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Isuzu MU-X


Hyundai Santa Fe

Summary

Isuzu MU-X

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.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency8.1L/100km
Seating7 seats

Hyundai Santa Fe

Good timing. Why? Well if you had bought a Santa Fe halfway through 2020, you’d now be driving around in the old one. 

See, Hyundai has just updated the Santa Fe and it’s not a small revision, it’s a pretty significant overhaul which has added a new look, new features, new and refreshed engines and new safety tech. I’m here to tell you all about it.

And I should know, because not only did I go to the Australian launch of updated Santa Fe, where I drove it on beautiful country roads but I also lived with it in Sydney on awful traffic-choked roads.

I drove it in the rain, battled for spaces in multi-level car parks, did the preschool run, the swimming lessons dash, ferried home small trees and cow manure in it (don’t tell Hyundai) and then turned it from a Santa Fe into Santa's sleigh when we did the Christmas presents shopping in it.

Anyway, there’s a lot to tell you. Ready? Let’s go.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.2L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency6.1L/100km
Seating7 seats

Verdict

Isuzu MU-X7.3/10

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.


Hyundai Santa Fe8.1/10

The previous Santa Fe was outstanding among its rivals and this new one in most ways is even better. Yes, I didn’t find the new Santa Fe quite as engaging to drive as the outgoing one, but it’s comfortable and easy to pilot, plus the new features, tech and safety equipment, along with increased practicality make the new version better overall than the old one.

The sweet spot in the range is the Active grade which comes with a proximity key, dual-zone climate control, leather seats, the high mounted centre console and privacy glass without the price tag of the Elite or Highlander.

Design

Isuzu MU-X7/10

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.


Hyundai Santa Fe8/10

This updated model looks so different from the front that we were stopped in a car park by another family in a Santa Fe who asked if this was the new-generation car. 

The answer is no, but it’s a really big update which has added a new rectangular grille, inset LED headlights, T-Shaped LED running lights and new tail-lights which are now joined by a horizontal reflective strip.   

This generation Santa Fe has always been a good looking mid-sized SUV and the new face lands a punch filled with attitude. 

It’s interesting that this grille is a departure from the Y-shaped frame used across the brand’s range during the past decade and if I didn’t know better it could be a glimpse of the changing face of Hyundai.

The Santa Fe isn’t huge, but you should check to see if it’s going to fit in your garage. A glance at the dimensions reveals it’s grown in length by 15mm and now measures 4785mm end-to-end. With roof rails the Santa Fe stands 1710mm tall and it’s 1900 mm across.

From the outside all Santa Fes look pretty much the same, but inside there are two quite different cockpits. Look at the images of the entry-grade Santa Fe’s dashboard, now look at the Highlander’s. Yep the entry grade Santa Fe doesn’t get the ‘floating’ high-mounted centre console which is on all the other grades above. 

That’s a shame, as the new centre console not only looks great but puts the buttons for climate and media within easier reach. The shifting buttons on the raised centre console also look beautiful – the entry-grade misses out on this, too.

Still, the cabin, even on the entry-grade car, is a premium feeling place with the layered effect to the design of the dash we first saw in 2018 when this generation Santa Fe was introduced. The range-topping Highlander goes ‘next level’ with Nappa leather seats and the virtual instrument cluster.

The Highlander is the grade I spent the most time in and while the cabin looks posh, the interior feels tough. Our car had the 'Camel' Nappa leather, but the Highlander also can be had with black Nappa leather at no extra cost. The standard black suede headliner is also a nice touch on this grade.

The entry-grade Santa Fe has black and grey cloth upholstery (see the images), the Active gets black leather, while the Elite comes in a choice of black or 'Cognac' leather.

There are eight exterior paint colours. The two standard ones are: 'Glacier White' and 'White Cream.' The premium colours are: 'Typhoon Silver', 'Magnetic Force', 'Phantom Black', 'Taiga Brown', 'Rain Forest' and 'Lagoon Blue.' 

Practicality

Isuzu MU-X7/10

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.


Hyundai Santa Fe8/10

I think the Santa Fe can pull off a better balancing act than its mid-sized SUV rivals of being practical while still being stylish.    

There are seven seats as standard and yes that third row isn’t big enough for me, but I’m 191cm (6'3") tall and I can sit behind my driving position in the second row with even more room now in this updated version. Headroom in the second row is also excellent – even with the sunroof.

My six-year old son had no issues climbing in and out of the second row, and those wide opening rear doors offered plenty of space for me to get in and fasten him into his car seat.

The front passenger seat has a power adjustment on the side of the bolster for rear passengers to move it back and forth. Parents beware: kids will be drawn to this and small fingers might get squashed if they play with it.

Boot space with the third row in place remains the same at 130 litres, but with those back seats folded there's 24 litres more space now with a luggage capacity of 571 litres.

The handsfree tailgate opens just by standing next to it with the key in your pockets which sounds brilliantly convenient but there were times when it opened when I didn’t want it to and was just walking past.

Cabin storage is good with cupholders on either side of the third row, two in the second row and another two up front.

There’s a large centre console storage box and medium sized door pockets. And under the floating centre console (on the Active grades up) is an area large enough to stow a small backpack

The upright design of the wireless phone charger with its little trapdoor is ingenious. All Santa Fes come with the wireless charger, plus two USB ports for the second row and two more up front.

There’s dual-zone climate control, and that means no temperature setting for the second row, although there are directional air vents in all three rows.

Price and features

Isuzu MU-X7/10

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.


Hyundai Santa Fe9/10

The entry-grade Santa Fe is now simply called the Santa Fe and the petrol version costs $44,700. Then, there’s the Active for $48,300, with the Elite next up at $54,300, and at the top of the range is the Highlander for $61,700. These are the prices for the petrol variants, and diesel versions are $3500 more for each. 

Santa Fes with a petrol engine are front-wheel drive and the diesel-powered versions are all-wheel drive.

New features on the entry-grade Santa Fe include: super bright LED headlights (the previous entry-grade non-LED headlights were really dim), there’s the 8.0-inch screen (an inch bigger than before); and there’s a wireless charger now. 

The rest of the standard features list includes cloth seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, air con, leather steering wheel, drive modes, rear parking sensors, roof rails, a rear-view camera and 17-inch alloys.

There’s also new safety tech which I’ll cover in the section below.

Stepping up to the Active adds 18-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, a proximity key, front parking sensors, rear privacy glass, dual-zone climate control, puddle lamps, electronic child locks, rain-sensing wipers and power folding mirrors. 

The Active also gets new stuff in the form of paddle shifters, plus a raised centre console with gear shifting buttons (and a terrain mode control). 

The Elite sits above the Active and scores new equipment such as 20-inch alloy wheels, a 10.25-inch media display, and a Harman Kardon stereo. This is on top of its previous standard features such as sat nav, digital radio, power driver’s seat, power tailgate, luggage net and rear door blinds.

The top-of-the-range Highlander gets the most new stuff. There are 20-inch alloy wheels (19-inch on the old car). Also new is the Nappa leather interior, the 10.25-inch media screen, a Harman Kardon stereo, and a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster and remote smart parking assist. 

That’s on top of other standard equipment such as the panoramic sunroof, head-up display, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel and heated rear outboard seats, plus LED tail-lights.

All Santa Fes come with seven seats, too. 

Is it good value? The prices have gone up a smidge, but the value is outstanding.

Rivals include the Mazda CX-8, Nissan X-Trail, Skoda Kodiaq and the Kia Sorento.

Engine & trans

Isuzu MU-X7/10

The Euro 5 3.0-litre four-cylinder common rail diesel engine, producing 130kw at 3600rpm and 430Nm at 2000-2200rpm, and six-speed Aisin-sourced automatic transmission carry-over from MY17.


Hyundai Santa Fe8/10

You can choose between a diesel or a petrol engine to power your Santa Fe, and a hybrid powertrain is coming soon.

The petrol is a refreshed version of the previous 3.5-litre V6 making 200kW/331Nm, while the 2.2-litre diesel is new and produces 148kW/440Nm.

Also new is the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission found in the diesel variant. It’s a wet-clutch type of DCT and it’s smooth and quick.

The V6 has a regular eight-speed automatic.

The hybrid power train arriving in 2021 looks to be promising and it'll be all-wheel drive.

Fuel consumption

Isuzu MU-X7/10

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.


Hyundai Santa Fe8/10

Hyundai says that after a combination of open and urban roads the V6 petrol should use 10.5L/100km. That’s pretty thirsty.

The diesel engine goes through less, even though it’s powering all four wheels. Hyundai says the mileage after the same sort of combination of roads should be 6.1L/100km. 

I covered 174 km in my fuel test of the diesel Highlander and the trip computer said I used an average of 8.1L/100km.

A hybrid variant makes so much sense on an SUV which is likely to spend a lot of time in urban and suburban settings and we're expecting it to be highly fuel efficient. 

Driving

Isuzu MU-X7/10

We only did very brief drive loops on the launch, including towing a 1900kg caravan with a MU-X on a bitumen road, designed to replicate real-world driving conditions, and a decent off-road course.

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.

It has double wishbones and coil springs up front, and coil springs at the rear.


Hyundai Santa Fe8/10

This generation Santa Fe came out in 2018 and since then I’ve covered thousands of kilometres in all grades in every engine variant. I’ve also driven and tested its competitors and it has stood out from them in terms of how good it is to drive. 

Not many of its competitors were able to offer the combination of connection, comfort and easiness which the Santa Fe offered.

For this updated Santa Fe only the diesel variants were available to drive at the Australian launch and I tested the top-of-the-range Highlander and the entry-grade Santa Fe. 

To me this new Santa Fe rides more comfortably than that previous model, but offers less of that connected feel that made the outgoing car feel planted and sporty. This may be down to a different suspension set-up. 

Hyundai told us that for this new Santa Fe, rather than have an Australian-specific suspension set-up (as with the previous car), this new one has a global, one-size-fits-all tune. Hyundai still had an input, but the tune isn’t exclusively for Australia.

Yup, the last Santa Fe was so good that this new one has big shoes to fill, and to me it can’t quite match its predecessor’s all-rounder driving qualities.

Still, the new Hyundai Santa Fe is better to drive than almost all of its competitors, with good engines and transmissions, great visibility, and ease of control which makes it a breeze to pilot anywhere from dirt roads and motorways to car parks.

Safety

Isuzu MU-X8/10

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.


Hyundai Santa Fe8/10

For a car that’s not a new-generation model there’s been a lot of changes and this goes for the safety tech as well.

Previously, all Santa Fes came with AEB, effective from 10-65km/h  for pedestrian and cyclists, and up to 75km/h for cars. Now there’s a 'Junction Turning' function from the entry-grade up. 

This means that when you’re turning right at an intersection with your indicator on the Santa Fe will brake to avoid a collision with an oncoming car, cyclist or crossing pedestrian.  Also new from the entry-grade up is lane following assist.

The Highlander is also given new safety equipment in the form of a blind spot view monitor, and parking collision avoidance

All Santa Fes have adaptive cruise control, and rear cross traffic alert with braking and lane keeping assist.

For child seats there are two ISOFIX points and three top tether mounts across the second row.

A weakness in an otherwise outstanding array of safety equipment is the curtain airbags which don’t completely cover those third-row windows. The Kia Sorento also has this gap in its defences.

Here’s some good news. In a world of space saver spare tyres becoming the disappointing norm, it makes this reviewer’s day knowing Hyundai has made a full-sized spare wheel standard across the Santa Fe range. The spare is located under the car.

The Santa Fe has a maximum five-star ANCAP rating, but this was awarded back in 2018 and these days the standard to get full marks is higher.

Ownership

Isuzu MU-X8/10

It has a five-year/130,000km warranty, with five years of roadside assist and five-year/75,000km capped price service costs.

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.


Hyundai Santa Fe8/10

The Hyundai Santa Fe is covered a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty

Servicing is recommended every 12 months/15,000km and the pricing for the V6 petrol is capped at $399 for each service for five years while the diesel is $459 for the same time.