By Brent vd Schyff
We head out to George to sample Isuzu’s new 7-seater SUV to see if it can stand up the best.
It’s a big moment for the Japanese brand as it pulls out all the stops to break free from its commercially heavy links and lay claim to a greater stake in the lucrative world of passenger SUVs. In a tough market dominated by Toyota and to a lesser degree, Ford, Isuzu is going to prove their mettle but judging by what we’ve experienced, they’re seeming more than up to the task.
At first glance, the new mu-X takes on a bigger persona than its predecessor (Literally) bringing it more in line with the competition. Options of 20-inch wheels enhance that look further along with a newly designed front end, “world crossflow” grill and new LED headlight display. It’s a refreshing update for a brand that has been criticized in the past for not keeping up with the times.
The interior is a serious step up from the first generation mu-X. Leather wrap around steering housing with all the driver sensitive controls within easy reach. The instrument cluster has a sharp modern feel to it and you’ll also find a new 9-inch display which is a tad bit simple but does cater for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. One drawback is the lack of USB ports up front one would expect from a leisure vehicle in this segment. On the plus side, there’s sufficient packing space.
Ride comfort in both models tested on launch was comfortable. Isuzu has done well in this area and you feel that those long road trips are going to be a lot easier to handle. Although the Mu-X has been marketed as a 7-seater and even for a tall 6-ft human like myself, there’s adequate legroom but for the 2 occupants in the rear, things may be a bit crunched so choose your passengers wisely.
An important piece of new technology to highlight is Isuzu’s Intelligent Driver Assistant System (IDAS). Propriety software that incorporates a plethora of safety features like Lane Keep Assist, Emergency lane keeping (ELK), Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Driver Attention Assist (DAA). The IDAS system is a huge step forward in safety.
Our drive saw close to 400kms of pristine mountain passes on sample in South Africa. Meiringspoort Pass, Robertston Pass, Montague Pass, Outeniqua Pass and the striking Swartberg Pass, all serving up varied terrain of tar, sweeping bends, tight hairpins and steep gravel sections to test out the capabilities of the mu-X which came out on top.
Isuzu claim fuel efficiency figures of 7.6L/100km but on test it was hovering more around the 9.00L/100km, still acceptable for a car this size. It achieves this through an improved version of the trusted 3.0 litre 4-cylinder diesel engine which now produces 140kW and 450Nm. Acceleration is impressive. Overtaking on a stretch and the MU-X gets from a container truck limit 80 km/h to 120km/h with no fuss aided by the 6-speed automatic gearbox. It’ll even continue beyond with ease. Towing capacity is at 3500kg. Engine acoustics has also been reduced thanks to improving sound deadening.
As standard across the range comes a new locally-sourced electronic differential which we were able to test out on a moderately challenging off-road course. Even with the road tyres fitted, we were able to navigate inclines, depressions and trenchers and engage the Mu-X’s impressive wheel articulation. I have a strong feeling there is a lot more capability there. For the adventurer, there’s an improved wading depth of 800mm thanks to a new air filter system.
Despite Toyota and Ford running away with the lion share of the market and everyone else fighting it out in a best of the rest contest, Isuzu could take full advantage of this and given what’s been offered they have the right package to do it and could build the use case for a completely new development down the line, use the plus points from this and seriously pose a challenge to Toyota dominance. All in all, it’s a solid step forward and should be considered as an option. Well done, Isuzu.
mu-X 3.0 Ddi 4×2 LS A/T R693 800
mu-X 3.0 Ddi 4×4 LS A/T R771 600
mu-X 3.0 Ddi 4×2 HR LSE A/T R763 300
mu-X 3.0 Ddi 4×4 ONYX A/T R860 500