Selecting the right off roader for the family has just become a whole lot harder. Within a mighty strong field of contenders the Isuzu MU-X seven seater has thrust its way into the mix as well.
Based on the very successful and well acclaimed Isuzu ute’s underpinnings, the new MU-X is a 4x4 wagon with go anywhere attitude, yet it feels just as good offroad as it does on the bitumen. What’s more, the MU-X wagon looks good, as if it should be in the carport or garage at home.
Isuzu are old hands in the family wagon stakes. Remember the successful Jackaroo that can still be found on our roads today? Marketed by Holden, they were made by Isuzu.
That was then, this is now, and Isuzu have hedged quite a few bets with the MU-X wagon; as well as being available in three different 4x4 models it also comes in a pair of 2WD models to round up the fleet buyers.
All that aside, the MU-X is a totally new vehicle. Yes, there are some similarities to the Colorados 7 wagon but differences range from gearboxes to engines. The MU-X in its top spec LS-T guise sees leather dressing up the seating, fog lights, chromed grille and exterior mirrors, 17” wheels, aluminium side steps and other useful features.
All three MU-X variants are powered by Isuzu’s strong four cylinder intercooled DOHC 3L variable geometry turbo diesel engine churning out 130kW of power, 380Nm of torque. The LS-T reviewed was equipped with a five speed Aisin autobox linked to a Terrain Command all wheel drive system – in tests the system activated instantly with a rotary dial mounted on the gear selector console. Flicking between 2WD and 4WD can be done at speeds up to 100km/h but transferring to low range requires a stop. These options do, of course, make the MU-X a ‘proper’ 4WD, not an SUV pretender.
More than just a make do wagon to cash in on the success of the Isuzu Ute, the MU-X features a mix of excellent exterior styling plus a well finished interior mated to subdued tonings that is easy on the eye and mind. All main dash dials and gauges where they should be and easily identified at that.
Important features for driver and passenger in the LS-T included the Multi Information Display which included a very user friendly Sat Nav system , iPod and Blue Tooth connectivity, eight speaker audio, reversing camera, and Ecology Info linked to fuel consumption data. Also on offer was electric controls for most functions, pollen filtered climate control air conditioning within all three rows plus an electric driver’s seat. There were also two glove boxes, dash top grab handles, plenty of cup holders, rear entertainment screen while all passengers had lap sash type seat belts. A five star crash rating is standard.
Entry to the third (rear) row of seats could hardly be easier and other makers might like to have a look at the set up: the side steps allow easy entry or exit via a split fold and tumble second row outer section, which reduces in seconds with finger tip effort.
Never hard on the back or nether regions the Isuzu MU-X garners road and offroad manners from a revised suspension set up revolving around coil springs linked to gas shock absorbers all round. Even offroading in low range 4x4 mode saw the very pliant suspension insulating myself and passengers from the majority of the terrain induced bumps and thumps going on at extremities thanks to the combination of excellent suspension and long wheel travel.
The 3L diesel engine was the big surprise. Flexible to the utmost and seemingly without the slightest turbo lag the powerful diesel with its modest rev range of 1800-2000rpm for all highway (100-110km/h) work took all in its stride on a country run to the NSW border and back. Even climbing Cunningham’s Gap saw the tachometer conceding the need for a mere 300rpm while the five speed box stayed in fifth gear.
More like a car than an offroader the MU-X impressed me with its highway work. With its pliant suspension there was little effect from undulations or the inevitable bit of rough surface. Ride remained quite smooth – with just a tad of body roll in tight corners – and quite silent with only some slight tyre noise intruding into the cabin’s interior. Fuel consumption was excellent at 9.2L per 100km/h; tank capacity is 65L. I’d like to see it larger.
Seating configuration is very flexible with the latter two rows of seats folding flat for extra large loads. Luggage capacity is some 1830L with all rear rows of seats down; 235L capacity when all three rows of seats are up ready for use. An under floor storage compartment was a bonus. Several different seating arrangements are on hand.
The MU-X features a tow capacity of 3000kg for a braked trailer and 750kg unbraked, which takes in a lot of things we anglers like to tow.
Pleasing styling, plenty of overall room and comfort, a great highway cruising ability, ample power for city cut and thrust driving, plus quite capable offroad manners make the Isuzu MU-X a very serious option for today’s offroad or adventure-seeking family.
The 3L turbo diesel engine just seems to do everything so easily and with its steel timing belt should last for a great many kilometres in my opinion. Factory warranty is for 5 years or 130,000km, same as the roadside assist package. List price of the LS-T as reviewed was $53,500 but my advice is to talk to a dealer and see what sort of deal is on offer.Reads: 2420