Driven: Isuzu mu-X
The 7-seater mu-X picks up where the Chevy Trailblazer left off, and goes straight for the Fortuner’s jugular
It comes as no surprise that the SUV and crossover segments are the fastest growing automotive segments, and with good reason; considering the convenience, comfort and go-anywhere ability that comes with it. On one extreme you have high-end, luxurious vehicles like Range Rovers, and on the other extreme, you have compact, yet capable off-roaders like the Suzuki Jimny.
In the middle exist of all this, exists what many term, the best of both worlds. Spacious, comfortable, well-appointed off-roaders that are competitively priced. These recreational vehicles have been supremely popular in South Africa since vehicles like the Nissan Sani first burst onto the scene in the late 80s.
The Isuzu mu-X is one of the new generation of SUVs, and picks up where the discontinued Chevrolet Trailblazer left off. Based on the extremely competent Isuzu KB (now D-Max); the mu-X, together with the Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Ford Everest provide a compelling argument for those wanting an ‘affordable’ bakkie-based SUV.
Despite being on sale in Eastern markets since 2013, with the demise of GMSA, the mu-X – which stands for “multi-utility crossover” - has finally made its way to Mzansi. The Fortuner rival is available as either a 4x2 or 4x4, whilst only one engine option exists. While its ‘predecessor’ made use of a 2.8-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel that produced 144kw and 500nm, the mu-X is powered by a 3.0-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel mill that produces 130kw and 380nm, whilst being paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission which has a sequential sport mode.
The four-wheel drive version relies on Isuzu's easy to use Terrain Command 4x4 system with electronically selected two and four-wheel drive high-range modes, or 4x4 low-range for more challenging off-road driving. To allow the mu-X be more SUV friendly, Isuzu has trimmed the wheelbase by 250mm to help with manoeuvrability, as well as added multi-link coil suspension in the rear allowing for a smoother ride.
In terms of off-roading ability, it boasts a 600mm wading depth, and 230mm of ground clearance, whilst approach and departure angles stand at 24 and 25.1 degrees respectively; meaning it will conquer pretty much anything you can throw at it. It also has a penchant for towing big loads without a fuss, with it capable of pulling 3 tons.
The exterior styling of the mu-X is distinctly Isuzu. The chunky, aggressive lines of the mu-X’s chrome-trimmed front end continue through to the rear of the vehicle, punctuated by muscular wheel arches. Being based on the KB-bakkie, means that it shares much of its niceties with the big pickup. Specification levels are good, and include LED daytime running lights and Bi-LED projector headlamps, aluminium side-steps, stylish 18-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass and LED tail lights.
It’s clean and functional interior is likely to appeal to off-roaders, upholstered in easy-to-clean leather. And much the like Trailblazer before it, is a spacious affair – with seating for seven. There are some ingenious features like the 18 storage solutions throughout the cabin. One aspect that really impressed us was how impressively low the NVH levels where – suggesting a very well insulated cabin.
The dash is dominated by an easy-to-use 9-inch infotainment screen that incorporates satellite navigation, audio and communication systems that includes a DVD and MP3-compatible CD player, Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. There’s keyless-go, cruise control, climate control, leather seating, as well as electric adjustments for the driver’s seat too.
The SUV is packed with an extensive range of active safety features, including ABS brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA). This is complemented by Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Traction Control System (TCS), Hill Start Assist (HSA) and Hill Descent Control (HDC) which can be engaged in low-range 4x4 mode.
The mu-X 3.0 4×2 model is priced at R568 000, while the flagship mu-X 3.0 4x4 is priced at R629 100. And as expected a massive range of accessories and cosmetic enhancements are available for the mu-X. With Chevrolet pulling out of SA, Isuzu wants customers to know that they are committed to their customers, and are offering a 5-year/120 000km bumper-to-bumper warranty and Isuzu Roadside Assistance, a 5-year/unlimited km anti-corrosion warranty and a 5-year/90 000km Service Plan.
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