SUV underdog Isuzu Ute Australia (IUA) is becoming a real threat to the already established brands in the market and the improvements to the MY17 MU-X are only going to help.
Exhaust Notes Australia was among the first media to drive the updated version over a thorough drive program through the Sunshine Coast hinterland and highways, and sampled the middle of the range LS-U and top shelf LS-T.
There’s much to love about the 2017 edition with Isuzu playing to the brand’s undeniable strength – its engine. The MU-X gets the Euro V compliant 3.0L inter-cooled turbo diesel introduced exclusively to Australia in February, along with the new six-speed Aisin transmission.
The new engine package produces 130kW like its former incarnation, but boasts 430Nm of torque at its peak. The result is a comfortable and effortless drive. The new MU-X tackles steep gradients with ease, and like its ute sister the D-Max, handles towing like a knife through soft butter. The multi-link coil suspension means it’s a 3,000kg towing capacity too.
We had a 2-tonne caravan behind the MU-X, and as was the case in our recent D-Max review, the 3.0L handled it without strain. The only difference was the fuel consumption – which had risen significantly. However, Exhaust Notes Australia is putting this down to the lack of aerodynamics of this particular van, with a large leading face and no nose cone.
Conversely, when we drove a vehicle with a similar weight trailer, its consumption was comparable with the cars we had steered throughout the course of the day. Fuel consumption is also another strong point for the MU-X, with its best combined figure sitting at 7.9L/100km for the LS-T and LS-U 4X4.
Isuzu undertook a major overhaul of the interior for the 2017 MU-X and the result is an aesthetically pleasing and comfortable cabin. The lower and mid-range spec gets a stylish cloth seat, while the LS-T is a refined and comfy leather appointed seat with quilted design.
The ride is exceptionally quiet with the extensive work Isuzu has carried out to achieve a three decibel, or five percent, reduction in engine noise. On the highway, the new MU-X is virtually silent and there is no detection of road noise from the 18-inch all-terrain tyres.
Off road, the MU-X shows its strong ties to the tough D-Max. Changing from two-wheel to four-wheel-drive is a simple twist of the range selector, which can be done on the fly at speeds of up to 100km/h.
The change to low range four-wheel drive is just as easy, with another turn of the selector when in neutral. Hill start assist and hill decent control make steep terrain a breeze and give even novice 4×4 drivers confidence. It’s easy to see the MU-X is not a soft off-roader and able to handle a solid beating.
Isuzu has kept the MU-X pure. It’s not over complicated with technology like blind spot warnings but has all the creature comforts you’d expect like cruise control and Bluetooth.
The integrated eight-inch infotainment screen is probably the one weak point of the MU-X’s overhaul. It may sound picky, but it does look dated with a boxy design. It’s also a testament to the quality of the offerings of Isuzu that we’re honing in on such minor details.
MU-X offers exceptional value, and with the new interior and quietness of the cabin, it’s a real serious contender in the large SUV market. It truly is a happy compromise of on and off road, ruggedness and comfort.
Our test vehicle was provided by Isuzu Ute Australia as part of its launch event. To find out more about the new 2017 Isuzu MU-X, visit your Isuzu Ute dealer.