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Isuzu MU-X


Range Rover Evoque

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

Range Rover Evoque

The original Range Rover Evoque was a victory. It was the right car, in the right place, at the right time.

It was a small SUV dropped in an unprepared premium segment, it went on to become a design icon and subsequently Land Rover’s fastest-selling SUV.

As the years rolled on though, competitors caught up, and Land Rover launched its stunning Velar in the segment above. The unthinkable had happened. The Evoque looked dated.

At long last, Land Rover has launched the second-generation version. Can it replicate even a fraction of the success of the first? We drove it at its Australian launch to find out if it has what it takes.

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.


Range Rover Evoque7.8/10

The second-generation Range Rover Evoque is a lot of things. It’s stunning to look at, better to drive, more practical, and more luxurious than ever before.

While it’s also hugely expensive and has lost some of the charm that came with its once-small visage, it achieves something far more important for the Evoque name, and that’s keeping it relevant in an increasingly congested luxury space.

Do you think the second-generation Evoque has reclaimed its ‘design icon’ throne? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Also check out Andrew Chesterton's thoughts from the Evoque's international launch.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

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.


Range Rover Evoque9/10

Put simply – the Evoque has returned to put competitors back where they belong. It is truly stunning for an SUV. To my eyes, at least, it has dethroned the Volvo XC40 as the most attractive small SUV on the market.

Sure, it’s more Victoria Beckham than Bear Grylls, but the Range Rover brand has crept beyond upmarket from its hose-out interior roots – and the Evoque owns it.

Land Rover has managed to morph the seamless, slick lines of the Velar onto the Evoque's petite and chunky frame. Design touches like LED headlights (now standard), contrast bodypanels and flush doorhandles add to this car’s stunning visage as you get closer.

Still, it’s undeniably an Evoque and has held onto design pillars like the ‘high beltline’ that rides from the headlamps to the tail-lights and descending roofline.

Inside, the Evoque has also continued to push upmarket with leather-trimmed surfaces from the base S up. It still has the signature chunky door inserts with recessed handles and window/mirror controls and has lovely seats no matter the grade with a premium-feel raised centre console stack.

It’s also in the centre where the Evoque has gained the elegant ‘Touch Pro Duo’ set-up from its larger sibling the Velar, totally de-cluttering the space.

Smart design touches are abound with well-textured and hidden storage areas throughout.

It all looks incredible, but there are a few downsides worth noting. The Evoque now has the huge steering wheel from the rest of the Range Rover range, making the helm feel more cumbersome than it was in its predecessor, and the abundance of gloss surfaces results in a potentially glare-heavy and difficult to keep clean cabin.

Don’t like the cars in the pictures? No problems, Land Rover offers no less than 17 different interior trim packages with five different textured highlights and numerous headlinings and wheel trims for pretty much any taste.

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.


Range Rover Evoque8/10

The Evoque is on a heavily updated platform with its very bones having been altered to future-proof it for hybrid drivetrains.

This has resulted in a 20mm increase to its wheelbase, which is reflected directly into its now-gigantic cabin.

Aside from the invasively large steering wheel, the driver is greeted with an airy and spacious cabin with plenty of room for elbows across the thick centre console and chiseled out door cards.

Almost every surface greets you with a soft material, although the window line is quite high, making resting your arm there impractical.

There are storage spaces everywhere. Bottle holders in the doors, cupholders in the centre console, a massive top-box with a split opening and power sources within, a decently-sized glove box and a huge trench hidden underneath the second-screen.

The designers have had the foresight to put lovely textures on the base of storage surfaces to prevent items like phones, wallets and even pens from finding their way onto the floor.

Rear passengers are greeted with no shortage of legroom, dual rear air-vents, pockets on the back of the front seats and trenches in the doors.

Seat trim and comfort are easily as good as the front seats, and despite the declining roofline, headroom is plentiful for someone my size (I’m 182cm tall).

An odd annoyance I noted was the lack of handles above the doors. Almost every car has these. Not sure why this one doesn’t.

Don’t be deceived by the Evoque’s squashed rear window. I found on my test drive its surprisingly easy to see out of it, and then, there’s the boot.

The boot is truly gigantic, the Evoque’s new platform has made it 20cm wider than it was before, but it’s the volume that’s staggering. At 591 litres with the rear seats up it easily pulls punches with SUVs a size up.

There’s also an elastic belt and netted area for securing small objects. There are a few small catches to this voluminous space, and that’s that the rear seats don’t fold fully flat, making for a smaller total space and there’s only a space-saver spare wheel on offer under the boot floor.

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.


Range Rover Evoque8/10

Now this is a tough one, because to its credit, Land Rover has made many of the essential items standard. That having been said, as I’m writing this I’m looking at an options list that’s 15 pages long.

There’s also the fact that once you consider the three trim levels, six(!) engines and two body options you’re left with a monumental 26 possible permutations of this car – and that’s before you start delving into those options.

To break it down, the Evoque has three familiar grades. The S, SE and HSE. From there you pick an engine.

The entry-level S, starting at $62,670 (before on-road costs) can only be had with the base four engines (P200, P250 petrol, D150, D180 diesel) and comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, a 10-inch multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support as well as built-in sat nav, leather interior with 10-way electrically adjustable front seats, manually adjustable climate control, a six-speaker stereo, auto-dimming rear view mirror, a reversing camera as well as front and rear parking sensors.

Stepping up to the mid-spec SE from $68,610 gives you the choice of all six (P200, P250, P300 petrol, D150, D180, D240 diesel) engines.

It has all the equipment of the S but with the addition of the ‘Touch Pro Duo’ second multi-function touchscreen controlling all the vehicle functions, ‘premium’ LED headlights with auto-high beam control, 20-inch alloy wheels, 14-way electrically adjustable front seats and a digital dashboard.

The top-spec HSE costs from $90,230, and can be had with only the top two engines (the P300 petrol and D240 diesel). It includes everything from the SE, as well as a more sophisticated “active driveline” all-wheel drive system, capable of sending all of the engine’s torque to any one wheel, powered tailgate, differently-styled 20-inch alloy wheels, upgraded 'Windsor extended leather'  interior trim, 'Atlas bezel' steering wheel (a metal liner), the ‘ClearSight’ interior rear view mirror, 10-speaker premium audio system, and keyless entry.

From there you pick whether you want the sporty R-Dynamic body-kit at a cost of $1680 on any grade and then start ticking boxes on the expansive options list.

Items notably excluded from the standard features list on any grade like an electronically adjustable steering column and DAB+ digital radio are present, but are pricey options. As are bespoke interior trims and 16-way electronically adjustable heated and cooled premium leather seats.

Almost any feature can be had on any grade as an option. If you really want you can have a base S with premium leather seats and huge wheels. There’s something to be said for how customisable the range is, but with so many options it makes ordering a car overwhelming.

The now-expected active safety items are now standard from the S up, but an option any grade should have ticked is the ‘Driver Assist Pack’ (costing between $2840 on the S to $490 on the HSE) which includes the rest of the suite at a reasonable cost.

For a limited time, Land Rover is offering a ‘First Edition’ with either of the mid-spec engines, the D180 and P250 at $91,550 and $91,300 respectively.

They have the lion’s share of options boxes ticked for you and essentially include items like the R-Dynamic and black contrast packs for free. Although at the top-end of the price scale, when you consider the inclusions, they aren’t bad value.

It has to be said that although the Evoque range can be specified to any buyer’s imagination, Land Rover has managed to make an already expensive small SUV even more expensive, placing it in another price league altogether when tallied up against the Audi Q2 (from $41,950), BMW X2 (from $46,900) and Mercedes-Benz GLA (from $44,700).

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.


Range Rover Evoque7/10

As previously mentioned, the Evoque has almost too many engine options. There are three petrols and three diesels, ranging from so-so to perhaps overpowered in the case of the P300.

All the engine options are 2.0-litre turbocharged units in different states of tune, and all are mated to a nine-speed torque converter transmission, with all-wheel drive.

Starting with the diesel the entry-level engine offered on most grades is the D150 which offers 110kW/380Nm, you can then step up to the mid-spec D180 which ups those figures to 132kW/430Nm and then to the top-spec D240 which offers 177kW/500Nm.

On the petrol side, things kick off with the P200 at 147kW/320Nm, then there’s the P250 with 183kW/365Nm and, finally, the top-spec P300 which has a rather silly 221kW/400Nm.

The top two engine options also offer a mild hybrid 48V electrical system which is capable of cutting the engine under 17km/h and feeding power back into auxiliary systems, although it is not capable of running the car under its own power. The brand says the system allows for a six per cent reduction in fuel consumption.

To make things more complicated, a three-cylinder mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants are expected to join the line-up some time in 2020.

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.


Range Rover Evoque8/10

The Evoque has reasonable official claimed/combined consumption figures across all its engine options. Diesel engines are more impressive consuming 5.1L/100km for the base D150, 6.8L/100km for the D180 and 6.3L/100km for the D240.

Petrols are not quite as good, with stated figures of 8.1L/100km for the P200 and P250 and 8.2L/100km for the P300.

Every new-generation Evoque has a 65-litre fuel 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.


Range Rover Evoque8/10

This Evoque is better to drive in almost every way compared to its predecessor. It’s smoother, more confident in corners, more composed on rough terrain, and some combination of the new engines and re-calibration of the nine-speed auto has made most of the turbo-lag issues reported on its predecessor a thing of the past.

Unlike many SUVs, the Evoque doesn’t suffer from the feeling of impending understeer, and it’s surprisingly capable when trudging along unsealed roads and even off-road tracks.

Although there’s no mechanical control of a low-range gearbox, Land Rover’s computer-controlled Terrain Response 2 system might surprise you as to how capable it really is, especially on the top two engine variants with their enhanced torque vectoring abilities.

Diesel engines in particular are surprisingly quiet, and while it could be argued that the P300 petrol engine is overpowered for something this size, it was genuinely difficult to get the wheels to lose traction on tarmac.

One criticism I would level at this new Evoque is that in its quest to become the most practical small luxury machine on four wheels, it’s lost something along the way. It’s so big and heavy now it feels as though you’re just driving a cropped down Velar.

That’s all very luxurious, but I’ll miss the nimble, agile feeling that was a large part of what made the first Evoque so endearing.

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. 


Range Rover Evoque8/10

Standard active safety from the base S up includes essential items like auto emergency braking (AEB), lane keep assist (LKAS), and traffic sign recognition.

Higher specs will grant you more, including blind-spot monitoring (BSM), rear cross traffic alert (RCTA), high-speed AEB with active cruise control and auto-parking.

Thankfully there’s the ‘Driver Assist Pack’ which bundles all the active safety items into one reasonably-priced place. It costs between $2840 on the S to just $490 on the HSE and is easily the best value item on the options list.

The Evoque scored a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating in time for its launch, which applies to all variants.

There are six airbags and the rear seats benefit from ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on the outboard seats and top-tethers across all three 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.


Range Rover Evoque6/10

Land Rover offers a three-year 100,000km warranty which is frustratingly short, though if you believe what BMW has to say on the matter, this won’t bother premium buyers.

Still, with Volkswagen now offering a five-year warranty, the pressure will hopefully mount on premium automakers to start offering a little more in this space.

Land Rover does offer 24 hour roadside assist for the length of the warranty.

The new Evoque has condition-dependent servicing, meaning the car’s on-board computer will notify you when it’s time to have it serviced. This will happen at least once every 12 months.

This car’s predecessor allowed you to add service packs of up to five years at the time of purchase, as well as an optional extended warranty. We’ll seek clarification and pricing on these and update this story when we have confirmation on both.