The MH Motoring Minute: Isuzu MU-X

The MU-X offers reliability and die-hard durability in a proven 7-seater SUV package. If you want to move plenty of people in comfort, especially off the tarmac, it’s a strong option.


Arthur Jones |

Review: 5-day test

Engine: 3-litre 4 cylinder turbodiesel

Power: 130kW, 380Nm

Price: R593 900 (4×2 model), R657 800 (4×4 model).

There are a few things that get legendary status in South Africa. Braais, bakkies, biltong, and big people carriers – or as we should call them: Sports Utility Vehicles. There are plenty of different SUV flavours, but it’s the bigger ones that seem to do really well, as you can’t drive for very long on any of our local roads before seeing a Toyota Fortuner, Ford Everest, or Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. Isuzu KB bakkies have a loyal following, and the MU-X (Multi-Utility Crossover) builds on the KB’s reputation (and platform), for being a tough, durable, no-nonsense pick-up that offers pretty good value for money. However, just how does it compare to the other big sellers in this tough category? Here’s what we found.

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Look-wise, it has a neat, fuss-free design which doesn’t take many risks – and the chrome and LED headlamps save it from being bland. The interior is average, if not particularly memorable. In terms of quality, it’s definitely a step up from the KB, but is slightly outdated and not as ergonomic when compared to its rivals.

 

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However, there are big positives: it’s comfortable and offers plenty of space, and the rear seat can also be easily folded away into the floor, which is a big plus. It has full leather, one-zone climate control, a nifty touchscreen and infotainment system, reverse camera (but no standard park distance control), keyless entry, ESC, Traction Control, Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist, ABS, and plenty of airbags. There’s also a variety of storage options shoehorned throughout the cabin.

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The D-Teq turbodiesel engine that is in both models chugs along happily, but don’t expect any real spirited performance or quiet sophistication from it, especially considering the MU-X weighs in at over 2 tons. It’s a reliable, bombproof unit which can move people and heavy loads efficiently, at auto box works smoothly if not quickly, and the consumption figures are good. The 4×4 model has a towing capacity 3000kg (roughly 100kg more than the 4×2 version), but the hill descent control is standard across both models, but you do need to ask whether you need the 4×4 capability.

In most cases, the answer would be no, as even if you’re regularly travelling on farm roads and doing some light off-road work, the high ground clearance (230mm), decent approach and departure angles, and the suspension set-up on the 4×2 model can handle perfectly well. If you do want the extra off-road prowess, it does come at a cost – roughly R65 000 more. That 4×4 model offers on-the-fly changing thanks to the Terrain Command system, a turning dial which lets you select between 4H, 2H, and 4LOW, the low range option.

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The MU-X drives surprisingly well. It’s a tall car, and the suspension is a little soft, so you do get a small degree of body roll and forward pitch, but that set up rewards you when you drive on anything rougher than tarmac. The steering is reassuringly heavy, but like the suspension, it’s better suited for the rough stuff than for concrete jungle agility.

To sum up, this is not just a rebadged Chevrolet Trailblazer. While it may share a few components with its distant brand cousin, it stands alone, and is a solid, reliable SUV with proven mechanics and an updated cabin over its KB sibling. While it doesn’t win any specific categories when compared to its peers, it offers a comprehensive, well-specced all-round package that will be a safe investment for plenty of buyers.

PROS:

  • Durability and toughness
  • Great value for money
  • Plenty of interior and boot space and storage compartments
  • High towing capability
  • Proven, reliable engine
  • Great warranty
  • Good fuel efficiency.

CONS:

  • Slightly outdated cabin
  • No standard rear diff lock on 4×2 model
  • No standard park distance control
  • Sluggish engine and performance
  • No standard trailer sway control.

WHAT WE LOVE: The MU-X offers reliability and die-hard durability in a proven, trusted package. If you want to move plenty of people in comfort, especially off tarmac, it’s a strong option.

RATING: 7/10

COMPETITORS: Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD6 4WD (R692 700), Mitsubishi Pajero Sport 2.4 D4 4X4 AT (R639 995), Ford Everest Limited 3.2 4WD R751 900

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