Isuzu MU-X VS Toyota RAV4
- Beefy engine
- Proper off-road credibility
- Improved everywhere that matters
- Price increases everywhere
- Missing some high-tech cabin tech
- Where's the three-pin plug?
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.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
An all-new Toyota RAV4 doesn't just happen. Over the life of the model, there have been four generations over 25 years, which suggests that Toyota invests a lot of time and effort in the development of its mid-sized SUVs.
Now there's a fifth-gen version. The Toyota RAV4 2019 model is more advanced, more high-tech, safer, smarter and more spacious than any version that has come before it.
So, what's it like? Presumably pretty good, right? Read on to find out.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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.
This could well be the most complete Toyota model ever made. The brand has nailed the brief with this mid-sized SUV, and in a market where it has traditionally been one of the go-to players, customers now have even more reasons to look at the RAV4 than ever before.
We can't wait to see just how well it stacks up against its rivals in a comparison test. Stay tuned for that.
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.
This is perhaps the most masculine RAV4 ever - it's like the brand is trying to appeal to dads this time around, as well as mums.
And while it might look like it has take a step up in size, a lot of that comes down to the exterior design and the platform the brand has built the new model off.
Read More: Toyota RAV4 2019 review: GXL 2WD
Read More: Toyota RAV4 2019 review: GXL hybrid 2WD
Read More: Toyota RAV4 2019 review: Cruiser 2WD
Read More: Toyota RAV4 2019 review: GX 2WD
Read More: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2019 review: snapshot
Read More: Toyota RAV4 Cruiser 2019 review: snapshot
Read More: Toyota RAV4 GX 2019 review: snapshot
The dimensions are as follows: the new model is 4600mm long in GX, GXL and Cruiser guise - which is 5mm less than the previous model. The Edge version is a touch longer at 4615mm. In terms of width, the new model is 1855mm (GX, GXL, Cruiser) and 1865mm broader in Edge guise - so, 10mm and 20mm wider than the old model. As for height, the new model is 1685mm (GX, GXL, Cruiser) or 1690mm (Edge), which is 30mm/25mm lower than the existing model.
That translates well to interior dimensions, too - there's plenty more space, and the cabin has a lot more design flare than it used to.
But the exterior design is the real talking point - the comments on our Facebook walk around video were divided, but I reckon in person it looks really beefy. The standout is the Edge model, which brings a different look - it gets a model-specific front bumper design, grille, skid plate, wheel-arch mouldings, fog-lamp surrounds and rear bumper. It also rides on distinctive 19-inch alloys.
Lower grade models also look pretty slick, and even the low-grade GX with its 17-inch rims looks pretty smart, especially in the bright blue hue.
You'll have to use your imagination to figure out what it would look like with side steps, or a body kit with a more outlandish rear spoiler... though we have no doubt someone will do it. And hey, if you wish there was another soft top version of the RAV4 like we saw way back in the 1990s, you'll be sadly disappointed - it's a hardtop only affair.
Check out the interior photos to see what you make of the fake leather trim... More on the interior below.
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.
The cabin of the new RAV4 is a big step up in quality, but also in terms of space smarts.
There is good storage available throughout, with a cup holder count of four (two front, two rear in the fold-down armrest), bottle holders in all four doors, and reasonable loose item storage up front near the shifter, between the seats, and even a small Kluger-like shelf in front of the front passenger. Rear seat occupants get a map pocket, and it's not one of those nasty mesh ones.
Human room is really good, too.
Up front there's great seat comfort and pretty good levels of adjustment, though the front passenger seat is quite high in all models, and you can't get electric front passenger adjustment on any model.
The second-row space is exceptional - possibly class leading, in fact. I'm 182cm (six-feet in the old money) and with the driver's seat set to my position I had inches of legroom space, good toe wiggle room, good shoulder room and excellent headroom. If you're a parent with tall teens, this will definitely do the trick - and if you're kids are little, there's easily enough room for a pair of child seats (maybe even three, but we'll have to get CarsGuide Family reviewer Nedahl Stelio to conduct that test on the new RAV4!).
The luggage capacity is a big improvement, too - the boot size is now 580 litres, up 33L on the existing model, with the boot space dimensions extended by 65mm. The boot also features a reversible liner for the dual-level boot floor setup, and there's a cargo cover (or tonneau cover, if you prefer) for the storage space as well. Fleet buyers or dog owners will be able to get a cargo barrier at some point, too. My main complaint for the boot is the electric tailgate system is quite slow.
The GXL, Cruiser and Edge models are fitted with roof rails - helpful for adding a roof rack system.
Price and features
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.
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.
How much is a Toyota RAV4? Well, that depends on which model in the range you choose. Here's a price list - model by model - that should act as a guide to the trim levels. These prices are before on-road cost (also known as RRP), but not drive away prices. You may have to wait a little while for deals.
The line-up kicks off with the GX, the standard features levels are generous.
Standard gear includes auto LED headlights (hoorah - no xenon, projector or HID bulbs!), taillights and daytime running lights as well as LED front fog lamps, heated and folding electric exterior mirrors, auto wipers, 17-inch alloy wheels with temporary spare (optional full-size wheel available), fabric seat trim, a urethane steering wheel, air conditioning with rear vents, an 8.0-inch multimedia touch screen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a sound system with six speakers stereo, AM/FM/DAB radio, one USB port, plus a GPS navigation system with SUNA live traffic is standard - yep, sat nav on every model.
There is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto - yet. The brand has announced it will be fitting the iPhone iOs / Android mirroring tech to all models from the fourth quarter of this year, and every version sold before then can be retrofitted with the integration. No DVD player, though, and no CD player or CD changer. You'll just have to upgrade to the MP3 age, man.
Hybrid GX models add dual-zone climate control AC and smart key / keyless entry central locking with push button start. All GX models get an electric park brake and rear mudflaps.
The safety on offer is also solid, with all grades getting auto emergency braking with day/night pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection, lane keeping assist (manual models with a slightly lower-grade system), adaptive cruise control (with stop-and-go for auto models, high-speed only for manuals), auto high beam lights, road sign recognition and alerts, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and seven airbags (dual front, front side, side curtain and driver's knee).
Next up the model range is the GXL, which adds roof rails, window tint at the rear, 18-inch wheels with a 17-inch temporary spare, front and rear mudflaps, "premium embossed fabric seats", a leather steering wheel and shifter, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone climate control, Qi wireless phone charging, keyless entry and push-button start.
The camera has active guidance lines on the display, plus you get three front USBs and two rear USBs.
Third up the ranks is the Cruiser grade, which is visually differentiated by a silver grille, chrome door handles, a "moon roof", 19-inch alloy wheels with a temporary 18-inch rims for the petrol versions (18-inch black alloys with a temporary 17-inch spare for hybrid versions).
The Cruiser's interior almost feels like it has been with the "premium package", with leather-accented seats, heated front seats, 10-way electric driver's seat adjustment with memory settings, leather-accent door trims, a 7.0-inch driver info display, ambient lighting, a reversing camera with a 360-degree monitor, a power tailgate and a nine-speaker JBL sound system with subwoofer.
Top of the range in the model comparison is the RAV4 Edge, which almost looks like a sport edition for outdoorsy people. It can be had in "Jungle Khaki" paint - none of the others can - and inside there is "Softex" fake leather seats, heated and ventilated front seats, but the driver's seat weirdly loses the memory function. A panoramic sunroof is optional ($1300) in this grade.
No model comes with a heated steering wheel, nor is any equipped with a seat belt extender or Homelink smart garage door opening. But you will find a tool kit and a spare wheel under the boot floor in each instance - no tyre repair kit here.
On the topic of colours (or colors, if that's how you spell it where you're reading this), there is only one no-cost option colour in the range - Glacier White. The other options are Crystal Pearl (white - not available on GX or Edge), Silver Sky (not available on Edge), Graphite (grey), Eclipse Black, Atomic Rush Red, Eclectic Blue and Saturn Blue (dark blue - not available on Edge). There is no proper green hue, to speak of, but the Jungle Khaki paint for the Edge is close enough.
As for accessories, you should be able to get floor mats in every one of these straight off the showroom floor, and you should be able to get a bull bar, nudge bar or snorkel if you shop around.
Engine & trans
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.
If you love nothing more than deciphering specifications and ratings, you're in for a treat.
The GX, GXL and Cruiser can be had with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which is only available in front-wheel drive layout, but can be had with either a six-speed manual transmissions (GX only) or CVT auto gearbox (GXL and Cruiser). The 2.0-litre motor is good for 127kW of power and 203Nm of torque.
Stepping up in engine size, the GX, GXL and Cruiser models are also available with a 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid, which teams a four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle engine (with 131kW and 221Nm) to an 88kW/202Nm electric motor. The total combined power output is 160kW for the 2WD. The figure jumps to 163kW for the AWD, which gets an additional on-demand 40kW/121Nm electric motor at the rear axle. As is Toyota's way, there's no combined torque figure. All hybrid models run a CVT automatic transmission as standard, and you can run on EV mode under light loads.
The top-spec Edge variant is the only model not available with a hybrid powertrain. Instead, it cops a 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder engine with 152kW of power and 243Nm of torque. It has an eight-speed automatic transmission, and comes with all-wheel drive - the AWD system can split torque between 100 per cent front bias down to a 50:50 ratio front/rear, and rear-axle dynamic torque vectoring. It's not a proper 4x4 system, but Edge models also get a terrain select system with mud & sand, rock & dirt, and snow modes.
Towing capacity varies depending on the model - but it's safe to say that if you plan on fitting a tow bar and pulling a large load, you ought to get a version with AWD as the load capacity is bigger and better.
The GX/GXL/Cruiser 2WD (or 4x2) petrol models can deal with 800kg braked towing, while the 2.5L AWD Edge model has a maximum braked towing capacity of 1500kg.
The GX/GXL/Cruiser front wheel drive hybrid models offer a measly 480kg maximum towing, while the AWD hybrid models match the Edge, with 1500kg braked towing.
No gross vehicle weight is specified, but the RAV4 range spans from 1515kg (kerb weight) for the entry-level petrol up to 1745kg for the AWD hybrid.
If you're concerned about manual transmission issues, clutch and gearbox complaints, automatic transmission problems, or battery concerns, check out our Toyota RAV4 problems page.
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.
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.
The 2.0-litre petrol model claims official combined cycle fuel consumption of 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres for the manual, and 6.5L/100km for the auto. We've leave you to figure out the km/l numbers!
Fuel economy for the 2WD hybrid is 4.7L/100km, while the AWD uses a claimed 4.8L/100km -two new petrol benchmarks for the segment. It's like an eternal eco mode!
Fuel use for the Edge's AWD 2.5L engine is 7.3L/100km - this engine is only in the Edge model, yet it still undercuts most of its rivals with similarly-sized engines and AWD.
The fuel tank capacity is 55 litres in size across all models, but it's fair to say your mileage will vary based on the drivetrain.
On test, I was extremely impressed by the dash-displayed average in the AWD hybrid models I drove - 5.5L/100km in the car that we drove through the city and outskirts of Adelaide to the hills; and 5.8L/100km for the version that did a longer freeway stint.
The Edge model saw a return of 10.5L/100km displayed, while the GX 2.0L manual indicated 8.3L/100km, and the GX 2.0L CVT was showing 9.2L/100km.
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.
The all-new RAV4 lives up to our expectations.
The brand has some form when it comes to vehicles that have been built off the "Toyota New Generation Architecture", or TNGA, which underpins the new Corolla, Camry, C-HR and Prius. So we expected the RAV4 to be good to drive, more fun than the last one and more confident and refined, too. And it is.
The drivetrains are perhaps the most impressive piece of the puzzle - and yes, the hybrid is the standout. The way the petrol engine, CVT transmission and electric motors work together to ensure the best propulsion in any given circumstance is, quite frankly, excellent.
There is easily enough performance for the vast majority of families, too - sure, you won't be bragging about a scorching "0 100 acceleration" time, but the hybrid RAV4 gathers speed with less effort than you might think, as the battery can give you a boost when you plant your right foot.
And it doesn't sound bad, either, aside from a little bit of whirring from the drivetrain at lower revs. There's a little bit of road noise to contend with - the bigger the wheels, the thinner the tyres, the more noise you'll notice - but it's never deafening, even in the back seat.
The braking confidence of the hybrid model is good too - there's very little of that 'wooden' feel that some hybrid brake pedals exhibit, and it pulls up strongly.
I thought the 2.0-litre base petrol engine might feel undercooked - but it isn't. It's really quite vibrant. I sampled it with the six-speed manual (which was an absolutely charmer - admittedly one that will only account for about two per cent of sales) and the CVT auto, which is going to be vastly more popular.
It isn't a 'regular' CVT - like the Corolla it has the brand's 'Launch Gear' system, a conventional mechanical first gear that then steps across to a variable ratio when it reaches 'second' gear. It worked an absolute treat, and I was impressed by the amount of power available, and likewise the refinement of the engine. It's better than you think it might be.
The 2.5-litre non-hybrid in the Edge model has a bit more of a raucous nature to it. The eight-speed automatic does a real good job, and some people will prefer that to a CVT auto for obvious reasons. It was gusty and eager, and on the rainy test loop we drove it, the mechanical all-wheel drive system did a great job at stopping it from spinning up the front tyres, pushing power to the rear axle with a pleasant (yet very minor) drivetrain thunk.
But with the drivetrain tech being so finessed in the hybrid, it's hard to see why you would choose the top-spec Edge over one of the more affordable petrol-electric versions... aside from the look, of course.
As for ride comfort, things are mostly pretty good. There's a bit of jitter at higher speeds over less-than-perfect surfaces, but it was comfortable enough on the highway, and even better around town - an important stipulation, given most people will spend a lot of time running around in their RAV4.
The electric power steering is very nice - predictable and accurate, with some feel to proceedings that other SUVs in the segment simply can't match. It's engaging to drive, and a huge improvement over its predecessor in that regard.
And if you're interested in how the tech performed, the blind spot monitor came in handy because there's quite a blind-spot over your shoulder when you driving, and while the lane departure warning is a little eager, the lane assist system that keeps you centred on highways is quite handy.
If you're wondering about off road specs, here are the details: approach angle - 17.5 degrees; departure angle - 20.0 degrees; break-over / ramp-over angle - not listed; ground clearance mm - 195mm for petrol models, 190mm for hybrids.
How does that translate to off road capability? Luckily, for this launch review, we had a chance to sample the RAV4 in the rough stuff at JAKEM farm outside Adelaide - and look, the tracks that were chosen were probably doable in a Corolla, for the most part, but there was a section of moguls where we managed to get a feel for the hybrid version's active torque split and torque vectoring system (for the rear axle) and it was pretty capable, even on big wheels. The off road drive modes help in that regard, allowing the VSC (stability control system) more leeway, and the Edge model has a centre diff lock, too.
That could be the biggest downfall of the RAV off-road - the rim sizes are big. You might want to fit some 17 inch alloy wheels or steelies with off road tyres, instead of the 18s and 19s that are on higher-grade versions. Sure, they mightn't look quite as tough under the Edge's wheel arch extensions, but the grip improvements could be worth it if you're serious about adventure.
We didn't get to test the wading depth of the RAV4 - and the brand doesn't state a figure, as such. But the 11.0-metre turning radius meant it was easy to pivot through tighter corners off road. The front suspension was a marginally more resolved than the rear over choppy surfaces, but honestly, I wouldn't be thinking of this as a successor to the FJ Cruiser - even if it does have funky design on its side.
One omission is a downhill brake assist system, or hill descent control. You can get that on some rivals in this segment.
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.
At the time of writing, the hasn't yet been an ANCAP safety rating awarded to the new RAV4 - but the company has stated it anticipates a five-star score under the strict 2019 criteria.
A lot of that comes down to the features available in the new model - and there's plenty of safety tech fitted across the entire range.
All grades are fitted with auto emergency braking (AEB) with day/night pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection, lane keeping assist (manual models with a slightly lower-grade system), adaptive cruise control (with stop-and-go for auto models, high-speed only for manuals), auto high beam lights, road sign recognition and alerts, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
That spec list is strong, but it doesn't have rear AEB which you get on every CX-5, and there's no head-up display, either. That, combined with an unknown safety score, mean the model range can't quite get a top score here.
All models have a reverse camera along with front and rear parking sensors, but there's no semi-autonomous park assist like you'll find in a Tiguan.
Every RAV4 has seven airbags (dual front, front side, side curtain and driver's knee), and there are dual ISOFIX baby car seat attachments, and three top-tether hooks, too.
Where is the Toyota RAV4 built? Australian-delivered models are sourced from Japan.
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 recently introduced its new customer promise - a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, which can be extended to seven years extended warranty provided your car has "logbook servicing" - and that doesn't necessarily have to have been carried out by Toyota's own dealer workshops, either.
The brand also has a capped price servicing plan for the RAV4, and no matter the model, the service cost is the same - $210 per maintenance visit, and these are due every 12 months/15,000km, whichever occurs first. That's incredibly good value.
If you're concerned about potential problems or common faults - possibly around battery defects or or issues - Toyota will do a "battery health check" at the five-year point, and will monitor the battery health every year thereafter, with the warranty for that part of the hybrid model drivetrain spanning 10 years.
Our Toyota RAV4 problems page is the best destination if you want to understand reliability ratings find out common complaints, and it should even give you an idea about resale value, too. Oh, and while you might find the info online, it also pays to check the owners manual for info on oil type, capacity and consumption.