded the arrival of a new 3.0-litre engine, new six-speed automatic transmission, and upgraded Aussie-specific suspension, as well as styling tweaks; MY18 MU-Xs get extended service intervals and a new exterior colour.
It’s a clear case of IUA applying a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach to its popular ute-based SUV.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
Audi’s littlest and most affordable SUV, the Q2, has been updated with new looks and tech, but something else has snuck in with it. Or should I say roared in? It’s the SQ2, with a whopping 300 horsepower and a snarling bark.
So, this review has something for everybody. It’s for those who want to know what’s new for the Q2 in this latest update - those thinking of buying a cool-looking little SUV from Audi - and for those who want to wake their neighbours up and frighten their friends.
Ready? Let’s go.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The MU-X is a solid SUV wagon and it only continues to gain more appeal and, with it, a growing legion of fans. You certainly see a lot of them around – in the bush, in the suburbs and on city streets.
It’s not flash or posh but it’s a very practical daily driver or weekend tourer and performs very well in the real world. The top choice for me remains the LS-T.
Is the MU-X your kind of SUV? Tell us in the comments below.
The Q2 is good value and great to drive – especially the SQ2. The exterior looks new, but the cabin feels older than the larger Q3, and most other Audi models.
More standard advanced safety tech would make the Q2 even more appealing, as would a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. While we’re at it, a hybrid variant would make enormous sense.
So, a great car, but Audi could offer more to make it an even better proposition for buyers.
This launch marked no noteworthy styling changes in the MU-X, inside or out. It remains a blocky but good-looking unit, blending a bush-ready appearance with styling that doesn’t look out of place in an urban setting.
Build quality and fit and finish seem as sturdy as we’ve come to expect from IUA’s mainstream offerings.
This updated Q2 looks almost identical to the previous one and really the only changes are subtle styling tweaks to the front and back of the car.
The front air vents (they aren’t real air vents on the Q2, but they are on the SQ2) are now larger and pointier and the top of the grille is lower. Around the back, the bumper now has a similar design to the front, with those pointy polygons set wide apart.
It’s an angular little SUV, full of sharp-edged shapes like some kind of acoustical wall in an auditorium.
The SQ2 just looks more aggro, with its metallic-trimmed air vents and beefy quad exhaust.
The new colour is called Apple Green and it’s not really like any colour on the road – well not since 1951, anyway when this hue was hugely popular on everything from cars to telephones. It’s also very close to Disney’s “Go Away” green – look it up and then ask yourself if you should be driving a car that’s kind of invisible to the human eye.
I digress. Other colours in the range include Brilliant Black, Turbo Blue, Glacier White, Floret Silver, Tango Red, Manhattan Grey and Navarra Blue.
Inside, the cabins are the same as before, apart from the larger, sleeker media display, and there are some new trim materials, too. The 35 TFSI has silver inlays with a diamond paint finish, while the 40TFSI has aluminium door sills.
The Q2 has beautiful quilted Nappa leather upholstery, which goes beyond just covering the seats and to the centre console, doors and armrests.
All options offer well laid out and premium feeling cabins, but the disappointing part is that it's an older Audi design, which started out in the third-generation A3, launched in 2013, and still exists on the Q2, even though most Audi models, including the Q3, have the new interior design. This would bug me if I was thinking about buying a Q2.
Have you thought about a Q3? It’s not that much more in price, and it’s a tad bigger, obviously.
The Q2 is tiny, at 4208mm end to end, 1794mm wide and 1537mm tall. The SQ2 is longer at 4216mm long, 1802mm wide and 1524mm tall.
The MU-X’s cabin, unchanged, should remain an easy place in which to travel. It’s roomy enough for everyone.
The second row is a 60/40 split-fold with a fold-away centre armrest. The third row is a tight fit for adults but that’s nothing unusual in most seven-seaters.
There is 235 litres of boot space when the third row is up, expanding to 878 litres when the 50/50 split-fold third row is folded flat. When the second and third rows are down, there is 1830 litres of space.
The MU-X has 12 cupholders, 18 'storage solutions' (door compartments with bottle bulge, coat hooks, rear cargo organiser box, etc), USB ports (front and rear) and three 12V power outlets (centre dash, glove box and rear cargo area).
The MU-X has a braked towing capacity of 3000kg, 750kg unbraked.
The Q2 is basically a current model Audi A3, but more practical. I’ve lived with the A3 Sedan and Sportback and while rear legroom is just as confined in those as it is in the Q2 (I’m 191cm and need to squish my knees behind my driving position) getting in and out is easier in the SUV, with its elevated ride height and taller door apertures.
The easier access helps enormously when helping kids into their child seats. In an A3 I need to kneel on the footpath to be at the right level to put my son into the car, but not with the Q2.
The boot space of the Q2 is 405 litres (VDA) for the front-wheel-drive 35 TFSI and for the SQ2 it’s 355 litres. That not bad, and the large hatch makes for a big opening, which is more practical than a sedan’s boot.
Inside, the cabin isn’t enormous, but rear headroom is good, thanks to the fairly high roof.
Cabin storage isn’t terrific, although the front door pockets are big and there are two cupholders up front.
Only the SQ2 has USB ports in the back for rear passengers, but all Q2s have two USB ports up front for charging and media – plus all have wireless charging for phones.
Price and features
There are seven variants in the MY18 MU-X range: the 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), and 4x4 LS-T auto ($56,200). All are seven-seater SUVs.
The base-spec LS-M’s standard features include 7.0-inch touchscreen with USB and Bluetooth streaming, reversing camera and rear park assist sensors, LED daytime running lights, gun metallic front grille, bi-LED projector headlights, colour-coded door handles and side mirrors, hill descent control, air-conditioning, power windows, and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The LS-U gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen, chrome front grille, door handles and side mirrors, as well as side steps, rear cabin cooling vents, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The LS-T also gets leather-accented seats, passive entry and start system, six-way adjustable electric driver’s seat, roof rails, tailgate spoiler, chrome muffler tip and 10-inch DVD screen for rear passengers.
The MY18 MU-X is available in seven colours: 'Cosmic Black Mica', 'Obsidian Grey Mica', 'Havana Brown Mica', 'Silky White Pearl', 'Splash White', 'Titanium Silver' and the new 'Magnetic Red Mica' option.
The Q2 entry grade is the 35 TFSI and it lists for $42,900, while the 40 TFSI quattro S line is $49,900. The SQ2 is the king of the range and lists at $64,400.
The SQ2 has never been to Australia before, and we’ll get to its standard features in a moment.
Aussies have been able to buy a 35 TFSI or 40 TFSI since the Q2 arrived in 2017, but now both have been updated with new styling and features. The good news is the prices have only gone up by a few hundred bucks, compared to the old Q2.
Standard on the 35 TFSI are LED headlights and taillights, LED DRLs, leather seats and steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, eight-speaker stereo with digital radio, front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera.
That was all standard on the previous 35 TFSI, but here’s what’s new: an 8.3-inch media screen (the old one was seven inches); a proximity key with push button start (great news); wireless phone charging (brilliant), heated exterior mirrors (more helpful than you’d think), ambient interior lighting (aww… pretty); and 18-inch alloys (heck yes).
The 40 TFSI quattro S line adds sports front seats, drive-mode selection, a power tailgate, and paddle shifters. The previous one had all that, too, but this new one has the sporty S line exterior body kit (the previous car was just called Sport not S line).
Now, the 45 TFSI quattro S line may appear not to get much more than the 35 TFSI, but the extra money is getting you more grunt and an awesome all-wheel-drive system – the 35 TFSI is front-wheel-drive only. If you love driving and can’t afford the SQ2, then $7K extra for the 45 TFSI is absolutely worth it.
If you have saved all your pennies and the SQ2 is what you’re zeroing in on, then here’s what you get: Metallic/pearl effect paint, 19-inch alloys, matrix LED headlights with dynamic indicators, the S body kit with quad exhaust, sports suspension, Nappa leather upholstery, heated front seats, 10-colour ambient lighting, stainless-steel pedals, auto parking, a fully digital instrument cluster, and a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo.
Of course, you get an incredible high-output four-cylinder engine, too, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Engine & trans
There are three grades and each has a different engine.
The 35 TFSI has a new 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine making 110kW and 250Nm; the 40 TFSI has a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four making 140kW and 320 Nm; and the SQ2 has a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol as well, but it puts out a very impressive 221kW and 400Nm.
I drove all three cars and, from an engine perspective, it’s like turning the ‘Smile Dial’ up from Mona Lisa in the 35 TFSI, to Jim Carrey in the SQ2, with Chrissy Teigen in between.
We spent very little time in any new models and we’d have to drive a MY18 MU-X for a week or more to get a good handle on real-world fuel consumption but Isuzu claims the MU-X gets through 7.9L/100km (combined) in 4x4 LS-U and LS-T guises, 8.0L/100km (combined) in 4x2 LS-M, and 8.1L/100km (combined) in 4x2 LS-U and LS-T and 4x4 LS-M.
Every MY18 MU-X has a 65-litre fuel tank.
Audi engines are superbly modern and efficient – even its monster V10 can shut down cylinders to save fuel, and so can the new 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine in the 35 TFSI. Audi says that over a combination of urban and open roads, the 35 TFSI should use 5.2L/100km.
The 40 TFSI is thirstier at 7L/100km, but the SQ2 demands a bit more at 7.7L/100km. Still, not bad.
What’s not good is the lack of a hybrid, PHEV or EV variant of the Q2. I mean the car is small and ideal for the city, and therefore a perfect candidate for an electric version. Not having a hybrid or EV is why the Q2 model range doesn’t score well for its overall fuel economy.
Running 20 psi (pounds per square inch) in our Bridgestone Dueler or Toyo Open Country tyres, the Isuzus handled everything on the 4WD loop with ease, including runs up and down steep greasy-muddy hills peppered with rocks and tree-root hazards, tight turns in between trees, plowing through mud puddles and more.
No surprise at its efficacy on rough terrain because the D-Max and MU-X work off the proven '4X4 Terrain Command' system, operated via a dial near the auto shifter, and which can be switched on the move from 2High to 4High at speeds of up to 100km/h.
To engage 4L you need to be stationary.
The MU-X is 4825mm long, 1860mm wide (excluding wing mirrors), 1860mm high (the 4x2 LS-M is 1825mm high) and has a 3095mm wheelbase and 1570mm track. It has a 11.6m turning circle. Kerb weight is listed as from 1992kg (4x2 LS-M) to 2157kg (4x4 LS-T).
All MU-Xs except 4x2 and 4x4 LS-M models (220mm), have 230mm ground clearance. All MU-Xs except 4x2 and 4x4 LS-M models have 24 degrees approach angle (LS-M: 23.3), 25.1 degrees departure angle (LS-M: 24.6), and 19.5 degrees ramp-over angle (LS-M: 18.7).
The MU-X retains the benefits of the previous generation’s hill start assist (designed to hold gear during climbs) and hill descent control (which maintains engine-braking speed on downhills and is able to be regulated with acceleration or braking).
Underbody protection includes under-front steel plate skid/splash shield on every MU-X; and steel plate guards on the sump, transfer case and fuel tank leading edge on all 4x4 models.
When it comes to the driving part, Audi can almost do no wrong – everything the company makes, whether it’s low powered or rip-your-face-off fast, has all the ingredients for engaging driving.
The Q2 range is no different. The entry-grade 35 TFSI has the least grunt and, with its front wheels pulling the car along, it’s the only one in the family that’s not blessed with all-wheel drive, but unless you’re doing laps at a track you’re not going to be wanting more power.
I drove the 35 TFSI for more than 100km on the launch, through the country and into the city, and in all situations, from overtaking on highways to merging and slow traffic, the most affordable Q2 performed well. That 1.5-litre engine is responsive enough and the dual-clutch transmission changes swiftly and smoothly.
Superb steering and good visibility (although that rear three-quarter view is slightly obstructed by the back pillar) makes the 35 TFSI easy to drive.
The 45 TFSI is a good mid-point between the 35 TFSI and the SQ2 and comes with a very noticeable bump in oomph, while the extra traction from the all-wheel drive is a reassuring addition.
The SQ2 isn’t the hardcore beast you might think it is – this thing would be super easy to live with daily. Yes, it has firm sports suspension, but it’s not overly hard, and that engine, which nudges almost 300 horsepower, doesn’t feel like a Rottweiler on the end of a leash. If anything, it’s a Blue Heeler that loves to run and run, but is happy to take it easy and get fat.
The SQ2 is my pick of the bunch, and not just because it’s quick, agile, and has an intimidating growl. It’s also comfortable and luxurious, with sumptuous leather seats.
The MU-X has a maximum five-star ANCAP rating from April 2017.
Standard safety gear includes six airbags (dual front, side and full-length curtain), ABS with electronic brake-force distribution, ESC, traction control and EBA (emergency brake assist), 'Hill Start Assist' and 'Hill Descent Control', plus three top-tether ISOFIX child-seat points in the rear seat.
The Q2 was given the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2016, but by 2021 standards it is light on advanced safety tech.
Yes, AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection is standard on all Q2s and the SQ2, and so is blind-spot warning, but there’s no rear cross traffic alert or reverse AEB, while lane-keeping assistance is only standard on the SQ2, along with adaptive cruise control.
For a car that will most likely be purchased by younger people, it doesn’t seem right that they’re not being protected as well they would be in more expensive Audi models.
For child seats, there are two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchor mounts.
A space-saver spare is under the boot floor.
Servicing is recommended at 12-month/15,000km intervals. Prices are: $350 (at 12 months/15,000km), $450 (at 24 months/30,000km), $500 (at 36 months/45,000km) $450 (at 48 months/60,000km) and $340 at 60 months/75,000km – for a total cost of $2090.
The pressure for Audi to move to a five-year warranty must be hugely intense, with Mercedes-Benz offering one, along with pretty much every other mainstream brand. But for now, Audi will only cover the Q2 for three years/unlimited kilometres.
As for servicing, Audi offers a five-year plan for the Q2 costing $2280 and covering every 12-month/15000km service over that time. For the SQ2, the cost is only a fraction higher at $2540.