What stands out?

The Isuzu MU-X is a robust wagon that can take you well off the beaten track with up to seven people on board. It is available in high-clearance rear-wheel drive form, and as a four-wheel drive vehicle that is good off-road. The MU-X is based on the D-Max ute, sharing its strong diesel engine and excellent six-speed gearboxes – all freshly designed. It is smaller and easier to manoeuver than some 4WDs.

What might bug me?

Handling on bumpy, sealed roads – especially if you are expecting it to steer like less rugged SUVs designed mainly for tarmac use.

On the less costly versions, staying comfortable behind the wheel – especially if you’re tall. The manually adjustable seat has a shortish base and the range of adjustment is small. However there is height adjustment. The steering wheel also adjusts for height, but not for reach.

Keeping tabs on the scene behind you: a smallish rear window restricts rearward vision.

What body styles are there?

Five-door wagon only.

The MU-X is available with rear-wheel-drive only, or as a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Four-wheel drive D-Maxes use a part-time 4WD system, which means you can operate them only in rear-wheel drive on sealed roads but may switch to 4WD on loose surfaces. In 4WD you can choose high-range or low-range gears – the latter allowing you to drive comfortably at very slow speeds, which helps in difficult conditions.

The MU-X is classed as a large SUV, lower priced.

What features does every Isuzu MU-X have?

Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming. An MP3 compatible sound system with an AM/FM radio, a CD and DVD player, AUX and Micro USB inputs, and eight speakers.

Cruise control. A reversing camera, and rear parking sensors (which tell you how close you are to obstacles).

A leather-wrapped steering wheel with buttons for operating the cruise control, the sound system and your phone. Air-conditioning.

Seven seats. Three USB ports for charging mobile devices – including one for rear passengers.
Wheels made from aluminium alloy.

Self-aiming headlights that use very bright and long-lived LEDs rather than conventional bulbs, and LED daytime running lamps.

Self-aiming headlights that use very bright and long-lived LEDs rather than conventional bulbs, and LED daytime running lamps.

Hill start assist, which helps you take off on uphill slopes (by controlling the brakes automatically). Hill descent control, which looks after the braking as you negotiate steep and slippery downhills.

Electronic Traction Control, which helps 4WD models go further off road. It also helps 2WD models on slippery surfaces.

Six airbags. Electronic Stability Control, which can help bring a skidding car back under control. (For the placement of airbags, and more on MU-X safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

Every MU-X comes with a five-year, 130,000km warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

Only one engine is available in an MU-X, a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel. (The same engine powers the D-Max ute.) Isuzu says this engine, introduced in February 2017, was developed explicitly for Australia.

The new engine is the same size and layout as the engine it replaced, which had powered the D-Max since its arrival in 2013. But under most driving conditions, you feel more thrust sooner. (Peak power is the same as before, but better fuel injection and a more efficient turbocharger have spread the power over a broader range of engine speeds.)

An MU-X consumes about 8.1 litres/100km (urban and country combined) in official tests, with little difference between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive versions, or manuals and autos.

In the real world, you can expect to average about 9.5 litres/100km - still thrifty for a relatively big and heavy vehicle. It will use less than that on the highway, but more around town.

The MU-X comes with manual or automatic gearboxes, both with six speeds. Both give you a taller top gear than the five-speed gearboxes of the previous MU-X, which means your wagon feels a bit more relaxed when cruising along.

In an LS-M 4WD or LS-U 4WD, you get a choice of gearbox; with any MU-X 2WD or the LS-T 4WD, it is auto only.

(Power outputs and all other Isuzu MU-X specifications are available from the Cars Covered menu, under the main image on this page.)

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The least expensive MU-Xes have rear-wheel drive only. By spending more money, you can get a better equipped rear-wheel drive MU-X, or a more versatile 4WD with significantly more off-road ability.

With either drive layout, the MU-X comes in three equipment levels. The least costly is the LS-M, which has cloth-covered seats, a 7.0-inch central touchscreen, and 16-inch wheels.

Spend more money on an LS-U and you gain an 8.0-inch touchscreen, and satellite navigation. The air-conditioning maintains your desired cabin temperature, and dedicated ducts supply cooling to rear-seat passengers. There are front foglights, and side steps (which help you get in and out of the vehicle).

Wheels on an LS-U are bigger at 18 inches, and will look sportier to some eyes than those on the LS-M. The LS-U’s spare wheel is an alloy item as well, whereas the LS-M’s spare is steel.

The most expensive MU-X is the LS-T. You get quilted leather on the seats, with power adjustment for the driver. You can unlock and start an LS-T without removing its smart key from your pocket or bag. There is also interior ambient lighting, and a DVD entertainment system for rear passengers (with a 10-inch roof-mounted screen).

Roof rails make it easier to fit roof-mounted luggage systems.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

Replacement tyres for the 18-inch wheels on the MU-X LS-U and LS-T will cost more than tyres for the 16-inch wheels on an MU-X LS-M, and are generally less effective and less comfortable off road. In rocky off-road conditions, the 18-inch tyres can also be damaged more readily.

Basic white is the only colour that’s available at no extra cost.

How comfortable is the MU-X?

Climbing into the tall-riding MU-X is made easy by well-located grab handles on the inside of each windscreen pillar.

Once inside you’ll find a roomy cabin with a simple control layout.

This revised MU-X feels a lot nicer inside than the original. Its extensive use of softer, leather-like, trim materials feels much more welcoming.

The driver’s seat supports your shoulders and upper back well, but you might wish for more support and adjustment from the seatbases in the less costly models – especially if you’re long-legged. The power-adjusted, quilted leather seats in an LS-T are much better. In any MU-X, the steering wheel adjusts for height only, which can limit your ability to get comfortable.

On start-up the engine’s characteristic rattle lets you know it’s a diesel. Once under way it is surprisingly quiet under most driving conditions. It gets noisy if you put your foot down, but it’s not often you need to do that as the engine has plenty of power for most driving.

The six-speed automatic gearbox works nicely too, changing gears at the right time and generally very smoothly.

The MU-X has a comfortable and very quiet ride, even on bumpy and unsealed roads.

What about safety in an Isuzu MU-X?

Six airbags, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lights, and the mandatory stability control, provide solid safety basics on every MU-X.

There are two airbags directly in front of the driver and front passenger; one alongside each front occupant to protect the upper body; and full-length curtain airbags down each side of the car.

The side-curtain airbags extend past the third row of seats, offering head protection to even the rearmost passengers.

No MU-X offers active driver-assist features such as autonomous emergency braking (which scans the roadway ahead of you and can apply the brakes automatically to mitigate a crash), forward collision warning or lane-departure warning.

However, you can add blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert as an extra cost package for about $955. You can also add this to 2017 AND 2018 models.

Another optional extra is front parking sensors, ($545), which can also be retrofitted to 2017-onwards MU-X models.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has awarded the MU-X five stars for safety, its maximum score, most recently in May 2017.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

The MU-X is designed to be capable off road – and not just on gravel or dirt roads. As a result, it does not feel as sharp and precise on sealed roads as less rugged SUVs.

Your MU-X will not handle badly, but keen drivers won’t take much pleasure from attempting to push it along. Nevertheless, body roll is reasonably well controlled, and steering is predictable even if a little vague.

Highway performance is comparable with many vehicles of this sort - much the same as you would expect from a Toyota Prado or Fortuner, for example. You can overtake slower vehicles if you are patient and allow yourself plenty of space.

As a touring vehicle, the MUX is quiet, comfortable and relaxed, thanks in part to the very useful power from at low engine speeds and the tall gearing. The excellent highway fuel economy is also a positive.

Off-road, a 4WD MU-X can take you quite a long way – helping you and your family enjoy hard-to-reach camping locations and the like. Tough, ute-like underpinnings mean it is less likely to be damaged off road than SUVs built more like passenger cars.

Any 4WD MU-X has plenty of ground clearance, and on particularly rough ground, low-range gears make it easy to drive very slowly. The long suspension travel also helps in rough going, by allowing the wheels to comfortably follow the ground without bucking the car up and down. Those wheels are placed relatively close to the bumpers at each end of the car, for short overhangs that are less likely to hang up on steep obstacles.

In an auto MU-X, a sequential shift mode allows you to select and hold a preferred gear in challenging going. The electronic traction control works quite well off-road also, but no rear diff lock is available on an MU-X, even as an option.

How is life in the rear seats?

The rear seat is good for two adults and a child but is on the tight side for three adults. The second-row has attachment points for three child seats.

The third-row seats can accommodate bigger kids and even small to mid-size adults, although there’s little room to put your legs out in front. Getting in and out of the third-row seat is easy for kids and agile adults.

The MU-X is also a good height for getting small children or elderly people in and out.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The luggage area, which is accessed via a single top-hinged tailgate, is not as big as it seems from the outside of the car because the third-row seats, even when folded down, eat into the available space.

With the third row in use, there is room behind them only for a few soft bags.

On a more positive note, the three-person middle row of seats folds 60/40 and the two-person third-row folds 50/50. That adds versatility, allowing you to tailor the car’s interior for carrying people or gear or both.

The MU-X has a 3000kg maximum tow rating, which is average for a medium-sized 4WD wagon. This is sufficient to legally tow a two-horse float or a large, tandem-axle caravan. The diesel engine’s strong pulling power and good economy are positives attributes for towing.

Where does Isuzu make the MU-X?

Every MU-X is built in Thailand.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

A locking rear differential, for better drive in difficult conditions off road. The Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest have this, for example.

Autonomous emergency braking, and other advanced driver-assist features. Auto-braking is available on the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, for example.

Support for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which would let you display compatible smartphone apps on the car’s central touchscreen and control them from there. The Everest, Pajero Sport and Holden Trailblazer offer this, for example.

No MU-X has automatic wipers or dusk-sensing headlights. Many alternative 4WD wagons offer both.

Alternative SUVs based on passenger car designs, such as the Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Kluger, offer better on-road ride and handling.

Are there plans to update the MU-X soon?

The MU-X was released in 2013. In November 2015 Isuzu added a rear-wheel drive variant of the best equipped, LS-T, model, which had previously been available in 4WD only.

In February 2017 the MU-X was upgraded significantly. The diesel engine gained a much broader power spread, gearboxes both got six ratios, and Hill descent control was added. Cabins were isolated better from road and engine noise. Touchscreens and reversing cameras were extended to all versions, LS-Us gained satellite navigation, and LS-Ts picked up smart-key entry.

In May 2017 the MU-X received a new-look nose, LED headlights and daytime running lights, a more welcoming interior fit-out, and even more noise abatement. Wheels on LS-M and LS-T versions grew an inch to 18 inches.

The range received a slight upgrade in May 2019 that brought exterior and interior design enhancements, and improvements to the steering system for easy manoeuvring around town and in car parks.

I like this car, but I can’t choose which version. Can you help?

The MU-X LS-U 4WD is the pick of the range - unless you don’t want the versatility of 4WD, in which case it’s the LS-U 2WD.

Either LS-U adds many useful features over an LS-M for not a big price hike.