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Isuzu MU-X


Toyota Land Cruiser Prado

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

Toyota Land Cruiser Prado

The heavily updated Toyota LandCruiser Prado range sees some big changes for 2018, with a new look, updated interior and added equipment across most models in the range.

The good news for buyers is that prices are lower across the line-up, with reductions of between $600 and $1200 depending on the variant. That should be enough to see it retain its spot at the top of many customers’ shopping lists – it sure as hell can’t do much wrong on the sales charts, where its easily the best-seller in the large SUV segment. 

And with four trim levels available to choose from, each offering new kit and lower pricing, buyers are undoubtedly better off with the Toyota Prado 2018 model range. But has it improved over the previous model? And which is the one you should be looking at?

Read on, and we’ll figure it out together.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.8L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency8L/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.


Toyota Land Cruiser Prado7.5/10

The updated 2018 Toyota LandCruiser Prado might not have needed to see changes in order to remain the biggest-selling large SUV on the Australian market, but the facelifted model has seen the Prado take some steps forward to keep it on the shopping lists of buyers looking for family-focused SUVs with a breadth of ability. 

It looks better and is better value – and there is one model that seemingly stands apart as the best buy of the bunch: the GXL. It’s just a shame it can’t be had with the extra safety kit of the VX and Kakadu models.

What spec Prado would you buy? Let us know in the comments section below.

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.


Toyota Land Cruiser Prado8/10

The facelifted version of the Toyota LandCruiser Prado undoubtedly takes the boxy off-roader and makes it more appealing to the majority of consumers. It is, dare I say it, good looking now.

 

That certainly is the case for the exterior of the Kakadu model you see here, with its brilliant LED headlights and DRLs, which look so much better than the old dot-matrix numbers in the pre-facelift car. The new shape of the headlights accentuates the width of the Prado, as does the new grille treatment.

And while nothing has changed if you look at it from side-on (aside from different wheel designs), the Prado somehow looks more muscular than it did. The tail-lights have black surrounds which helps, and the rear door has been neatened up a touch, too. 

While you get a rear spoiler on all Prado models, you have to spend up on the VX or Kakadu to get side steps. And if you want a body kit, you’ll have to look up eBay’s UAE sellers.

The interior design has seen a big workover, with a new centre stack and media interface, new steering wheels and other refinements. But the interior dimensions haven’t changed, because the size hasn’t either: check out our interior images to get a better idea.

This is a facelift done right. And this writer in particular thinks the flat tailgate version looks even smarter again.

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.


Toyota Land Cruiser Prado7/10

The revisions to the dashboard are really quite nice. In the lower-spec versions there is more storage space in front of the shifter, while higher-spec models, like the Kakadu you see here, have a smaller little caddy (big enough for a wallet) because the stack has all the serious off-road controls – check out the Prado interior pictures attached for a better idea.

Even so, every Prado has good storage options on offer: you will find more than one cupholder to suffice – in fact, there are cupholders in the first, second and third rows, and holsters for bottles in all four doors. The higher-spec models have a cooled/refrigerated centre console area, which is great to keep your drinks chilled on longer trips. 

Of course the entry-grade GX with five seats is a better bet if you need the ultimate in luggage capacity, rated at 640 litres, and there’s a cargo cover (plus you could fit a cargo barrier if you wanted to) – well and truly better than the 480L in the seven-seat model.

Because the vast majority of Prado models are seven-seaters, the measurement with seven seats in use is 120L – small by class standards. If you need more boot space, you could consider adding roof racks to the rails on GXL, VX and Kakadu models. The flat tailgate setup available on those variants includes a very practical opening tailgate glass, which makes putting shopping bags in even easier, especially in tight parking spaces.

While the GXL and VX feature very simple third-row seat operation, the electric seats in the Kakadu are daft. They take more than 10 seconds to raise or lower completely, and – like many of the Prado’s electronic items – the controller beeps every time you use it. And that’s really, really annoying. One nice counterpoint is a 220-volt powerpoint in the boot in high-spec models.

In terms of space, adults will be able to comfortably slot in the second row seating and allow enough space behind them for smaller adults or children. The back row isn’t the roomiest place, but for adults – even taller ones – it is definitely bearable for short trips. Headroom is good throughout the cabin, and legroom in the second row is pretty good, too.

For customers with kids, there are dual ISOFIX seats in the second row, and three top-tether points as well. There are air-vents to all three rows (in seven-seat models) but entry-grade models will need those up front to control the climate for those in the back.

The 8.0-inch media system is typical Toyota – that is to say, it’s reasonably easy to use but the on-screen buttons are a bit small, and it certainly doesn’t set any new standards. There is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity, and the Bluetooth system – while easy to connect and reasonably clever at reconnecting – requires the car to be at a standstill to search contact lists and operate the pairing function: that may sound like a safety feature, but what if your child or partner wants to connect their phone on the move? It’s a fail.

It may also be worth noting for those parents out there with device-addicted children that the Prado only has one USB Port. I reckon it’s a bit of a miss, especially for the Kakadu: I mean a Blu-ray player might have been okay five years ago, but times have changed, and kids are very much about BYO device, these days.

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.


Toyota Land Cruiser Prado8/10

Yes, there have been price drops across the model line-up, but there are also much more affordable alternatives to the Prado if what you want is a rugged, off-roadable seven-seat SUV with a diesel engine and good towing ability.

Those competitors, clearly, are the likes of the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Isuzu MU-X, Holden Trailblazer and – to a lesser extent because it’s a bit expensive – the Ford Everest. Even the Toyota Fortuner could be considered a more affordable alternative.

But the Prado is bigger than those models, and some would argue more comfort-focused, too. For the most part, I’d be one of those people – the Prado can be surprisingly comfortable, depending on the spec you choose – but we’ll get to that later.

Let’s run through the variants: GX vs GXL vs VX vs Kakadu, a sort of models comparison. I don’t just put a price list with how much each will cost, but rather run through the recommended retail price (plus on-road costs) of the models in the range. You can check out the Toyota site for a drive-away price

The GX model is the entry-grade variant with a manufacturer’s list price of $53,490 – that’s before on-road costs, and that’s $600 less than before. 

How many seats in the GX? It’s a five-seat model, but if you choose the automatic version (priced at $56,490) you also get the option of a seven-seat layout, but that adds a further $2550 to the price. 

Standard inclusions: lane departure warning, a pre-collision safety system with pedestrian detection, auto high-beam lights, and automatic cruise control – that’s only on the auto model, though - the manual misses out. The manual also misses out on the 'electroluminescent combimeter with colour multi-information display', or driver info screen. You do get cruise control, even on the manual.

The GX comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry (smart key) and push-button start, an 8.0-inch touch screen media system with reversing camera and satellite navigation/GPS  (with live traffic updates for the navigation system), Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB connectivity and a nine-speaker sound system. It has radio and a CD player, too. There’s no DVD player, and you can’t get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, either. 

The next model up the range is the GXL, which comes with seven seats as standard, but can be had as a manual (from $59,990) or automatic ($62,990). Price drops for the GXL model equate to $1200. 

It gets a bunch of worthwhile extra equipment over the base model, including LED headlights (a big improvement), LED daytime running lights, LED fog lamps, and lamps in the sun-visors. There’s also the addition of privacy glass, roof rails, side steps, a leather-lined steering wheel, tri-zone climate control, and a rear diff lock (auto only).

The GXL can be had with what Toyota is labelling a 'premium interior', which adds $3500 to the price and includes leather-accented seat trim, ventilated front seats with power adjustment, and heated front and second-row seats. Sounds like money well spent to me.

The third rung up the ladder in the 2018 Toyota Prado range is the VX, which is only available as an automatic and sees a considerable price jump over the GXL auto – it lists at $73,990 plus on-road costs, but that’s $911 less than 2017.

The VX brings additional items such as 18-inch alloy wheels, panoramic/surround-view camera monitor with low-speed forward view setting, ventilated front seats, heated seats front and rear, a cool box between the front seats and LED fog lamps. It also sports leather seats, and a 14-speaker JBL sound system.

And if you spend this much you also secure more safety equipment: blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. 

The top-of-the-range variant in the Toyota Prado 2018 model range is the Kakadu, which is auto only, and lists at $84,490, representing a drop of $1121 compared with the model it succeeds. It’s the model you see in the images here.  

You certainly get plenty of additional equipment over the VX for your $10,500 extra expenditure – the Kakadu is the only model in the range with Toyota’s 'Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System' (KDSS) – a high-tech set-up that reacts to forces felt by the suspension that can modulate or disable the anti-roll bars. 

Further additions to the Kakadu include 'Crawl Control' (Toyota’s advanced traction system that monitors slippage at each wheel and works to ensure optimal traction), 'Multi-Terrain Select' (with rock, rock & dirt, mogul, loose rock, mud & sand settings), a new drive mode select system that changes the settings of the drivetrain, chassis and air-conditioning (with Comfort, Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+ settings). There’s no denying the Kakadu seems like the one you’d pick if you want to go off-road – like, to Kakadu, for instance…

Other additions for this spec include a sunroof, woodgrain trim, power folding third-row seats, and a rear seat entertainment system with a Blu-ray entertainment screen, plus three wireless headsets.

A newly added no-cost option for August-onward 2018 Toyota Prado models is a flat tailgate setup, which was previously reserved for the Prado Altitude limited edition models. Available for GXL, VX and Kakadu grades, the  sees the removal of the tailgate-mounted spare wheel and cover, with the spare wheel instead mounted under the boot floor. There is an impact on fuel tank size, with the 63L reserve tank removed to make room for the spare wheel (leaving an 87-litre capacity). But flat-back Prado buyers will get an opening tailgate window, making quick access to the boot even easier. 

No matter which model you choose, if you want one of Toyota’s ‘premium paint’ finishes you’ll have to pay $550 (only one of the black options and white are exempt from extra cost). The colours include three different black hues, a dusty bronze/gold/beige/orange/brown finish, grey, red, two choices of silver, and white – no green, blue or yellow here. 

Of course if you want to further customise your Prado, there are plenty of accessories you can choose beyond rims and floor mats in each of the trim levels.

The genuine accessories list features two options for your choice of bullbar, a nudge bar, snorkel, and you’ll want the cargo barrier if you need to haul your tool kit with you.

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.


Toyota Land Cruiser Prado7/10

Every variant in the Prado range is powered the same engine, with the same size - a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. The entry-grade models (GX and GXL) have the choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed auto, while the top two grades (VX and Kakadu) are auto only.

There are no changes to specifications for power outputs of the diesel drivetrain, be it the manual gearbox with retained power and torque outputs of 130kW/420Nm, or an automatic transmission, which bumps the torque spec up to 450Nm. 

Competitor SUVs out there can be had with more power and torque – even some that are smaller, like the Holden Trailblazer (2.8-litre turbo-diesel, 147kW/500Nm). 

Unlike a lot of those other competitors, though, the Prado runs a permanent four-wheel drive (4WD or 4x4) set-up with 4H and 4L modes – there’s no 4x2 mode. You need to get an automatic to be able to get a rear diff lock, and even then it’s not available on the base model GX. So, manual gearbox enthusiasts need to think twice.

Some buyers may not be too impressed by the Prado’s comparatively low braked towing capacity weight of 2500kg (750kg un-braked) for manual models – but the automatic pushes that braked capacity to 3000kg, which is what you’ll likely need for a big off-road caravan. Our test vehicles didn’t have a towbar, so there’s no towing review here. 

And there’s no argument for petrol vs diesel, as the 4.0-litre V6 has been axed. And there’s never been an LPG model here. 

You might want to check out our Prado problems page for any relevant information on potential diesel engine problems or issues with injector performance, automatic transmission or clutch / gearbox problems, suspension issues or cruise control complaints. And any concerns over diesel particulate filter problems should be allayed by the addition of a new DPF forced burn-off switch, to give a manual override control to the owner.

Timing belt or chain? The 2.8-litre engine has a chain, thank you very much.

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.


Toyota Land Cruiser Prado8/10

Toyota claims diesel fuel consumption of 7.9L/100km for the manual Prado, while the automatic model uses 0.1L/100km more, claiming 8.0L/100km. 

Realistically you can expect fuel economy around 9.5L/100km in most situations, or a tad more if you’re running around with adults accompanying you in the other four seats.

If you venture off-road the fuel use number will probably rise to about 11.5L/100km, which is pretty good given the size of the Prado. Towing will likely see that figure jump a tad, but not to excessively high levels (depending on the weight of what you’re towing, of course!).

The Prado’s huge 150-litre fuel tank capacity (with an 87L main tank size and 63L sub) will assure long range mileage between visits to the pump, but expect a big bill if you run it to empty. If you get the flat tailgate version of the GXL, VX or Kakadu, you will only get the 87-litre capacity, which will still be able to get you plenty far. And it's a little bit smaller (length is down from 4995mm to 4825mm) and lighter (reduced about 60kg across the range), so you may even see better fuel consumption, not to mention easier parking in small spots.

As mentioned above, there’s no petrol option anymore.

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.


Toyota Land Cruiser Prado8/10

If you plan on spending the vast majority of your time on paved surfaces – be that running around town or cruising country highways – you ought to choose the GX, GXL or VX models.

Why? It all comes down to the Kakadu’s suspension system. It’s undeniably brilliant when it comes to scrambling up craggy hills, especially if there are heaps of offset bumpy sections because of the way it can adjust the anti-roll bars. Admittedly there is adaptive front and rear variable suspension (not air suspension) on the Kakadu, but even in the most passenger-friendly Comfort setting it isn’t as comfy as it should be, with the four-link rear suspension abruptly rebounding over bumps. The front suspension is a trailing arm double-wishbone type, and it is more resolved over bumps.

It is ridiculously capable when it comes to off road ability, with the permanent 4WD system (with 4H high range and 4L low range), a locking rear diff, and the brand’s dependable drive-mode selector system allowing for assured progress on gnarly surfaces.

That said, it mightn’t be quite as terrific as it once was: we didn’t get the pre-facelift model and the new model together for a head-to-head, but the numbers don’t lie: the new-look Prado has worse approach and departure angles vs the old one. The approach angle is now 30.4 degrees, where it used to be 32.0deg, and the departure angle is now 23.5deg (was 25.0deg). Ground clearance is down by a millimetre, to 219mm.

And while that anti-roll bar adjustment certainly makes the Prado Kakadu hold itself flatter through a series of sharp corners, that’s not what this SUV is all about. Nor what this review is about. 

In the lower-spec models there is better bump absorption – the smaller alloy wheels help, though we know some buyers will be tempted to upsize to 22-inch chrome wheels…The steering response largely remains the same between the four variants – the wheel action is light and easy to twirl at lower speeds with a decent turning circle of 11.6m, and it has good weighting at highway pace, too. 

And no matter which model you choose, you’ll be getting a diesel engine that feels suited to day-to-day life: the 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo unit isn’t excessively grunty, but with the clever six-speed automatic the Prado definitely offers enough punch to jump a gap or two in traffic. 

Even so, I have often thought to myself ‘there is no faster car on the road than a Prado driver who is late to drop the kids at school’ – and the performance lives up to that expectation. There’s some turbo lag to contend with from stand-still, but its roll-on acceleration is convincing below 70km/h. 

It isn’t quite as sprightly once you get above that, presumably because aerodynamics starts to play a more integral role in forward progress. But realistically if you want to know what 0-100km/h acceleration it’ll do, or what top speed it’ll hit, maybe you shouldn’t be looking at a Prado.

My biggest annoyance with the Prado is its brake pedal feel. While the response from the stoppers is good, the squelchy feel of the pedal and the fingernails-on-a-blackboard screechiness as you apply pressure is frustrating. The body of the Prado can pitch forward when you apply the brakes, too. 

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. 


Toyota Land Cruiser Prado8/10

The facelifted Prado model hasn’t been crash tested by ANCAP, but this generation was tested all the way back in 2010, when it scored the maximum five-star safety rating. It is unlikely the facelifted version will get the crash-test treatment again.

The manual models miss out on the added safety gear that every automatic Prado gets as standard as part of the update, which is disappointing, and you don’t even get a hill-hold function on the base model GX. 

The kit every auto Prado now gets includes auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and automated high-beam headlights. 

Manual or auto, the Prado comes with a reversing camera with active steering guidelines and rear parking sensors. All Prado models have seven airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain, driver’s knee), stability and traction control, ABS, EBD and trailer-sway control.

If you step up to the VX you also get blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, not to mention the surround-view camera and low-speed off-road front-view camera, and front parking sensors. The Kakadu model gets the lot, plus all of the off-road hardware and tech.

Parents will appreciate the two second-row ISOFIX child-seat anchor-points

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.


Toyota Land Cruiser Prado6/10

Toyota’s unbreakable reputation is well founded, and reliability issues are reportedly few and far between. The brand offers an expansive dealer network providing access to professional Toyota care pretty much anywhere you think you’ll take your Prado.

The company isn’t unbeatable for warranty cover, however. It offers the bare-minimum three-year/100,000km plan for all of its cars, utes and SUVs.

Likewise Toyota’s maintenance schedule remains annoyingly short - intervals are every six months or 10,000km, which could be painful if you do a lot of mileage. At least the visits are affordable, with service costs capped at $240 each time for the first three years/60,000km.

Resale value is hard to argue with for the Prado – and most Toyota’s for that matter. But if you’re concerned about a used car purchase maybe check out our problems page for common problems, issues, faults and complaints about the Prado.