It has been a long time since we have seen an SUV offering from Isuzu, if one excludes the Chevrolet badged Trailblazer which incorporated a lot of the Japanese manufacturers technology and components.
The last true Isuzu SUVs were the Trooper back in 1992 and six years later the Frontier.
Wholly owned by Isuzu Motors of Japan, the local subsidiary, Isuzu Motors South Africa, has launched its first new model and it is an SUV.
Understandable, as this particular genre is a continually growing segment of the local market. The Isuzu mu-X takes on some fierce competition such as the Toyota Fortuner, Ford Everest and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.
Although new to SA, the mu-X is well established in the international market.
Launched in 2013 in Thailand, it sells well in Australia and is market leader in the Philippines.
Last week the latest offering was launched locally on roads between Johannesburg and the Free State town of Clarens.
At first glance the styling is reminiscent of the Trailblazer, but is, in fact, an all new offering.
It certainly demonstrates the DNA of the Isuzu brand, so well known in the latest KB pickups.
From the chromed front grille and headlight clusters featuring Bi-LED projector lights with integral LED running lights and low level fog lamps up front, to the aluminium side steps, privacy glass and LED tail lights all sitting Isuzu delivers with new SUV atop of 18 inch alloys banded with 255/60 rubber.
The interior is much improved with lots of soft touch materials, full leather upholstery and piano black finishes with silver accenting provide a more premium appearance.
The driver’s seat has six-way electrical adjustments and the steering wheel – height only adjustable – carries a multitude of ancillary controls.
The new 9 inch colour touch screen displays all the information for the much improved infotainment system, the audio side delivering its sound through eight speakers.
Apart from entertainment, a navigation system is incorporated.
There are more bells and whistles than space allows, suffice to say it is more than likely to meet anyone’s requirements.
The seven seater configuration is versatile. Both the centre and rear rows can be folded to accommodate extra large luggage and the last row of seats fold flat into the floor when not required.
Isuzu takes safety seriously, the mu-X equipped with disc brakes all round, ABS, EBD, EBA, ESC, TCS (Traction Control System), HSA (Hill Start) and, to help off road, HDC (Hill Descent Control).
But if you get into trouble you have a high tensile steel passenger safety cell on a strong energy absorbing chassis plus anti-intrusion bars in the doors.
Inside there are six airbags, dual front, side and curtain, pre-tensioner seatbelts and front bucket seats.
All seven seats are fitted with adjustable head restraints to minimise injury in a rear impact situation. Pedestrian safety is also catered for with the mu-X’s impact absorbing bonnet to reduce injury.
In the car park you have the benefit of a rear facing camera and a factory fitted immobiliser and alarm protecting the SUV when you’re not around.
The chassis is one of the major changes on the mu-X and along with the new suspension set up transforms the ride quality over previous SUVs from the Japanese manufacturer.
High ride coil springs and gas shocks plus the new five link independent rear set-up result in an impressive ride quality with good handling both on paved and unpaved roads.
The mu-X is equally at home on both surfaces and is certainly very capable on the loose stuff, with 24 degrees of approach angle and 25.1 degrees of departure angle, coupled to a 230mm ground clearance, you can tackle most off road situations with consummate ease.
If it gets very rough, there’s a steel guard for sump and transfer casing and plenty of under-body protection.
If you are apt to tow a caravan, boat or trailer, the 3 000kg towing capacity will work for you.
The well-proven diesel engine incorporates the latest developments and the 100 years of experience that the company has gained manufacturing over 25 million diesel engines.
Coupled to the six speed Rev-Tronic automatic transmission, the 3 litre turbocharged diesel delivers 130 kW at 3 600r/min and torque of 380 Nm between 1 800 and 2 800r/min.
The mu-X is available as a 4×2 or 4×4, both employing the same gearbox.
The four wheel drive utilises Isuzu’s Terrain Command system with electronically selected 2-High, 4-High and 4 Low
Changes between 2-High and 4-High can be made on the fly up to 100 kph.
The Rev-Tronic gearbox also features a sequential sport mode allowing the driver to control gear selection.
Our route took us on a very varied combination of roads from smooth tarmac to more potholes than road and, of course, dirt.
The mu-X handled well, with steering ideally weighted to any situation.
The engine performed well but was a little breathless on initial acceleration. This engine has the lowest torque figure among the popular range of SUVs but still provides a more than adequate performance.
Fuel consumption is claimed at 7.9l/100km a figure we were unable to check at launch, but generally Isuzu tends to be rather miserly when it comes to drinking fuel.
The new Isuzu mu-X is a welcome addition to the market segment and the brand alone is sure to attract many new as well as loyal clients, despite its strange name, which means multi utility crossover.
- Isuzu mu-X 3.0 4×2 AT 6 R568 000
- Isuzu mu-X 3.0 4×4 AT 6 R629 100
Pricing includes a five year/120 000km warranty and roadside assist, five year/unlimited km anti-corrosion warranty and a five year /90 000km service plan.
Service intervals are every 15 000km / one year. Extended cover is available for roadside assist, service and maintenance plans at additional cost.