2017 Isuzu MU-X Review

2017 Isuzu MU-X LS-U

Priced From $42,800Information

Overall Rating

0

3 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

3 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

3 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

3 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

3 out of 5 stars

Technology

3 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProRobust; off-road capable; five-year warranty.

  2. ConSteering short on precision; few frills.

  3. The Pick: 2017 Isuzu MU-X LS-M (4x4) 4D Wagon

What stands out?

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The Isuzu MU-X is a robust SUV that is based on the D-Max ute, sharing a strong diesel engine that arrived in February 2017 with excellent new six-speed gearboxes. It is available as a high-clearance rear-wheel drive wagon, and as a four-wheel drive wagon that is good off-road. Every MU-X has seven seats, and dimensions that make it easier to manoeuvre than some 4WD wagons.

What might bug me?

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Handling on bumpy, sealed roads – especially if you are expecting it to steer like less rugged alternatives.

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?

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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?

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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.

Six airbags: two 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 designed to protect heads of all those sitting adjacent to a window, third-row passengers included.

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.

Electronic Stability Control, which can help bring a skidding car back under control, with or without driver intervention. All new cars must have this feature.

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

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

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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 retains the size and layout of the engine it replaces, which had powered the D-Max since it arrived in 2013. But under most driving conditions, it has a bit more grunt. (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.)

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

Any MU-X with the previous engine consumed about 8.2 litres/100km on the test, and about 9.5 litres/100km in the real world. You could expect to do slightly better than this in the real world with the new engine – although experience with the closely related D-Max ute suggests the difference could be very small.

Contributing to both performance and fuel economy are manual and automatic gearboxes designed for this engine, each supplying six ratios. Gearboxes supplied with the previous MU-X had five ratios, and the added step endows the revised model with a taller top gear. 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.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

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The least expensive models 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 a DVD entertainment system for rear passengers (with a 10-inch roof-mounted screen). And roof rails make it easier to fit roof-mounted luggage systems.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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No, except that tyres for the 18-inch wheels will be more expensive to replace than the tyres for the 16-inch wheels.

Basic white is the only colour that’s available at no extra cost. All other colours, including pearl white, attract an additional cost.

How comfortable is the MU-X?

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The MU-X has a roomy cabin, with controls well laid out and good sound from the audio system. Mid-sized dimensions make it easy to manoeuvre and park for a 4WD wagon.

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.

The interior plastics were revised for an update of May 2017. Previously, the proliferation of hard surfaces might have left you feeling like you were riding in a commercial vehicle rather than a modern passenger car, even though fit standards were good. The revision, with its extensive use of leather-like soft-touch materials, has left the cabin a much more welcoming and pleasing space.

Isuzu has beefed up noise deadening in the MU-X, and so the cabin is a noticeably quieter place also – but you can still tell pretty easily just how hard you are working the engine.

The MU-X has a relatively soft and comfortable ride even on bumpy roads. At speed on rough bitumen it does not feel as stable or comfortable as SUVs designed for only light-duty off-roading, because its ute-style solid-rear-axle suspension is less effective in these conditions than their independent suspensions.

What about safety in an Isuzu MU-X?

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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. 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.

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?

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The MU-X is built on a commercial-vehicle platform and is designed to be capable off road, rather than sharp and precise on the road. It does not handle badly, but keen drivers won’t take much pleasure from steering it.

Nevertheless body roll is reasonably well controlled, and while the steering is slightly vague, effort is light.

The new engine produces considerable grunt, with good thrust available as soon as you press the accelerator pedal. Six-speed auto and manual gearboxes, also introduced with the upgrade of February 2017, both work well with the engine. The auto has a sequential shift mode that lifts the fun factor.

Off-road, you can take a 4WD MU-X quite a long way. That means it can help you and your family enjoy hard-to-reach camping locations and the like, which may be beyond the capacities of alternative SUVs with car-like, independent rear suspension and without dual-range gearing.

Any 4WD MU-X has plenty of ground clearance, and supplies a clever Hill Descent Control that is easy to use. Long suspension travel helps keep all wheels on the ground. 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. Electronic traction control works quite well off-road also (no rear diff lock is available, even as an option). In an auto MU-X, a sequential shift mode allows you to select and hold a preferred gear in challenging going.

How is life in the rear seats?

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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, while the third-row seating is suitable only for children.

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

How is it for carrying stuff?

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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.

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.

Where does Isuzu make the MU-X?

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All MU-X models are built in Thailand.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

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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.

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

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

Alternative 4WD vehicles the Toyota Prado and Jeep Grand Cherokee are quieter and more comfortable than 4WD MU-X models, but they also cost more (and the Jeep has only five seats).

Other alternatives to a 2WD MU-X include 2WD versions of the Grand Cherokee, Kia Sorento, Ford Everest, Mazda CX-9, and Nissan Pathfinder.

If you are looking at a 4WD MU-X you might also consider the Holden Trailblazer.

Are there plans to update the MU-X soon?

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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 it 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 noise. Touchscreens and reversing cameras were extended to all versions, LS-Us gained satellite navigation, and LSTs picked up smart-key entry.

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

While there may be equipment upgrades in the meantime, an all-new MU-X is not expected before 2020.

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

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The MU-X LS-M 4WD delivers a lot of bang for your buck, and offers the option of auto or manual gearbox.