Car Review: 2018 MY Isuzu MU-X LS-U Seven Seater

This Car Review Is About:
The 2018 model year MU-X from Isuzu. It’s a diesel fed engine range only, comes with seven seats, and two or four wheel drive across three trim levels. The vehicle tested was the near top of the range seven seater with four wheel drive called LS-U. Prices start at $50,200 plus on road costs for the entry level MU-X LS-M, $50,400 for the LS-U, and $56,200 for the top of the range LS-T.Under The Bonnet Is:
A low revving 3.0L diesel that produces 130kW at 3600rpm, and delivers 430Nm of torque between 2000 to 2200rpm. There is 300Nm on tap at just 1500rpm. Isuzu quote the engine as consuming, on a combined cycle, 7.9L to 8.1L per 100km, depending on trim level. The review vehicle was with us for just under three weeks, with a majority of country running (close to 2000km being covered), and generally with four aboard plus cargo. We finished on 8.5L/100km, decent considering the 2750kg gross vehicle mass (GVM). It’s rated as Euro5 for emissions and for up to 3.0 tonnes for towing. Fuel capacity is 65 litres.It’s a key start, not push button. A simple turn, the engine fires up almost immediately. The engine itself has a variable geometry turbo which is designed to alter the flow of engine exhaust in an effort to overcome the phenomenon known as turbo lag. It’s mostly well sorted here, however there were more than a few occasions where the engine felt like it was switched off, and they were invariably coming into a stop zone, and then being able to continue fairly quickly. The response was as if the turbo had stopped and needed a reboot to start spinning again.

It’s a fairly quiet unit, especially when off-load pedal wise. Hard acceleration brings out the typical diesel clatter and chatter but it’s surprisingly quiet otherwise. A good analogy is being in an aircraft coming into land, where the engine noise drops and becomes a background sound.

Transmission choices are limited. The range is mainly a six speed auto, however there is a six speed manual available on the 4×4 LS-U. The review vehicle was fitted with the auto and it’s fair to say it’s a very well sorted unit. Given the engine’s low stress, low rev, locomotive style characteristics, the ratios for the auto do a great job of harnessing the torque. 110kmh sees around 1600rpm in sixth on the freeway. 120kmh is still just under 2000rpm. Shifts are smooth, mostly seamless, and the Hill Descent Control part of the software knocks the gearbox back a cog or two and holds there on downhill tarmac based runs.

The four wheel drive system is operated electronically. A centre console mounted dial allows shifting between two wheel drive to four wheel drive high range “on the fly” at speeds up to one hundred kilometres per hour. Low range requires a stopped vehicle, neutral, and Drive. The end result is a solid, proven, ability to get some real dirt into the 255/60/18 rubber from Bridgestone.

On The Inside Is:
Seven seats, all cloth covered in the LS-U with Isuzu PR also throwing in rubber mats, a decision that paid dividends later. Trim is mainly black plastic, with a semi-gloss sheen. The third row seats are pull-strap operated, with a simple pull to both raise and lower. There is some additional cargo compartments fitted at the rear behind these seats. Middle row seats are tumble fold, allowing access from the rear door to the seats. The tail gate is manually operated, not powered.The driver’s seat is powered, with the passenger’s manually operated. The dash is a simple affair and varies considerably from Holden’s Trailblazer (formerly Colorado 7). The centre stack is dominated by a large dial for the aircon temperatures, with fan control, air direction, etc mounted in a sub-circle around it. This feeds extra vents in the roof which are themselves controlled by a separate dial for fan speed in the roof, with a dash mounted on/off button. The upper console has a shallow but broad storage locker, with a button that sometimes sticks. Centre console storage is a small locker and two cup/bottle holders.The driver’s dash display is simple, again with a circular theme in the LCD screen. This features fuel on the right in segments, with engine temperature on the left. The screen is multifunction, showing travel distance, distance to empty, fuel consumption, and more. Access is via a push button on both stalks, meaning you can scroll through left to right, or vice versa. It’s a nicely laid out look and shows up how badly the main eight inch touchscreen needs an overhaul. It’s full of pale, pastel, colours, looks like a washed out example of something on Japanese TV screens from the 1980s, and although featuring satnav, the response time is slow. Too slow. Also, there is no DAB audio. To counter this, it links to both DVD and CD, with roof mounted surround speakers for the front seats. Should one wish to utilise the cargo, up to 1830L of space is available with rear and middle row seats folded.Head, leg, and shoulder room aren’t a problem. Isuzu lists front leg room as 1106mm, middle as 915mm, and rear at 815mm. Head room up front is 1009mm, middle at 980mm, and 929mm for the rear. This provides great all round vision for the family. Shoulder room is 1453mm, 1340mm, 1009mm respectively.The Outside Has:
The test car had a tow bar, weather shields, and bonnet protector fitted. Check with your Isuzu dealer for costings. Paint is a gorgeous pearlescent white, and highlights the 1860mm height, 4825mm length, and 1860mm width nicely. Although the exterior shaping hasn’t changed much over the last few years, there has been a couple of subtle rejigs to at least keep a semblance of freshness. The front is a gentle yet assertive mix of angles, with LED running lights set as eyebrows above the main lights. There are globes in the lower bumper section to back these up.The black plastic bonnet protector and weather shields contrast well with the white pearl. Isuzu offer Cosmic Black, Havana Brown, Magnetic Red, Obsidian Grey, Titanium Silver, and Splash White as their palette. All highlight the muscular stance and body of the MU-X’s stern stare and do a good job of slim-lining the otherwise bulky rear. A full sized spare is mounted outside and under the cargo area.

The design allows the MU-X to have an approach angle of 24 degrees, 25 degrees departure, but the high centre of gravity provides just 19 degrees of ramp-over. Isuzu back up the ability by adding in a solid list of safety features. Four channel ABS, Electronic Stability Control, and Hill Descent Control get backed up by Trailer Sway Control. Reverse Camera, rear sensors, and six airbags are also standard.

On The Road It’s:
An easy going, lope along, low stress machine. The readily available torque down low is somewhat hobbled in the acceleration stakes by both the gearing and the fact it runs out of puff quickly once around the 3500rpm mark. It’s just above idle when traveling at around sixty, meaning the diesel chatter is a muted background thrum. The characteristics of the package settle down to something simple: it’s muscular but not quick, with overtaking an example of planning ahead.

The review car was taken on two substantial country trips from the Blue Mountains where it demonstrated its easy going highway nature. It’s a superb cruiser, and with the revs sitting below 2000rpm it really is a super relaxed machine to be in. Although the cloth seats lacked ventilation, they are well padded enough to have a two to three hour stint behind the wheel having the driver relatively fresh. The relatively high sidewalls on the rubber add a sometimes spongy ride but also do a lot to help absorption of varying road surfaces, both on and off tarmac. Front suspension is coil springs around gas filled dampers, with a multi-link rear end and gas filled dampers feeling marginally softer.

On the straight the MU-X is solidly planted however the steering lacks real feel. It’s like a tight and twisted rubber rope from centre to a good half turn either side. Oddly enough, the response is quite quick but the slightly soft suspension and a feeling of a high centre of gravity leave a sensation of spongy movement, a lurching body. In context, any moves need to be planned, such as they were on the highway south of Canberra and between Cooma and Bega.

A properly trained driver can adjust to the body movement and work with it to ensure a smooth transition from planted to movement. Brown Mountain is a prime example of this. There’s a down and up hill section of ten kilometres that tests both engine and transmission, both steering and ride. The steering gets a excellent test here and the MU-X needs some judicious handwork to make sure weight transfer is kept to a minimum. The brakes on the MU-X are pretty damned good at dealing with downhill runs too, with reasonable pedal feedback, a decent movement through the pedal travel, and good ability to haul it up when required.The MU-X was taken off road and with ground clearance of 230mm it’s not the highest sitting machine but managed a section of the Bega river with no qualms. Four wheel drive high was all that was needed. It was a different story on a local fire trail well used for off-road testing. Water pressure popped an insert in the lower left bumper, dislodged a plastic shroud, and a rock compressed a side step. All nothing major but enough to show some reinforcement is required. What was also noticeable is a sensation of the suspension stiffening up, adding more confidence to the ride.The Warranty Is:
Five years or 130,000 kilometres, with capped price servicing for the first five services.

At The End Of The Drive.
Isuzu’s industrial heritage is on display here with the MU-X. And that’s a good thing. It’s strong, reliable, and comfortable. The interior could use a lift in presence, especially the dash and console, otherwise it’s comfortable enough to be in and to drive from. Fit and finish on the inside is tight and well made, with a good glass area helping minimise feelings of being closed in. The economy is also great for a family, with consistent figures below 9.0L/100kmh for a loaded vehicle a surefire winner.

What was noticeable during the near three weeks of review time was the sheer amount of D-Max and MU-X vehicles seen. This, amongst many reasons, is reason enough to consider the MU-X when looking for a family oriented SUV.
Here is the brochure for further details.

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