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Isuzu mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4×4

Setting the Standard |

A second attempt at the Isuzu mu-X’s design proved to be the charm. With a refined powertrain and an upmarket cabin, the new mu-X is coming guns blazing for the big names in the SUV segment.

Having driven every Isuzu model released in SA in the past five years, I have become quite the resident Isuzu guy. While I have always been enamoured with their bakkies, the mu-X SUV left me wanting more, so following the successful launch of the new model at the end of 2021, I jumped at the opportunity to spend some time with the new mu-X. 

Exterior Overhaul

Pictures never genuinely do justice to a car’s looks, so you will have to take it from me that the new mu-X is a beauty in person. When we reviewed the predecessor, I quickly pointed out that it reminded me of the Trailblazer with which it shared underpinnings. As much as it carried its distinct Isuzu identity, it was challenging not to notice Trailblazer similarities. Well, that is certainly not the case any longer.

Isuzu went back to the drawing board and gave the mu-X an extensive makeover – and the new SUV is all the better for it. Upfront, your gaze will be drawn to the sleeker redesigned headlights flanking a more expressive grille, completed by a redesigned bumper. The combination gives the front fascia a purposeful demeanour. The side profile features a sharp crease that runs from the front fender and tapers off at the rear shoulder, where your attention is drawn to the sporty window profile. Redesigned LED taillights and a sleeker rear bumper complete the look. Our range-topping Onyx model also came riding on monster 20” alloys.

Upgraded Interior

The changes carry on once you step inside the cabin, which feels premium, luxurious and far removed from Isuzu’s utilitarian roots. Soft-touch materials, metal accents and piano black surfaces have been tastefully utilised to attain a sense of occasion. Our range-topping test unit came heavily kitted with the best features, including the 9” infotainment system replete with Android Auto and Apple Carplay connectivity. The multifunction steering wheel comes with voice input controls and audio and telephone functions, which means you rarely have to take your eyes off the road to interface with the touch screen unit.

The comfortable seats are swathed in supple leather, with the front seats featuring seat heating and electric adjustability. Overall, the build quality is precise and robust and looks like it can take a beating, just like the Isuzu models of old. With more cabin room than its predecessor, this seven-seater is a far better family vehicle. The third row could be tight for full-sized adults but excellent for children. 

Refined Driving

The new mu-X is powered by a new 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that generates 140 kW of power and 450 Nm of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission completes the drivetrain. While there is an option for 4×2 for the lower trims, our tester, the Onyx, came with the strict 4×4 setup.

With more grunt than the outgoing model, the new engine gives the mu-X a more thrilling driving experience. The extra torque comes into its own at highway speeds, where the car does not struggle to gain additional momentum. Meanwhile, the six-speed has been recalibrated to offer quicker and more concise shifts that do not detract from the driving experience. The new engine also sounds noticeably more refined, abandoning the industrial clatter that had become synonymous with the Isuzu brand.

Its on-road manners show marked improvement thanks to an independent front setup and a five-link coil-sprung setup in the rear. The reworked suspension irons out road imperfections, treating occupants to supple ride quality. The new design also mitigates the contentious body roll that plagued the outgoing model. Now you can carry more speed with confidence around the corners. The car’s light steering is excellent in the city but less ideal on the highway, where firmer steering adds a sense of assurance.

We did not have the chance to throw the car at a proper off-road escapade, but Isuzu is confident that the mu-X improves on the impressive off-road credentials of its predecessor. With 227 mm ground clearance, 800 mm wading depth, and electronic differential lock, the mu-X has the hardware to hold its own off the tarmac. Isuzu also added a 4×4 transfer control dial that allows you to change between 2H and 4H. A Rough Terrain Mode setting allows the car’s systems to deal effectively with more challenging off-road challenges.

Our fuel consumption averaged around 9 l/100 km for the seven days I was with the car, which was higher than the manufacturer’s claimed 7.6 l/100 km. Despite this, it was still a notable improvement over what we had grown accustomed to in the yesteryear model. Couple that with an 80 l tank, and you have a long-distance cruiser. Oh, and the mu-X can now tow 3,500 kg.

Last Word

The new mu-X is undoubtedly going to prove more popular than its predecessor. Thanks to its refreshed exterior and reworked cabin, it is a worthy alternative to the Fortuner or Everest. Yes, its performance figures may fall short of what the competition offers, but in our daily tests with the car, we found it to be sufficiently equipped to tackle any challenge. 

Report by BRYAN KAYAVHU | Images © Isuzu South Africa 


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