THE days of struggling to find a capable SUV that suited family life are long gone, there’s now bucket loads of them. The problem is though, they can’t all handle the rugged stuff, and lots of them aren’t even 4WD – not so the 2018 Isuzu MU-X.
Instead it’s been built on the back of 100 years of Japanese motoring tradition, is based on a scaled down truck, not an up-scaled car, and it’s got a reliable, tried and true power plant under the bonnet, along with some neat new features.
The exterior stylings of the MU-X are a rich composition of sophisticated and rugged stylings, combining the two to give you an imposing vehicle that provides a sense of comfort and family, but feels like it’s capable of getting the job done.
Step inside, and that tough exterior of strength and power has been relaxed, with a more comforting approach, using a dark colour palette accented with silver trims and touches of polished chrome and gloss black.
A central touch screen infotainment system provides you with iPod and Bluetooth connectivity and can also play various forms of media, including DVDs for the passengers in the back via a fold-down monitor in front of the second row of seats.
If those second row occupants are children though, and their viewing choice is Frozen, or any of those Disney films with annoyingly catchy but grinding songs, you might want some ear plugs.
The rear monitor is just that, a monitor, and it’s not a stand alone system, so there’s no headphones either, as it all plays through the car’s impressive sound system, which includes roof mounted speakers.
Upgraded USB charging (boosted to 2.1A for faster charging) is available in both the front and rear, while there are cup holders aplenty, along with ample storage in the form of door compartments, a double glove box, and roomy centre console.
There’s fantastic leg room in the front and middle row, and above average leg room in the third row, but as usual with all seven seater SUVs, the third row would only be comfortable for kids on a long trip.
The boot space with the rear seats up is lacking to say the least, and the addition of the storage box unit (which can be removed) in our test vehicle made the floor flush with the rear seats, reducing space even further.
The whole kit gets around on 16-inch alloys for the bottom of the range LS-M, while the LS-U and LS-T gain 18-inch wheels, with all models powered by the same 130kW 3.0-litre turbo diesel it shares with the D-Max, which pushes out 430Nm of torque.
Unloaded, you will be jumping off the line to get into that gap in traffic with ease, and once you load it up your going to experience that fantastic truck pedigree handling, with 3-tonne towing capacity and 300kg ball weight.
From a safety perspective, the MU-X is fitted with trailer sway control (TSC), which monitors trailer movement and modulates throttle and brake inputs to individual wheels — bringing the towed trailer under control if unsolicited sway is detected.
Unlike the D-Max, you’ll find coil suspension and gas shocks with a sway bar in the rear on the MU-X, and it handles towing around a 1.9-tonne caravan with ease, with take-off and stopping the only time we even noticed the van was there.
It’s clearly a popular choice with buyers too, with the MU-X fifth in local sales results, behind Toyota’s Prado and Kluger, Subaru Outback and Mazda CX-9. It is also the leading ute based SUV in Australia, ahead of the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Ford Everest.
During 4WD testing at the launch of the new 2018 Isuzu MU-X, Exhaust Notes Australia had the chance to see how it performed on stock rubber, negotiating challenging wet rocky acscents and descents, all in admirable fashion.
There’s added assurance on the 4×4 models too, with steel protection plates on the under body. Where we did find some rough ride ironically was on the road, where it felt noisier than perhaps a number of its rivals.
What the MU-X does have over its rivals though, is reputation – recognised for its bullet proof engine and outstanding performance and fuel economy. It has a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, stability control, air bags, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.
To get yourself a great all-round family friendly 4×4 or 4×2 Isuzu MU-X you will need to spend $42,900 plus on-roads for the LS-M 4×2 through to $56,200 plus on-roads for the top of the range LS-T 4×4.
Pricing includes a five year warranty and five year roadside assist, with capped price servicing for the entire warranty period totalling out at just $2,090 over 60 months.
For the first time ever, it’s available in Magnetic Red Mica, as well as existing colours including Cosmic Black, Havana Brown, Obsidian Grey Mica, Silk White Pearl, Titanium Silver and Splash White.
Our 2018 Isuzu D-Max was provided as part of a two day launch event by Isuzu Ute Australia. To find out more, contact your local Isuzu Ute dealer.