FIRST DRIVE | New 2021 Isuzu MU-X gets more brains, brawn and beauty
In terms of sales the Isuzu MU-X has remained largely obscured by the popular Toyota Fortuner. That's not to say it isn’t without merit as it also accommodates seven passengers inside a well-built cabin and is impressive off-road.
The latest model that's based on the new Isuzu D-Max bakkie continues the recipe but now with chiselled, catwalk styling. I drove the new model in George, Western Cape on a road and off-road route designed to showcase its wide set of applications.
It debuts with four models: two LS grades in 4x2 or 4x4, LSE 4x2 and the upmarket 4x4 Onyx that rides on 20-inch wheels. All models are powered by a new 3.0l diesel engine paired to a six-speed automatic transmission.
A smart interior features a new Multi Information Display (MID), a leather-clad steering wheel and gear selector, chrome highlights, dual zone climate control, smartphone integration and much more. All models have roof mounted air conditioning vents for the second and third rows with separate fan speed control and air conditioning.
The engine has improved outputs of 140kW and 450Nm from the 130kW and 380Nm of the previous generation. The new motor certainly feels more refined and muscular with evident urgency over 1,000rpm. The transmission is smooth and has faster changes than before but it hunts for ratios a lot, more so in slow off-road pace.
The engine handles the vehicle’s mass well, though we didn't have seven people for full-capacity tests. The new vehicle is quieter too, especially at a cruise, and the steering is agreeably light.
The suspension soaks up surface imperfections well enough at average speeds, but the body wallowed significantly when negotiating twisty roads at pace. The traction control system is fast acting though and cuts out the power from the motor as part of maintaining control.
Onyx models gain self-throttle and braking through Isuzu’s Intelligent Driver Assistance System (IDAS) which also scans the roads for obstacles and will warn a driver of impeding incidents before slamming on the brakes autonomously if no driver intervention is forthcoming.
More clever safety tech includes Pedal Misapplication Mitigation, a system that uses radar to monitor and avoid accidental crashing into a car or wall at speeds below 10km/h.
Safety kit comprises seven airbags including a new central bag that pops out between the front seats, shielding front passengers from slamming into one another during a crash.
The 3.0l engine also gives plenty of lowdown torque to make towing or driving off-road painless, and I didn’t need to be working the engine hard in all of scaling situations encountered. It’s fitted with most of expected bundu-bashing tools, including a locally manufactured diff-lock.
With only automatic transmission models on offer this makes the Isuzu MU-X less competitive as you can’t save money and get a manual. But it’s certainly competitively priced against the Ford Everest, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Fortuner. It has an edge because of its good looks and advanced safety tech.
The new MU-X is available in eight paint colours — Splash White, Dolomite White, Onyx Black, Mercury Silver, Obsidian Gray, Red Spinel, Santos Brown (pictured) and my favourite, Sapphire blue.
All models are covered by a five-year/120,000km warranty while customers can opt to unbundle the five-year/90,000km service plan from the price.
Isuzu MU-X 3.0 Ddi 4x2 LS — R693,800
Isuzu MU-X 3.0 Ddi 4x4 LS — R771,600
Isuzu MU-X 3.0 Ddi 4x2 LSE — R763,300
Isuzu MU-X 3.0 Ddi 4x4 Onyx — R860,500
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