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Isuzu MU-X


Land Rover Discovery Sport

Summary

Isuzu MU-X

Plenty of fanfare accompanied the arrival of the new D-Max ute from Isuzu, with the new HiLux-botherer more powerful, safer and more technologically advanced than its predecessor.

And where a new D-Max goes, its ute-based SUV sibling, the MU-X, must follow. And sure enough, the new rugged but family friendly SUV has now arrived in Australia, too, presenting a serious off-road and towing option for our market, and one that promises to be more comfortable and more tech-savvy than the model it replaces. 

This new MU-X returns to the market with a sharper set of clothes, a prettier face, more grunt under the restyled snout and a whole swag of new features to tempt buyers out of an Everest, Fortuner or Pajero Sport.

Not that it’s had trouble doing that thus far, with Isuzu’s MU-X claiming the title of the number-one selling 'ute-based SUV' for the past seven years. This one, though, doesn’t have the same bargain-basement price tag that it had on debut just under a decade ago.

Putting seven bums on seats, towing toys and getting well off the beaten track is all within its scope, so the Japanese brand’s wagon is seen as a jack of all trades. But - like some tradies - was once a little rough around the edges in terms of refinement and road manners.

The new-look model goes a long way to answer some of those criticisms and looks to offer improved levels of comfort.

We’re getting to grips with the flagship LS-T, but first, let’s look at the new range in its entirety.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency7.8L/100km
Seating7 seats

Land Rover Discovery Sport

Land Rover’s Discovery Sport occupies a close to unique position in Australia’s premium, mid-size SUV market.

At less than 4.6m long it sits at the more compact end of the segment, but offers seating for seven. Okay, Land Rover labels the layout ‘5+2’, a refreshingly up-front concession that the third row is a kids-only zone. But it’s there.

Then the Disco Sport adds all-wheel drive with multi-mode ‘Terrain Response 2’ off-road capability. Go anywhere Land Rover cred, combined with seven-seat flexibility, and a price tag sitting just over $60K, before on-road costs.

There are several mainstream equivalents, and even some more modestly priced Euro alternatives. So, is this Land Rover, which received a substantial mid-life upgrade in 2019, a demonstrably superior package? We lived with one for a week to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.1L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Isuzu MU-X7.8/10

So many SUVs are bought by – if you’ll pardon the blunt term – breeders who want to look like explorers, with the closest they get to an off-road situation being the school oval when setting up for the fair.

The MU-X isn’t one of those SUVs … its swagger says beach boat launch not boutique car park, with genuine off-road ability and towing prowess. It just happens to cope with suburban duties without being grumpy about, look decent and be able to carry half your offspring’s soccer team when needed.

Isuzu have done plenty to keep the MU-X at the top of its segment. Pricing is no longer the advantage it once was but it’s still packing the attributes on several fronts for a fair fight.


Land Rover Discovery Sport7.6/10

Flexible, dynamically capable, and nicely put together, the Land Rover Discovery Sport S P200 packs a lot into a small/medium SUV package. It gives some ground to its premium competitors on equipment, but has a seven-seat ace up its sleeve, with genuine off-highway ability to boot.

Design

Isuzu MU-X7/10

There’s plenty of family resemblance between the D-MAX utility and its wagon sibling – that’s a good thing as the new look has been well-received.

Sculpted flanks and more shoulders shape have replaced the somewhat slab-sided look of its predecessor, with the wheel arch flares now a little more integrated into the sides of the new MU-X.

The awkward window treatment on the rear corner of the outgoing MU-X has been replaced by a slimmer C-pillar and a more conventional window shape, which suggests a better view for those seated in the third row.

The strong shoulder line and a squarer stance gives the MU-X plenty of presence on the road, with eye-catching styling at the front and the rear, the latter probably more in need of attention than the snout in the case of the previous MU-X.


Land Rover Discovery Sport8/10

Launched globally in 2014, and arriving here a year later, the Discovery Sport was given a comprehensive makeover in mid-2019, with an evolution of its exterior design, a refreshed interior, improved tech, and optimised packaging.

But at first glance you won’t notice a huge difference. The car’s overall proportions are unchanged, the signature clamshell bonnet remains in place, as does the familiar, broad, body-coloured C-pillar, and a strong, horizontal character line running the length of the car (just under the windows).

Although it looks like the roofline tapers to the rear, it’s more a case of the base of the windows (car designers call it the beltline) rising towards the back of the car. 

Styling tweaks include a new headlight shape (they’re now LED), as well as a revised lower grille and front air vents, bringing the baby Disco more in line with its larger, and newer, Land Rover siblings.

Changes at the rear are even more subtle, with a rearranged tail-light design the only discernible difference.  

Interior highlights include two large digital displays - a 12.3-inch instrument cluster, and a 10.25-inch ‘Touch Pro’ multimedia screen - as well as a new centre console design.

The previous rotary gear select dial has been replaced by a more conventional shifter, buttons and controls have been made softer and set in ‘hidden-until-lit’ gloss black panels, and the door grab handles have been relocated and reshaped to be… grabbier.

A reprofiled steering wheel with sleek black control panels attached is also new, but as with the exterior, big-ticket items like the flowing dashtop, main dash panels, and key storage areas are unchanged. 

Overall, the interior feel is clean, comfortable, and precisely composed. The Land Rover design team is on its game.

Practicality

Isuzu MU-X7/10

Second only to the Ford Everest in overall length, the MU-X sits at 4850mm long - a 25mm increase - with 10mm of that added to the wheelbase that’s now 2855mm long, 5mm longer than the Ford.

The new MU-X is 1870mm wide and 1825mm tall (1815mm for the LS-M), up 10mm, although the wheel track remains unchanged at 1570mm.

The ground clearance has improved by 10mm to 235mm for all bar the 230mm listed for the LS-M base-model. 

What has reduced - by 35mm - is overall height to sit below the Everest, Pajero Sport and Fortuner rooflines, with a 10mm reduction in front overhang and a 25mm addition to the rear overhang.

Cargo and cabin space have benefitted from the dimensional improvements. The former in particular has risen – with all seats occupied the maker claims 311 litres of luggage space (up from 286 in the outgoing vehicle), rising to 1119 litres (measured to SAE standard) in five-seater mode, an improvement of 68 litres.

If there’s a sojourn to a Swedish furniture warehouse on the cards, with the second and third rows folded the new MU-X boasts 2138 litres, which is a slight reduction on the outgoing model’s 2162 litres.

The cargo space is, however, more user-friendly in the way the seating can folded to provide a flat loadspace.

The boot is accessed by a higher-opening tailgate and there’s underfloor storage as well, which can be utilised when all three rows are occupied.

Flexibility is king in these SUVs and the new MU-X can offer myriad interior seating and cargo options.

The width within feels sufficient in the front two seats, the occupants of which have access to plenty of storage in the console or dashboard, with two gloveboxes.

Neither are massive but there’s a decent amount of useful space, marred only by an odd boxed section in the upper glovebox that looks to have been made for something not offered in this market.

The centre console under the driver’s left elbow has a useful amount of space, but it’s more likely you’ll use the console storage ahead of the gear selector.

It’s ideal for phones and is just screaming out for a wireless charging pad in addition to the USB and 12-volt outlets already there.

That said, the latter was strangely devoid of current – we couldn’t get a number of different plugs to work in the front or rear 12-volt outlet.

The door pockets front and rear can carry a 1.5-litre bottle, part of a cohort of a dozen beverage holder options.

Front occupants get two cupholders in the centre console and one under each outboard vent, which function well great for keeping drinks warm or cool - there’s a similar set-up in the Toyota duo too.

The middle row has the only ISOFIX mounts - on the outboard seats - and tethers for all three positions, as well as cupholders in the armrest and two USB charge points; there are vents and fan controls in the roof (but no roof speakers any more).

The backrests of the front seats are equipped with map pockets, as well as a shopping bag hook on the passenger’s side. 

Sadly there’s no sign of a three-pin domestic power plug for 230-240 volt devices that pops up on its opposition.

The seat base doesn’t slide for the second row to tailor its legroom but the backrest does recline a little.

At 191cm I can sit behind my own driving position, with some margin for head and legroom; time in the third row would need to be limited to short trips unless you’re in the single-digit age bracket.

Two cupholders sit outboard of the third row, along with some oddment storage.

There’s no USB outlets but the 12-volt outlet in the cargo area would work in a pinch if it could be convinced to supply power.

The powered rear tailgate emitted a triple-beep and refused to open, a function we later found out was instigated by the presence of a trailer plug in the socket.

Just as the rear parking sensors now recognise the presence of a trailer when in reverse, the tailgate function was designed to prevent it hitting anything on the tow ball. Let’s hope the same level of attention to feedback is focussed on the active safety system functionality and switches.


Land Rover Discovery Sport8/10

As mentioned, the Disco Sport isn’t huge on the outside (4.6m long), but interior packaging is impressive. A dash which slopes markedly back towards the base of the front screen helps open up the front passenger space, with 12-way electric front seats (with two-way manual headrests) adding extra flexibility 

There’s plenty of storage on offer, including two cupholders sitting side-by-side in the centre console, and a drop-in cover for them is supplied if you’d prefer a shallow, dished tray. There’s also a lidded storage box (which doubles as an armrest) between the front seats, a generous glove box, an overhead sunglasses holder and door pockets with enough room for bottles.

The second-row seat is amazingly roomy. Sitting behind the driver’s seat, set for my 183cm height, I had ample leg and headroom, and at getting on for 2.1m from side to side, the Discovery Sport punches above its weight division in terms of width.

Which means you can realistically seat three adults across the middle row, for short to medium length trips, at least. Adjustable air vents for back-seaters are a welcome inclusion, as are a pair of cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest, map pockets on the front seatbacks, and decent door bins.

If you’re willing to launch a UN-style diplomatic mission to negotiate relative space for those in the second- and third-row seats, the manual slide and recline function for the centre row will act as a handy mediator.

As mentioned earlier, Land Rover makes no bones about the fact that the third row is best for kids, but having that occasional seating capacity can be a godsend in helping the car accommodate extra family friends or relatives. There are cup/bottle holders and small elasticised storage pockets for each ‘way-back’ seater.

Getting in and out is relatively painless because the back doors open to almost 90 degrees, and the centre row seats fold forward easily. 

Worth noting the third-row seat is standard, and removing it is a no-cost option, the trade-off being the move to a full-size spare wheel and tyre rather than the otherwise standard space-saver.

Boot capacity comes in three sizes, depending on which seats are raised or lowered. With all seats upright, load space is a modest 157 litres, enough for a few grocery bags or some soft luggage.

Drop the 50/50 split-folding third row, via a user-friendly release mechanism, and 754 litres opens up. Our three-piece hard suitcase set (36, 95 and 124 litres) slipped in with room to spare, as did the jumbo size CarsGuide pram.

Fold away the third row as well as the 40/20/40 split second row, and no less than 1651 litres will have you thinking about starting a furniture moving side hustle.

There are sturdy tie-down anchor points at each corner of the load floor, and a handy netted pocket behind the driver’s side wheel tub.

In terms of media connectivity and power options, there’s a 12-volt outlet in the front and centre rows, and a USB port up front.

‘Our’ car was fitted with the ‘Power pack 2’ option ($160), which adds USB sockets for the second and third rows, as well as a wireless charging bay up-front ($120). 

Towing capacity for a braked trailer is 2200kg (with 100kg towball download), 750kg unbraked, and ‘Trailer Stability Assist’ is standard. The stability assist system detects trailer sway movements at speeds above 80km/h, and manages them through symmetric and asymmetric braking of the car.

Price and features

Isuzu MU-X7/10

Entry to the new MU-X range, which is offered with rear and 4WD models on all three tiers, starts with the MU-X LS-M, priced from $47,900 for the 4X2 and $53,900 for the 4X4 – price increases of $4000 and $2700 respectively.

While it’s not a hose-out mud-plugger, the LS-M is still the rough’n’ready version of the range, with black sidesteps, cloth trim, manual front seat adjustment (including height for the driver), plastic steering wheel and carpet flooring, but it still gets the long-awaited rear diff lock and electric park brake.

A 7.0-inch multimedia screen offers access to digital radio, as well as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, delivering the results through four speakers.

There’s manual air conditioning with roof-mounted rear vents and a separate fan control to keep the rear rows well-ventilated.

Unlike some entry-level models, the base model here isn’t deprived on the lighting front, with the automatic bi-LED headlights (auto-levelling and with automatic high-beam control), as well as LED daytime running and rear lights, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.

The middle child of the MU-X family is the LS-U, and it offers a little more comfort to the occupants and some nicer exterior touches, too, helping justify the price jump to $53,900 ($7600 over the outgoing vehicle) for the 4x2, and $59,900 for the 4x4 model, rising $6300 over the superseded model.

Body-coloured exterior mirrors and door handles replace the black plastic trim of the base model, with roof rails, rear ‘privacy’ glass and LED foglight added to the list. The front grille also changes to silver and chrome, the alloy wheels grow to 18 inches and are now wrapped in highway-biased rubber.

Also growing - by two inches - is the centre infotainment display, which adds integrated satellite navigation and voice recognition to its repertoire, as well as doubling the number of speakers to eight.

Dual-zone climate-control, LED-lit front vanity mirrors for both front occupants, front parking sensors and a remote powered rear tailgate are among the other extras added, while the exterior sidesteps are now silver.

The interior is accessed by keyless ‘smart’ entry (with auto-locking once the driver wanders more than three metres away) and while the cloth trim is retained, it’s a higher grade and the cabin is littered with piano black, silver and chrome highlights.

For the driver there’s now a leather-wrapped wheel and gear-shifter, as well as a powered lumbar-support adjustment.

The flagship of the new MU-X range remains the LS-T. Chief among the changes that will betray its top-spec nature are the attractive two-toned machined alloy wheels and the leather-trimmed interior.

The top-spec model sneaks in at $59,900 for the 4x2 (up a substantial $9,800), and rises to $65,900 for the 4WD model, which is a $8500 jump over the old model.

That buys a two-inch jump in wheel size to 20 inches, and “quilted” leather trim for the seats, interior door trims and the centre console, as well as two-stage seat heating for the two front seats.

The LS-T’s driver’s seat boasts eight-way power-adjustment, with LED ambient interior lighting, embedded ambient lighting in the gear selector, tyre pressure monitoring and an auto-dimming centre mirror among the extras for the driver.

Buyers of the flagship will also benefit from the remote engine-start function, ideal for cooling a long-parked car on Australian summer days.

In terms of its competitive set, the MU-X increased price tag hasn’t pushed it beyond the parameters set by its competition, but it does erode the Isuzu’s value advantage.

Ford’s Ranger-based Everest starts at $50,090 for the RWD 3.2 Ambiente and tops out at $73,190 for the Titanium 2.0 4WD model.

Toyota’s Fortuner offers only a 4WD model for its Hilux-based wagon, which starts at $49,080 for the entry-level GX, rising to $54,340 for the GXL and finishing with the Crusade at $61,410.

Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport starts from $47,490 for the GLX five-seater, but for a seven-seater it’s the GLS - priced from $52,240 - that’s required; the Triton-based wagon range tops out at $57,690 for the Exceed seven-seater.


Land Rover Discovery Sport7/10

At $60,500, before on-road costs, this entry-level Discovery Sport S P200 is at the lower end of the price ballpark occupied by a slew of small-medium premium SUVs, including the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace, Lexus NX, Merc GLC and Volvo XC60.

But not all of them are all-wheel drive, and precisely none of them offer seating for seven.

Dip into the mainstream and a bunch of similarly sized seven-seaters pop up; think Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-8, and Mitsubishi Outlander

Then there are those living between these two worlds, like the Peugeot 5008, Skoda Kodiaq, and VW Tiguan Allspace.

So, this Disco Sport’s value equation is critical in allowing it to stand up to its five-seat luxury rivals, stand apart from its seven-seat mainstream competitors, and get ahead of everything in between.

To that end, aside from active and passive safety tech (covered in the Safety section), this entry-level model’s standard equipment list includes, rear fog lights, auto LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, 18-inch alloy wheels, electrically-adjustable front seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, ambient interior lighting, and ‘Luxtec’ faux leather and suedecloth seat trim..

Then you can add, dual-zone climate control, six-speaker audio (with eight-channel amp), Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth connectivity, sat nav, the ‘Online Pack’ (browser, WiFi, and smart settings), 10.0-inch media touchscreen, central TFT instrument display, adaptive cruise control (with speed limiter), as well as keyless entry and start. 

Overall, a solid but not eyebrow raising suite of standard features for a car that’s crested the $60K barrier.  

Engine & trans

Isuzu MU-X8/10

The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine is a staple of the Isuzu range, and this new powerplant is very much an exercise in evolution over revolution. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

So the new MU-X is powered by the 4JJ3-TCX – a 3.0-litre, common-rail, direct-injection four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that is a descendant of the outgoing MU-X powerplant, albeit with additional exhaust emissions gear to reduce output of nitrogen oxide and hydrogen sulphide.

But Isuzu claims the extra focus on emissions hasn’t harmed the outputs, which have grown by 10kW to 140kW at 3600rpm and there’s a 20Nm increase in torque to 450Nm between 1600rpm and 2600rpm.

The new engine has a variable geometry turbocharger (although now with electric control) force-feeding the engine to good effect, with new block, head, crankshaft and aluminium pistons and a higher-mounted intercooler.

As was the case with previous incarnations of the wagon and its utility sibling, the relaxed midrange torque of this under-stressed engine is what appeals to many drivers indulging in towing and off-roading.

Isuzu claims the midrange torque output has improved, with 400Nm on offer from 1400rpm through to 3250rpm and 300Nm is produced from just 1000rpm, assertions that have a ring of truth in them after some time behind the wheel.

Isuzu has avoided a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system that requires AdBlue, instead choosing a lean nitrogen oxide (NOx) trap (LNT) that minimises nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions to Euro 5b standards. 

There’s also a new high-pressure direct injection fuel system featuring a 20 per cent more efficient fuel pump, sending the diesel through new high-efficiency injectors into the newly-engineered combustion chamber.

A maintenance-free steel timing chain is claiming to be quieter and more durable by way of a double scissor idle gear set that Isuzu says improves durability and reduces engine rattle and vibration.

That does come through in the drive, with lower levels of engine noise in the cabin, but there’s no doubting the engine type under the bonnet.

A six-speed automatic and part-time 4WD system is also carried over from the workhorse sibling, a transmission that’s had work done to improve shift quality and speed, something that’s apparent from time behind the wheel.

The addition of a rear differential lock will also please off-roaders, but a rear-drive or full-time option for the 4WD system for sealed surfaces is still exclusive to the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.

The auto has retained its smarts when it comes to down-changing for engine braking on long descents, something that can be done by manual change as well - it won’t over-rule and up-change against the driver’s wishes in manual mode either.


Land Rover Discovery Sport8/10

The Land Rover Discovery Sport S P200 is powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine producing 147kW at 5500rpm and 320Nm from 1250-4500rpm.

It’s part of Jaguar Land Rover’s family of modular ‘Ingenium’ diesel and petrol engines, built around multiples of the same 500cc cylinder design. 

The all-alloy unit features variable intake and exhaust cam timing, variable (intake) valve lift and a single, twin-scroll turbo.

Drive goes to all four wheels via a nine-speed (ZF-sourced) automatic transmission, and front and rear diffs, with torque on demand to the rear axle.

Fuel consumption

Isuzu MU-X8/10

Any fuel economy claim in single digits is going to be pleasing to the pump-watchers, and the MU-X is one for the fuel-misers, despite its thirst going up just under half-a-litre per 100km over its predecessor.

Combined cycle fuel economy claims range stand at 7.8 litres per 100km for the rear-wheel drive MU-X models, rising slightly to 8.3 litres per 100km for the 4x4 side of the range.

Mind you, this is over a 20-minute test cycle in an emissions laboratory in two uneven timeframes, weighted toward the urban cycle which has a 19km/h average speed and plenty of time at idle while the shorter highway cycle records a 63km/h average speed and a peak of 120km/h, which we would of course never do here.

After we had covered almost 300km the MU-X LS-T was - according to its trip computer - averaging 10.7 litres per 100km, at a 37km/h average speed, which betrays the largely metropolitan duties performed to that point, with no towing or off-roading.

That would, in theory, bring the touring range down to somewhere around 800km from the newly expanded 80-litre fuel tank, a 15-litre increase in tank capacity, although there’s no reason to doubt the long-legged touring number of 7.2 litres per 100km (the laboratory highway figure).

The fuel economy rose to 11.7 litres per 100km after a 200km round trip with horse float and four-legged occupant, having hovered in the region of 10 litres per 100km (at a 38km/h average speed) for the day-to-day duties prior.


Land Rover Discovery Sport7/10

Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 8.1L/100km, the S P200 emitting 188g/km of CO2 in the process.

Over close to 400km of city, suburban and quite a bit of freeway running, we recorded 10.1L/100km, which is a passable result.

Minimum fuel requirement is 95 RON premium unleaded and you’ll need 65 litres of it to brim the tank.

Driving

Isuzu MU-X8/10

What is immediately apparent - even when first started and driving in cold conditions - is the lower noise levels in the cabin.

Certainly occupants are still aware there’s a four-cylinder diesel toiling away under the snout, but it’s far more distant than in the previous car, something that can also be said for exterior noise in general.

The leather-trimmed seating is comfortable from all reports across three rows, although the third row space is snug for those heading into their teens, but the view is improved over the outgoing car.

Ride comfort from the new front and rear suspension set-ups has improved, without too much body roll or sagging under towing loads; the steering feels better-weighted and less remote than in the car it replaces, with an improved turning circle.

The front end has an all-new double wishbone design with stiffer spring rates and a redesigned anti-roll bar, while the rear has a five-link coil sprung set-up with a wider rear anti-roll bar to handle an increased payload when towing, whilst still remaining comfortable when unladen, says Isuzu.

A sojourn with horse float behind showed some dipping under load - as you’d expect - but ride wasn’t severely impacted and the engine’s meaty mid-range rose to the task.

A load-distribution hitch might well be worth selecting from the accessories catalogue if hefty towing loads are likely to be a regular chore.

The automatic transmission has kept its intuitive shifting smarts, down-changing on descents when the driver’s inputs suggest it’s required.

I also made use of the manual change mode, where the auto doesn’t overrule the driver, but it’s far from requisite behaviour when towing except perhaps to prevent over-eager up changes to 6th gear.

Dropping the nag and float from the tow bar and there was a brief flirtation with the 4WD selector and the rear diff lock, with low range demonstrating a quicker operation.

Useful wheel travel from the revamped rear end showed good traction going over the large suspension-test hump, where improved off-road angles meant no graunching and the road rubber had no dramas dealing with long wet grass as a result.

A short stint of beach driving - on road tyres in high range - demonstrated the prowess of the Isuzu seven-seater in soft sand but it needed the electronics switched off to prevent undue interference.

Low range not needed until the very soft sand was encountered and the new rear diff lock never looked like being required, so clearly we need to find more serious terrain. 

The area where the MU-X needs more development is in some of the functional operations for the driver - it seems odd, for example, that the radio stations list can’t be accessed when on the move but all the settings menu (at least on the centre display) can be modified.

The wheel controls are also in need of some work, with the “mute” and “mode” functions on the same button, yet there’s a blank to its left that could be used?

On the right-hand spoke the menu function for accessing the active safety functions - some of which are abrupt and require disabling prior to towing - is overly involved and can only be accessed when stationary.

It can take up to 60 seconds (when you know what you need to find) to snooze or disable these functions and it needs to be done every time you start the vehicle. Isuzu have received feedback on this issue and maintain they are looking into it.


Land Rover Discovery Sport8/10

Land Rover claims 2.0-litre turbo-petrol versions of the Discovery Sport will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 9.2sec. Anything under 10 seconds is reasonably swift, and the S P200 makes good use of all of its nine gear ratios to keep things on the boil.

Maximum torque of 320Nm isn’t huge pulling power, especially when we’re talking about shifting a close to 2.0-tonne (1947kg) seven-seater. But the twin-scroll turbo’s contribution means every one of those torques (actually newton-metres) is available from just 1250rpm, all the way to 4500rpm. So, mid-range performance is energetic enough. 

If you really want to press on, peak power (147kW) arrives at a lofty 5500rpm, just 500rpm away from the engine’s nominal rev ceiling. At which point, having remained a relatively low-key whirr in the background, the engine makes its aural presence felt.

The Cleary family (of five) took to the highway and some rural back roads for a weekend away during the test period, and open road performance was stress-free, with more than enough oomph for easy cruising and (well-planned) overtaking.

Seamlessly shuffling drive between the front and rear axles, the Terrain Response 2 system coped admirably with graded, but slightly rutted dirt roads, the car feeling secure and composed at all times.

Suspension is strut front, multi-link rear, and ride quality is good, especially in the context of an off-highway capable SUV. And the seats proved supportive and comfy over long stints.

Standard 18-inch alloy rims are shod with 235/60 Michelin Latitude Tour HP rubber, an on-road focused tyre which proved grippy and surprisingly quiet.

Electrically-assisted steering delivers impressive feel and accuracy, while the brakes, by ventilated disc all around (349mm fr/325mm rr), are progessive and strong.

And although we didn’t push into hardcore off-road conditions, those keen on doing so will want to know the car’s wading depth is 600mm, obstacle clearance is 212mm, approach angle is 25 degrees, ramp angle is 20.6 degrees, and the departure angle is 30.2 degrees. Enjoy the rough stuff.

Safety

Isuzu MU-X9/10

A major step forward for Isuzu’s family wagon has been in the safety features list, which is now comprehensively packed with active and passive safety equipment.

While we had the LS-T on test the ANCAP crash-testing brigade completed their assessment of the new Isuzu wagon and delivered a five-star ANCAP result under the most recent testing regime, not entirely unexpected given the D-MAX on which it is based scored a similarly-high ranking.

The body is 10 per cent stiffer and stronger, thanks to the use of ultra-high strength steel in the bulkhead, sills and body pillars; compared with the previous MU-X, Isuzu claims the new body uses twice the amount of high- and ultra-high tensile steel in the construction. 

The brand says it has also engineered an extra 157 spot welds have been added across key areas of the body during the manufacturing process to improve strength and rigidity.

Inside the cabin there are eight airbags that cover all three rows, with the front occupants getting the most protection - the driver and front passenger get dual front, driver’s knee, dual side and curtain airbags, the latter stretching back to the third row.

There’s also a front-centre airbag - far from common in any vehicle segment - which protects front-seat occupants from head collisions in a crash.

But the features designed to prevent an impact in the first place is where the MU-X has made much ground, with its 3D-camera-based Intelligent Driver Assistance System (IDAS) to detect and measure obstacles - vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists - to reduce the severity or event prevent an incident. 

The MU-X range has automatic emergency braking with turn assist and forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control with stop-go function, 

There’s also ‘Misacceleration Mitigation’, a mouthful which equates to a system that prevents the driver from unintentionally driving into the obstacle in front during slow speed situations of up to 10km/h, as well as rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring and driver attention monitoring are all part of the safety arsenal.

The multi-faceted lane keeping assist system is operational above 60km/h and will either alert the driver when the vehicle is venturing out of the lane or actively steer the MU-X back towards the centre of the lane.

The only fly in the safety ointment is the driver needs 60 to 90 seconds before getting underway to snooze or turn off some of the active safety systems, which are in some instances far from subtle and an annoyance to the driver.

Most brands manage to have less involved processes - involving in most cases a single albeit long push of one button to distract, disable or decrease the lane departure and blindspot correction and warnings.

Perhaps all the blank buttons left over on either side of the gear selector could be utilised for these systems, rather than being buried in the centre display menu via the helm-mounted controls?

Isuzu have had some feedback on this and says other options are being considered.

The new MU-X has also been endowed with better braking performance with bigger front ventilated discs, which now measure 320mm in diameter and 30mm thick, up 20mm in diameter; the rear discs measure an unchanged 318x18mm.

Also new is the electronic park brake with automatic hold function, something that has not yet appeared in its utility sibling.

Key among the tasks likely to be completed by vehicles in this segment is towing - heavy cumbersome things like boats, caravans or horse floats.

It’s an area where the new MU-X is going to make ground, boasting a 500kg increase in braked towing capacity to 3500kg, within a gross combined mass of 5900kg.

Here’s where the shell-game of weights on trailers and in vehicles comes into play.

With a gross vehicle mass of 2800kg - a kerb weight of 2175kg and a 625kg payload - a full load on the tow ball of 3.5 tonnes would leave just 225kg of payload within the MU-X.

The Isuzu matches Ford’s Everest for GCM, of 5900kg, with the Pajero Sport listed at 5565kg and Toyota’s Fortuner GCM coming in at 5550kg; the Ford and Toyota both claim braked towing capacity of 3100kg and the Mitsubishi sits at an even 3000kg.

But the 2477kg Ford with its 3100kg maximum braked load on the tow bar has 323kg of payload remaining, whereas the lighter Toyota with the same braked towing claim has 295kg of payload to spare.

Mitsubishi’s three-tonne braked towing capacity and its 2110kg kerb weight leaves 455kg of payload within the 5565kg gross combined mass. 


Land Rover Discovery Sport8/10

The Land Rover Discovery Sport scored a maximum five ANCAP stars when it was assessed in 2015.

Active safety tech includes the usual suspects like ABS, EBD, EBA, traction control, stability control, and roll stability control, with higher level systems including, AEB (low- and high-speed front), lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition and adaptive speed limiter, adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, and driver condition monitoring. 

Off-road and towing tech includes ‘Hill Descent Control’, ‘Brake Hold’, ‘All Terrain Progress Control’, and ‘Trailer Stability Assist.’

An impressive suit, but… you’ll have to pay extra for, a 360-degree surround camera, park assist, blind-spot assist, rear cross traffic alert, and tyre pressure monitoring.

If a crash is unavoidable, you’ll be protected by seven airbags (front head, front side, side curtain covering all rows, and driver’s knee).

The Discovery Sport is also equipped with an airbag under the bonnet to minimise pedestrian injuries. Big tick for that..

There are three top tether points to secure child seats/baby capsules across the centre row seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions. 

Ownership

Isuzu MU-X8/10

Isuzu has backed the new MU-X to a greater extent than most of its opposition, starting with a six-year/150,000km factory warranty.

The MU-X has “up to” seven years roadside assistance when serviced through Isuzu dealer network under the seven-years capped price servicing program, which the brand says is around 12 per cent cheaper than that of the superseded model. 

Maintenance is required every 15,000km or 12 months, which puts it at the top end of the spectrum for intervals (Toyota still sits at six months or 10,000km while Mitsubishi and Ford match the MU-X interval), with capped price servicing between $389 and $749 for a seven-year total of $3373.


Land Rover Discovery Sport7/10

Land Rover offers a three year/100,000km warranty in Australia, with 24-hour roadside assistance included for the duration.

That’s well off the mainstream pace, which sits at five years/unlimited km, but on the upside, three years paint surface cover, and a six year anti-corrosion warranty are part of the deal.

Service requirement is variable, with a range of on-board sensors feeding into a service interval indicator in the vehicle, although you can use 12 months/20,000km as a guide.

A fixed ‘Land Rover Service Plan’ set at five years/102,000km is available for $1950, which isn’t too shabby at all.