Isuzu decided we had played with the MU-X long-termer for long enough and took it back. Here’s our opinion on our time with the mid-size tourer.
Judging by the number of times in the office we could question the whereabouts of our MU-X to be told ‘tow test’ or ‘post office’ or ‘everyone’s gone to lunch in it’ it was a popular member of our vehicle fleet.
The MU-X in LS-U spec has been recalled to Isuzu head office after spending around eight or so months with Unsealed 4X4 and RV Daily as a long-term evaluation. It has been used as a daily commuter by several staff members in addition to tackling the Flinders Ranges and a number of arduous tow tests with caravans and campers on the back.
It’s great to be able to live with a vehicle for an extended period, rather than handing back the keys after a day or two or the usual week-long loan from a manufacturer. Jumping in and out of a car as you would your own produces an opinion much more substantiated. You use the knobs, dials, switches and controls with more familiarity – even if they don’t work for you personally. And some features surprise. Regular driving produces a relaxed approach, too, rather than always putting the vehicle on the spot – less so in off-road situations of course – to say “show me what you can do here.”
What’s not up for debate though, are the hard facts. The MU-X has been powered by the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel and five-speed auto with 130kW and 380Nm until the recent mid-year model update and it’s been a reliable package that represents the Isuzu ethos. A strong heritage in commercial vehicles focuses function as a priority but not completely at the expense of form. The MU-X is externally stylish if a bit ‘hard plastic’ bland on the inside. That’s not to compromise the appointments, it’s just a grey-scape. But it does the job.
The multimedia screen has been a source of frustration. It’s difficult to read and the Bluetooth pairing can be frustrating but then the rearview camera for hitching up is a very useful feature. As mentioned at the top, a lunch run to the pub can mean we need every seat and you can seat seven in the MU-X. Of course, the last two wouldn’t want to be going to the Birdsville Hotel for a steak but for kids it’s perfect during family duties like the sports weekend. Mind you the middle row does lack any sort of 12-volt/USB connectivity for the attention deficient. To maximise the cargo area if you were heading to Birdsville then the seats fold flat at the rear and also split, as does the second row for real flexibility, whether you’re looking to stow the swag or a Billy bookcase. As a bonus, either for your offspring or the adults acting like kids (post pub lunch and red of face) the MU-X is equipped with rear-zone aircon operated via a roof mounted dial.
Cargo capacity is 675kg, you can hang 300kg on the tow ball and Isuzu plays one of the straightest bats when it comes to maximum towing capacity with a genuine 3000kg at 5750kg GCM (more on that here). So while the maximum towing capacity might be a bit less than the much-vaunted class-leading 3500kg at least it’s honest – which is a great way to sum up the MU-X.
Supple coil suspension with generous clearance aids the on and off-road ride. Even when hooked up for towing a large van, and with kit in the boot the MU-X soaked up the load while still leaving room in the rear wheel wells for the tyres to cope with undulating terrain. The 4WD system is 2WD, and 4WD high and low-range selection via a rotary dial. Its operation is simple and fuss free, with the auto version of the MU-X providing hill descent control (and hill start assist); even on road in two-wheel drive there is engine braking helpfully available via intuitive downshifts. The 3.0-litre diesel isn’t quiet and around town it can constantly remind you of its presence but once propelled at highway speeds, something the turbo offers to urge to do so quite well, the diesel rattle settles down to a hum. Our test vehicle was fitted with a factory snorkel and if you, like me, enjoy induction noise, you will like this. The raised air intake is just one of a range of aftermarket accessories available for the MU-X.
Outward vision for any kind of driving is great from the front, although the A and D pillars do detract a little. While the view out the back is, as we said, boosted by the rearview camera, you can use driver’s seat height adjustment to help too, especially useful off-road. The seats themselves are a little flat in the squab and can be a bit numbing on long highway drives, which prompts you to stop for refreshments. While boosting a local economy with your purchases you will have no difficulty finding storage in the car, as cup holders and cubbies abound.
The MU-X has panned out as it’s presented: a mid-size family tourer that performs its designated duties very well. It looks good and has been economical. We have managed to regularly cram it with bods or gear without complaint from the suspension or the occupants. We have highlighted the negatives, apart from the power and torque figures that in the MU-X’s class are down among its peers. Which leads us the final point that the latter has been sorted with the launch of the new updated MU-X and D-Max.
So sad as we are to say goodbye to the long-termer, we’re keen as anything to get our hands on a brand-new MU-X and do it all over again.
Drivability, on and off-road
Basic and solid mechanics
Second row lack of power outlets