2014 Isuzu MU-X road test: Heritage fit for the long haul
TRUCKS have been the lifeblood of the Isuzu brand.
They have traditionally been rough, tough and an ultra-reliable friend to the working man and woman.
But now the marque is dipping its toe in the passenger car waters.
Although, Isuzu is not sullying itself in the world of high-riding wagons masquerading as off-roaders. No mate, this the real deal when it comes to SUVs.
It's not afraid of the beaten track, and while there are a few modern luxuries, it maintains brand heritage combined with a cabin where there is room for seven.
Rigours of family life are at the forefront of interior materials.
Hard plastics are employed across the dash, doors and console. What it lacks in affluence it makes up for in commonsense - with a car full of seven it's likely to cop a battering and plastics are easy to keep clean and maintain.
The leather wrapped steering wheel has cruise-control and audio controls at your thumb tips while it also has telescopic reach.
Cloth-trimmed bucket front seats offer good support on longer journeys, with the driver having six-way pew adjustment.
Climbing into the cabin can take some effort, which makes the door runners worth their weight in gold, and those getting into the third row also need to be nimble. Adults can fit in the two back seats, although it's best suited to children with restricted leg and knee room.
Three adults can be accommodated across the middle row but it's better suited to a pair.
Operationally things are basic and straight forward. The primary controls are centred around a circular dash dial which it needs very little analysis to find what you're after.
On the road
Big and burly, the MU-X is no faux off-roader.
This is designed as a bush basher with space for the family.
Although it possesses the hardcore ladder on frame underpinnings, it has a multi-link coil suspension which helps soften the ride and means passengers in the back don't require a complimentary kidney belt with each ride.
The steering is relatively light which makes the big SUV easy to handle even in city confines.
Our weekly grocery shop was a simple task even with the bride at the helm, although a rear view camera is only standard fare on the range-topping variant. Our LS-U variant only had rear parking sensors and it is difficult to see out the back.
Yet it remains adept on the bitumen with a smooth ride and minimal road noise...with much of the on-road sound generated by the meaty 3.0-litre turbo diesel which generates some clatter at idle.
This is a sought-after powerplant, and it certainly has the goods for rewarding off-roading and towing.
When stepping off the black stuff you can choose between four high or low depending on the terrain via a console dial, while the auto models also have hill ascent and descent control.
Short overhangs with approach angle clearance just over 30% up front and about 25% at the rear ensure you can hammer over some pretty challenging stuff.
What do you get?
The mid-spec LS-U gets 17-inch alloys, MP3 compatible CD stereo with Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, cruise-control, rear parking sensors, climate controlled air-con, rear cabin vents, and a five star rating with stability control, anti-lock brakes, traction control and six airbags.
Most obvious competitor is the shell twin Holden Colorado 7 LT ($46,990), along with the Mitsubishi Challenger AWD LS ($49,990), Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo ($51,000) and Toyota LandCruiser Prado GXL ($61,490).
Our test managed to achieve just above nine litres for every 100km, which is not far from the official figure and pretty good going from a 2750kg truck.
Servicing intervals are every six months or 10,000km, which is a relatively short interval nowadays given most manufacturers are heading toward annual maintenance with capped price servicing.
For families, it's difficult to argue against seven seats. It's great for when the grandparents are coming along for the ride or additional cherubs.
The MU-X's third row collapses flat into the floor, while the second row folds and rolls for improved access and loading flexibility.
A plastic cubby has a handy spot for tools or wet gear in the boot.
There is a pair of cup holders in the console and fold-down arm rest in the middle row, along with useful bottle holders in each door.
With its imposing chrome radiator grille, front fog lights and aluminium side steps, the MU-X has the Colorado covered in terms of good looks.
This is still a square-edged SUV and it has handsome masculine features - especially from the front end.
Isuzu is surging in the Australian market.
The D-Max ute has been winning legions of fans in a competitive market. Up against big guns like the Toyota HiLux, Mitsubishi Triton and Ford Ranger, Isuzu is gaining ground. The MU-X takes the best of what the D-Max offers and wraps it in a useful SUV shell.
Isuzu drivetrains are highly regarded for longevity and this is a great package for those who want to take the family and get away from it all.
What matters most
What we liked: True off-roading ability, surprisingly easy to drive around town, seven seat flexibility.
What we'd like to see: Reversing camera on all models, some soft touch dash materials.
Warranty and servicing: Warranty is five years or 130,000km with five years roadside assist. Servicing is every six months or 10,000km.
Model: Isuzu MU-X.
Details: Five-door all-wheel drive seven-seat large sports utility vehicle.
Engine: 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel generating maximum power of 130kW @ 3600rpm and peak torque of 380Nm @ 1800-2800rpm.
Transmissions: Five-speed manual or five-speed automatic (as tested).
Consumption: 8.4 litres/100km (combined average).
CO2: 217-223g/km (varies depending on drive and transmission).
Towing: 3-tonne (braked), tow ball rating 300kg.
Bottom line: LS-U 4x4 $49,300 (a).