December 5, 2020
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Image: Charlen Raymond

Review: On holiday with the Isuzu mu-X

The Isuzu mu-X tails the Toyota Fortuner in terms of sales, but the big SUV has lots more going for it.

Holidays are usually a time for beach, family, and visits. And with it comes long drives your vehicle needs to fit everyone, plus one. So what to do when you need to transport everyone and the basin? It’s then that you look at something like the Isuzu mu-X to supply in those needs. It’s big, has ample space, and an engine that will not look the other way when the going gets tough.

Over the recent June holidays, I had the mu-X 4WD on test and was it a good chance to see what this SUV is really capable of. And after 4000km, this is what we’ve learned.

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Image: Charlen Raymond

A practical choice

One of the Isuzu mu-X’s biggest attributes is the vast amount of space it has. Room enough for a (sevens) rugby team. Climb inside and occupants have more than enough room to sit comfortably; no one is in each other’s way and there is enough leg- and headroom. It feels like a ship, this mu-X, but in a good way because no one wants to feel squashed.

Should it happen that you need to transport more than five people, two extra seats are stored in the boot. The setup thereof is much simpler and practical than say, for instance, the Toyota Fortuner’s. You simply pull a rope and there you go. When these seats are not in use, you have a loading capacity of 617L to your disposal. And if you flatten the second row of seats, that space increases substantially. The (fifth) door to the loading bay doesn’t open wide enough to my liking, but you’ll easily manage to get everything in.

The mu-X comes standard with a tow hook, so you, fortunately, don’t have to worry about getting your trailer or boat to your destination.

Fresh interior

The Isuzu mu-X is the successor to the Chevrolet Trailblazer; an SUV that was also based on the Isuzu KB (the latter is nowadays known as the D-Max). The exterior design reminds strongly of the Trailblazer, but on the inside Isuzu made a considerable effort to gift the SUV with its own unique design. Some technologies, like blind-spot warning, have not been carried over from the Trailblazer, but it does very little to take away from the overall feel of the SUV.

This mu-X 4WD is kitted with leather seats and the driver seat can be adjusted electronically. Aircon is obviously standard, but rear passengers can control their own airflow (the rear aircon is activated close to the driver). Keyless entry and –start is part of the package.

Added to the package is a revised center console, more storage places, an instrument cluster with easier readouts, and electric windows all-round. You can also lock the SUV by pressing a button on the driver’s door, or a button on the fifth door.

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Image: Charlen Raymond

A bit of a bother

The mu-X is powered by the same diesel engine that does duty in the Isuzu D-Max. A 3.0-liter four-cylinder motor churns out 130kW and 380Nm of torque, but the latter is considerably lower than what the competition has to offer. What is also noticeable is just how heavy on fuel the mu-X is. Regardless of the fact that it’s a 4×4, a consumption figure of around 12 L/100km is shocking, to say the least. Even when you’re driving Miss Daisy.

Isuzu did fit a six-speed automatic gearbox to the vehicle, but it did very little to better the situation.

The four-wheel-drive system works very well – well done, Isuzu – and can it be activated whilst on the go. Up to a speed of 100km/h, you can turn the rotary knob between the front seats to toggle between 2H and 4H; which switches between two- and four-wheel drive. But when things get a bit sticky, bring the vehicle to a complete stop, put the gearbox in neutral and activate 4L. This will activate both low-range and the diff-lock. The vehicle will move at a much slower pace, but it won’t have any issues overcoming any obstacles.

The suspension on the mu-X is also very good and is it more compliant (softer) than the market leaders’. Sure, the engine could do with a bit more torque and modern technologies to improve consumption, but apart from that, the SUV has no trouble chewing up the kilometers.

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Image: Charlen Raymond

Summary

Following a month-long test of the Isuzu mu-X 4WD, one sure can formulate a more rounded opinion of the vehicle. From a practical point-of-view, it’s a good vehicle that can carry both passengers and their luggage, with space left for whatever else. It has good ground clearance and you have a good vision of what’s happening around you.

Of course, the engine does have its shortcomings and it’s something Isuzu would have to work on, but the engine is one of those machines that does not know when to quit. We tend to think that Toyota builds die-hard engines, but Isuzu can be mentioned in that same company.

As a holiday vehicle the mu-X proved itself very well and can I hand the keys back with a good dose of satisfaction.

Price: Isuzu mu-X 3.0 4WD – R657 800