Sam say a class of its own

 

The Isuzu mu-X occupies an interesting position in its segments. It certainly is not the top-seller against its two competitors and admittedly, changing its positioning, would likely be a mammoth task. The new mu-X, however, doesn’t seem preoccupied, however, in overtaking others in its segment but rather improving the vehicle on offer rather than competing on price.

 

I wanted to test the mu-X on both tar and everyday driving and take it off-road a bit. So, we took a drive to a game park on the outskirts of Johannesburg where it wasn’t exactly 4×4 driving but it gave me a chance to test the SUV on sand roads and through a fair-sized puddles of water that I definitely would think twice about in other cars and there were one or two roads that needed grading but gave a feel for rougher road. All in all, it wasn’t quite a proper 4×4 experience that the mu-X  is made for but it gave a feel for it.

 

The drive

At first you can feel a slight lag but it is not big enough or even unexpected enough to deter a driver from the mu-X, or at least shouldn’t be. Isuzu increased their power to 140 kW and the torque increased from 380 Nm two 450 Nm. Admittedly, a bit more power would be appreciated but in this scenario the focus is on torque

 

The mu-X feels very much like a SUV that prioritises a particular lifestyle of driving that requires more torque than power for towing or 4x4ing. It si positioned as the perfect companion for outdoorsy kind of lifestyles, ticking all the boxes. In fact, if I were to go 4x4ing with one of the three main capacitors in the segment, I would feel more comfortable with the Isuzu. More power shouldn’t be the objective and if that’s what you want, then you’re looking in the wrong place.

 

It did feel a bit top heavy and I certainly wouldn’t recommend racing around corners with the mu-X but again if that’s what you intend on doing then you’re probably better suited looking elsewhere.

 

The claimed fuel consumption is set at 7.6L/100km. I managed to get between 8.6 and 8.8L/100km. Some would say that this is high, especially in light of today’s fuel prices and that it is a diesel. Additionally, if you consider most of the trip was done fairly slowly, as required by game park rules, this does seem pretty high. On the other hand, it is a 7-seater 3-litre so could expecting a lower fuel consumption perhaps be a bit unfair? I doubt the 7.6 would be easily achievable especially in your regular day-to-day activities but for the sheer size of the vehicle, I don’t think the fuel consumption is bad.

 

 The design

As is the decision of many OEMs recently, changes to the exterior are minimal and you can see the mu-X blueprint shining through. Some changes and additions include:

  • ‘World Crossflow’ front grille
  • Arrow shaped Bi-LED headlamps
  • Arrow signature headlamps
  • Side profile links the arrow motif headlamps with the rear light 3D winglets
  • New tailgate badging
  • The rear lights and indicators are combined in a winglet design with precise LED details
  • New 20-inch alloy wheels in the top of the range ONYX model, 18-inch alloy wheels LSE models and 17-inch wheels on the LS.
  • In the interior, black surfaces, chrome highlights, aluminium, and soft leather.
  • Ambient lighting in the door trim and a roof down light
  • A new Multi Information Display
  • The speedometer and rev counter faces feature a three-dimensional design
  • Smaller, sporty leather wrapped steering wheel and the gear selector
  • ONYX and LSE models have a new seat design with 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat, including power lumber support adjustment in ONYX models.
  • Top of the range has heated front seats and 4-way power adjustment for the passenger seat.
  • Leather seats
  • ONYX and LSE models have dual zone climate control with two separate HVAC units to provide individual temperature for each of the front seat occupants
  • Roof mounted aircon vents for second and third row occupants
  • Interior noise levels are reduced

 

Ultimately, the design of the mu-X creates a feel of luxury and elegance. It is imposing, capable and ready to take on adventures in an active lifestyle but making sure that you do this while in luxury. This is the impression I get from the mu-X on design alone without even getting behind the wheel. Thus while changes are minimal they are intentional and definitely achieve a look that once again I don’t feel competes with any of its competitors but rather sets it in its own class.

 

Of particular importance in the interior is the leather seating. At one stage when we were driving on a dust road another vehicle came past much too fast creating a huge dust cloud that came into the car before we could close the windows. Cleaning it the next day was actually pretty easy because of the leather. It serves a dual-purpose of creating luxury and comfort while also being a realistic choice for a SUV you would likely take in these sorts of environments often.

 

Something else that will be appealing to many drivers in the segment is its size. As mentioned, it is a 7-seater but we never made use of the third-row. When I put it up I did see it is actually decent-sized that an adult can likely fit into. Additionally, the-way that the second row goes forward to allow passengers into that row is also very important as no one wants to be squeezing through a gap and slipping and falling into their seats. The design allows the seats to lift up properly so that you can step into that row instead.

 

Isuzu says it’s designed and engineered for long cross-country drives with an opulent and elegant cabin atmosphere with ample room for seven adults. The three-dimensional layout has a solid and elegant design with impressive materials. It has soft touch materials, a good level of craftsmanship which is designed to appeal to all senses.

 

And other parts of sizing that I appreciated is that it considers that once you use the third row you lose boot space. So, there is an extra compartment under the top layer, like a double layer boot and it’s a fair-sized compartment giving additional storage space along with indentations on the side for extra storage. They also include a cover for the boot which a lot of SUVs with a third row actually neglect.

 

Something else I liked about the interior is that there are a lot of knobs to control your basic functions such as the air conditioner. I think in a vehicle where you need to be absolutely focused on what you’re doing in front of you, it makes it quite an accessory to have without actually even looking down. There wasn’t a nob for the radio volume but they did have controls on the steering wheel.

 

The front of the vehicle only has one USB port option whereas the second row of seats has two. Thus there are more than enough USB ports but it’s odd that the decision was made to put two in the back and one in the front, perhaps this is to cater for the third row of seating. Maybe my focus is placed too much on making the front the crème de la crème of the SUV.

 

The mu-X has all the tech needed in a luxurious car. It has a start button, keyless entry, fully digitised infotainment system, the option to connect apple CarPlay or Android Auto, electronic opening of the boot, assistance to take on rugged terrain and make it just as comfortable to drive every day.

 

There is also a definite difference in handling more rugged terrain. There were one or two roads that needed to be graded and while it was absolutely bumpy driving over these, other vehicles wouldn’t have provided as soft a drive over this terrain. Furthermore, there is an option to select rugged terrain driving which further assists you in this.

 

Even though they sell less units than their competitors, I believe they’re addressing this gap with extra quality luxury and an improved drive rather than by decreasing their price and consequently spec. Thus they actually come in higher than competitors, depending on which the model you choose. Rather than decrease the tech or the quality of the vehicle they’ve improved it and allow their consumers to make decisions based on what’s important to them, price vs. quality.

 

This is not to say that competitors don’t have quality because they certainly do but if Isuzu was aiming to close the gap between themselves and their closest competitors, they’ve elected to not do this by through price.

 

If you are a buyer in a segment, is the Isuzu mu-X the best choice? Again, this comes down to personal choice and needs. I found the mu-X  a better option if you buying it to suit a particular lifestyle. As rugged and effective as it was in its drive, it was luxurious and modernized too. For many buyers in the segment it may simply come down to price but if the MU-X  is the one you decide on, you would not be going wrong.

 

Good to know

The specs of the Limited

Engine: 3L, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Fuel consumption: 7.6 L/100km

Power: 140 kW

Torque: 450 Nm

Price: starting from R860 500

Warranty and service plan: 5-year/120 000 km warranty, as well as a 5-year/90 000 km service plan.

 

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