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Isuzu MU-X


Skoda Kodiaq

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

Skoda Kodiaq

Talk about a quiet achiever. The Skoda Kodiaq range has helped the Czech brand’s Aussie arm climb to unseen levels when it comes to sales, and that’s probably why Skoda is now as familiar to you as Nissan or Volkswagen.

Since launch in 2017, the current-gen Kodiaq has seen more than 6500 customers choose it over one of its rivals - namely the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-8, Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan X-Trail, Toyota Kluger... there’s a long list of seven-seat SUVs out there to choose from.

So has this update - which sees a freshened up appearance, some revisions to pricing and specifications, a new ownership approach and the deletion of diesel power - added to its appeal? In this review, I’ll tell you what I reckon.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.2L/100km
Seating7 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.


Skoda Kodiaq7.9/10

All in all the changes to the 2022 Skoda Kodiaq range hardly change the game, and indeed, some further changes wouldn’t have gone astray - the inclusion of that safety gear range-wide at no cost being the chief one.

And while the RS is a well-rounded and impressive SUV, I found myself drawn more towards the mid-spec Sportline as the pick of the range. Though again, I’d have to insist upon the option box for the safety kit to be ticked.

As an alternative to its Japanese and Korean rivals, it offers a lot to think about - especially considering the brand’s commitment to care for its owners.

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.


Skoda Kodiaq8/10

The Kodiaq RS is definitely the looker of the range, with its more aggressive appearance and eye-catching wheels which I'm not a huge fan of. But they hide a secret - if you don't like that aero-look, you can remove the plastic covers for a more conventional sporty wheel design - you'll just need to get some new centre caps and wheel nut covers.

On the whole, though, if you ask me, the facelifted Kodiaq isn't quite as good looking as the last version, though. The headlights have been redesigned, as have the daytime running lights and the grille, and while they all look pretty tidy on the RS model, and the Sportline looks nice, too.

But I reckon the chrome finish on the base grade looks a bit senior. It's a bit like when I look at myself in the mirror these days - not quite as good looking as in days gone by.

Nothing's really changed in terms of the side profile apart from the wheels fitted. The base model you see in these images and in the video rides on 19-inch "Cursor" alloy wheels, but the standard rims are a multispoke rim that won't be to all tastes.

Something you might not be able to un-see are the door handles, which look like they're in the wrong spot on the doors. Right? But they are all proximity unlocking doors, which is great, and the clever door edge protector that flips out and stops you from chipping the paint or denting nearby cars have been carried over to the facelift model.

At the rear it's good to see that all models in this range now have LED lighting as well.

Inside you might not pick much in the way of differences in the lower grade versions, but there is a new steering wheel with different buttons and dials. In the RS models, the changes are a bit more noticeable, with perforated leather seat trim with cooling now featuring, while the old model had part-leather, part-Alcantara trim.

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.


Skoda Kodiaq8/10

There are plenty of neat Skoda touches in the cabin, from the dual glovebox setup to the lined, oversized door pockets, to the so-called "Mega Box" storage bin between the front seats.

But I have an issue with the cup holders in the front and second row. They're too small. And too shallow. I put a takeaway coffee cup in, and because the cup holder is also awkwardly positioned, I managed to spill my coffee. Twice. My keep cup didn't fit either, and nor did my water bottle. Mobile beverage aficionados, take note.

I also struggle to come to terms with the media system, which - with a 9.2-inch screen - looks great, but lacks buttons or knobs or dials to make interacting with it easy when you're driving. There are steering wheel controls, of course, but even newer versions of Skoda models (like the long-term Octavia I had) included a home-strip that made these jobs a bit easier.

Also, is it good enough that you're getting a 9.2-inch screen whether you choose the base model or the $22k-dearer RS? Some would expect a larger media screen, and rivals have 10.3-inch units.

At least this new one supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and there's a standard wireless charging mat, too. If you're like me and prefer to plug in to the media system using a USB cable, it'll have to be a USB-C one, as that's all that's on offer.

Also worth noting is that there are only two USB ports in the entire car, which makes the likes of the Kia Sorento (with up to EIGHT!) look very generous.

As for front-seat comfort, it's good. I didn't get a chance to sample the base model's real seats, as the 132TSI Style I drove had all the options boxes ticked, but the leather (if you choose it) is nice, and the RS's quilted leather makes a good impression, too.

In the second row there was enough space for me (182cm/6'0") to sit behind my own driving position, but only just. And that was with the sliding second-row all the way back. Any further forward, and it wasn't comfortable.

If you are likely to take smaller occupants with you, you'll be happy to learn there are three top-tether and two outboard ISOFIX mounts in the second row. I didn't get a chance to fit a child seat, but see Malcolm Flynn's long-term review of the pre-facelift base model, where he managed to fit three kids across the second row.

Another issue I have with the second-row sliding seat is that the 60:40 split layout sees the larger portion on the kerb/passenger side of the car. It doesn't make sense to me, because you'd surely want anyone who's clambering into the back row to be doing so from the kerb side, and to be doing it over the skinnier section which is easier to fold and slide.

I like the integrated sunblinds (even if they're not overly shady in direct light, so your kids might still need further shade), and again, there are big door pockets and map pockets on the seat backs, as well as directional air vents - but only a 12-volt outlet and no USB charging options.

I would say the third-row accommodation is okay for short distances, but nothing better. There are no air vents, there's no charging (apart from another 12-volt), and I struggled to fit in there - it certainly isn't as good as a Kluger for back-row room.

Further, there are no third-row child seat options, unlike rivals such as the Mazda CX-8 and CX-9, and the Kia Sorento.

So while the occupant space "in the boot" could be better, the cargo capacity is good. With all seven seats up, there's 270 litres (VDA) of boot space, while if you fold the back row down (five seats up) you've got 630L (VDA) to play with when the seats are slid back, and 765L if they're slid forward.

And the boot also has the clever bits you'd expect, like tie down points, netting, cargo box velcro attachments, and under the boot floor there's a space-saver spare wheel and even a picnic mat. Nice.

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.


Skoda Kodiaq7/10

It's confusing when it comes to pricing for the 2022 updated Skoda Kodiaq range. Back in August 2021, there was a pricing announcement, and then there were some effects of the semiconductor shortage that meant some items were unavailable. And now, the full-fat Kodiaq range is back on stream, but just take note - there are still de-specced cars on showroom forecourts, so check you're getting what you want when you go shopping.

Prices are up a bit compared to that original 2021 announcement, with the line-up consisting of the following models: the entry-level Style, which is $52,990 drive-away (the equivalent base model was previously $49,490 drive-away); the mid-spec Sportline, which is $57,990 drive-away (up $4000); and the top-spec flagship RS, at $74,990 drive-away (same as before, but now with less grunt - more on that in the engines section).

The Style grade is $3500 more than the previous base model, but it opens the range with a bunch of nice inclusions - 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and DRLs, roof rails, keyless entry and push-start, the ‘virtual cockpit' digital instrument cluster, a 9.2-inch multimedia display with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, privacy glass, ambient interior lighting, dual-zone climate control, a wireless phone charger and USB-C ports.

There is also proximity unlocking for all doors, an electric tailgate, tinted rear glass, integrated rear window shades, and those clever touches we've come to expect from Skoda, including an umbrella in the driver's door, a picnic mat under the boot floor, and cargo netting, too.

According to Skoda, customers who buy the Style model are likely to choose either (or both) of the available option packs.

First is the Tech Pack ($3000) that includes adaptive suspension, drive mode selector, an off-road mode, auto parking assist, 12-speaker sound system, gesture-kick tailgate and the Sleep Package (extended rear headrests).

Then there's the Luxury Pack ($6500) that adds Matrix LED headlights, electrically adjustable front seats with memory settings, Ergonomic seats, perforated leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel with paddle shifters, three-zone climate control, auto-folding door mirrors, and a few safety items that really should be standard at this price point: blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, active lane keeping assist and a surround view camera, among other things.

Choose the Sportline at $57,990 and your extra five grand buys you some stuff you'll be happy to have, including 20-inch wheels, Matrix LED headlights with adaptive beams and auto high-beam, Alcantara and leather seat trim, electric driver's seat adjustment with memory settings, a progressive steering setup (sportier steering), fog-lights with cornering function, and the Sportline exterior styling pack with additional colour-coding and black highlights, and a drive mode select system. The interior headlining is black, too, and it has Alcantara trim on the doors, and a different plastic trim finish as well.

Again, you can choose the Tech Pack ($3000) as above, or the Luxury Pack ($3700) which adjusts for a few standard items fitted to the Sportline grade, but again, none of that aforementioned safety stuff you should have standard.

In both the Style and Sportline trim levels, there's also the option of a panoramic glass roof ($1900) and the Sportline also has the choice of leather seat trim with ventilation ($1900).

Then there's the RS - no packs or optional extras available for it - as it gets the full flex of active safety equipment as well as unique aero-inspired 20-inch wheels, all the stuff you'd get if you optioned either of the other grades up with the packages, plus specific interior trim with quilted leather with red contrast stitching, carbon-look plastic, and that new petrol engine with more power and torque than the lower grades. More on that below.

Colours that are no cost include Energy Blue (Style only), Steel Grey (Sportline and RS only); then there's the metallic Moon White, Lava Blue (Style only), Race Blue (RS only), Graphite Grey, Brilliant Silver and Magic Black pearl - these ones cost you $770; and the $1100 Velvet Red premium paint, which is on Sportline or RS only.

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.


Skoda Kodiaq7/10

The Kodiaq carries over its 132TSI 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine from the previous model, and it is unchanged - that means it still has 132kW of power and 320Nm of torque, a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive.

Rivals like the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe both lack turbo-petrol power at all, and both of those (and plenty of others) are front-wheel drive as standard.

The bigger news though is the 2.0-litre, so-called 180TSI in the top-spec RS model. It's essentially the Golf GTI engine, so it has 180kW and with 370Nm of torque. Like the base grade, it's a 7-spd DSG, and AWD.

It may have 4kW more than the diesel engine that was offered in the pre-facelift RS, but it's down on torque by a staggering 130Nm - or 26 per cent.

However, Skoda reckons this new "free-revving" turbo-petrol is quicker from 0-100 (now 6.6 seconds, was 7.0sec), is lighter (by 60kg overall) and has less vibration, too. What about character, though? More in the driving section.

It should also be called out that none of these engines use mild-hybrid tech, nor are there any hybrid, plug-in hybrid or EV versions planned for this generation Kodiaq. At risk of being left behind, there.

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.


Skoda Kodiaq8/10

The official combined cycle fuel consumption for the 132TSI is 8.2 litres per 100 kilometres, which seems high for a sticker number. Often these ones are pretty hard to achieve in real-world driving, but in my few hundred kays with the 132TSI Style, I saw a return of just 8.0L/100km.

The 180TSI in the RS is said to be more efficient, using a claimed 7.5L/100km. I couldn't beat that figure, but I did drive it in a more spirited manner, and got 8.8L/100km.

It needs 95RON premium unleaded petrol across the range, and fuel tank size is 60 litres.

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.


Skoda Kodiaq9/10

Without doubt, if you want the driver's choice, it's the RS.

From the more potent petrol engine and its more enticing soundtrack (it has a sound actuator in the exhaust that makes it sound a bit more menacing than the lower grade versions), to the progressive steering and adaptive suspension, it's a fairly sweet drive.

The engine is indeed "free-revving", and in manual mode for the transmission, with Sport driving mode chosen, you can make this thing more like a high-riding hot-hatch if you want it to be.

I will say, though, that the old RS model was more entertaining in my opinion. Sure, it might not have been as smooth or as fast, but it had a really growly, staunch soundtrack, and it felt more involved for the driver. The new RS's refined nature can leave you feeling a bit detached.

However, the way it can transform into a more sedate, family-focused drive is impressive too, with the Comfort program chosen, the suspension and steering settle down, as does the powertrain, and it makes for a pretty plush drive.

I also drove the other grades, and honestly, you're not going to miss the 48kW/50Nm in most situations.

The 132TSI still offers a good amount of grunt and pulling power, and it's hardly a slouch with a claimed 0-100km/h time of 8.4 seconds (6.6sec for the RS). That's still plenty quick for a seven-seater SUV.

It isn't quite as smooth to drive as the RS, with a little bit more hesitation from the dual-clutch automatic in low-speed situations, and also the DSG in the Style model I drove made a lot of mechanical noises in the gearbox at low speed.

The Style model misses out on the good steering system - the Progressive Steering fitted to Sportline and RS models makes them more involving to drive, whereas the base car requires more armwork to turn the car, and also has a bit more play on centre, meaning it can be a bit difficult to position yourself in the lane.

The Style (19-inch) and Sportline (20-inch) models have Pirelli rubber, while the RS models have Continental tyres on their 20s, and there appeared to be a more surefooted feeling in the sporty top-spec car in the bends.

And while they all ride pretty well, I found that the Style on 19s was a bit more jolty at the rear on the roads I tested it on in Sydney. None were uncomfortable, though maybe I expected the base one on the smaller wheels to be a bit more comfortable.

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. 


Skoda Kodiaq7/10

It was five years ago that the pre-facelift Kodiaq got the maximum five-star ANCAP rating - the stamp was applied in 2017 - but a lot has changed since then. New rivals have launched, the goalposts have moved, and the expectations of what should come standard have changed as a result.

But unlike some rivals, Skoda still asks customers who choose to buy the lower-grade models to tick an option box for active lane keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and more, which is definitely at odds with market trends in 2022, and frankly a bit backwards, especially for a family car.

Keep in mind it still betters some rivals like the Kia Sorento and Toyota Kluger, as it has airbags that cover all three rows of passengers (there are dual front, driver's knee, front side, second-row side, and full-length curtain airbags).

Plus, it still has front auto emergency braking and rear AEB too, unlike some rivals. That's good, but we really wish Skoda had been a bit more democratic in its standard safety spec for those who aren't able, willing or don't want to buy the RS (or a base model with an expensive optional pack).

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.


Skoda Kodiaq9/10

It's rare to see a European brand with such a clear interest in taking care of its customers in the way Skoda Australia is.

The company has the industry standard five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty plan, which is a good start.

And it also has the choice of pay as you go servicing, or a prepaid pack that makes it cheaper for you to maintain your Kodiaq ($1800 for five years/75,000km for the non-RS models, $2000 for the RS). You can roll the cost into your purchase or finance payments, which makes it one less thing to think about, and your first two services are free, compared to pay as you go capped price servicing.

But then Skoda has also added a seven-year/105,000km servicing plan, which is $2700 for Style and Sportline, $2900 for RS. That means you're getting the first three services free, and also, you get a seven-year/unlimited km warranty, too. This promotional plan is in place until 30 June 2022, and may be extended beyond that.

If you service with Skoda you'll also get the same cover for roadside assistance at no extra cost, and the plans are transferable.

If that's not right for you, there's also a subscription-based servicing plan, which includes all consumables including brakes, fluids, batteries and wipers. These are priced depending on your expected annual mileage, but an example is $44.50 per month for a driver who does 15,000km a year.

And if you're considering a used Kodiaq (or any other used Skoda), there's also the option of a four-year service pack, too.

This is a brand that really is aiming to take care of its customers.