Isuzu pursues premium with its next-generation MU-X
It's not every day that Isuzu announces an all-new product. After all, the reputation of the brand is rooted in a model offensive with long life-cycles and rudimentary qualities. But the next-generation MU-X, revealed recently, is likely to throw a different spin on proceedings.
At first impression, it adopts a decidedly more upmarket approach, as it eyes a share of a market dominated by the likes of the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest, with left-field contenders such as the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport in the periphery. It is based on the same architecture as the forthcoming D-MAX, which also lends its foundations to the next Mazda BT-50 pick-up.
Isuzu has already commenced local testing on its seventh-generation D-MAX, which will be produced locally in Port Elizabeth as its predecessors have been for as long as 48 years. The current MU-X is sourced from Thailand – and that looks set to be the case with its successor too.
According to Isuzu, the exterior styling of the newcomer was guided by a principle of “emotional and solid” with a result that the firm describes as both “sporty and dignified”.
Aggressive might have been a more choice adjective, given the severely disgruntled scowl it wears. Thanks to a toothy grille and headlamps in a furrowing expression, the MU-X has a pretty mean countenance. Spot the relatively narrow window apertures down the side and a prominent character line spanning the width of the bodywork. It culminates in an angular, edgy rear with teardrop-shaped taillights.
But more significant is the aura of plushness promised by the cabin. From the accompanying press photography anyway, there seems to be a greater emphasis on creating an ambience that mimics vehicles beyond the intended category.
Yes, the fascia design and layout is nigh-on identical to what can be expected from its pick-up counterpart. But Isuzu says that a greater effort was made at creating a distinction, with consideration given to better materials and unique details, including the gauges and switchgear. Even the caramel-crème-hued upholstery conveys a certain ... sumptuousness.
The firm says that remarkable levels of on-road comfort can be expected, thanks to a five-link rear suspension in addition to enhancements to the stabilisers and a sturdier lateral link. Torsional rigidity is purportedly improved, with wider use of high-tensile steel plates in the sections mounting the cabin to the body.
In addition, says the technical release, the engineers were more liberal with their use of sound-deadening materials in the vehicle’s pillars. Also, the fuel tank capacity sees an increase to 80l from 65l.
As before, the MU-X will have three-row seating. That last row has been given particular attention with a view to maximising legroom, with a reclining mechanism and seats that were sculpted to optimise space.
Outlined on the Isuzu global media portal are the specifications for one derivative: a 2999cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged-diesel. This is a revised iteration of a well-proven unit, delivering 140kW and 450Nm, paired with a six-speed automatic. For reference, a variation of the same source in the current MU-X serves 130kW and 380Nm.