Could Isuzu finally have a credible rival to the Fortuner and Endeavour with its long overdue MU-X SUV?
What is it?
It’s the much-awaited replacement for Isuzu’s launch model, the MU-7. When that massive SUV was launched, what was clear was that it had presence, but up against the likes of the (now last-gen) Fortuner and Endeavour, it felt a bit behind the times. And now that there are new versions of the competition, this all-new model, the MU-X, couldn’t have come a minute sooner. It shares its platform with the Isuzu D-Max V-Cross, a car we really liked, and also the Chevrolet Trailblazer, but it gets its own unique engine and gearbox.
As such, it resembles both the cars it shares a platform with – the front end being very close to that of the V-Cross (complete with the massive ‘fanged’ chrome grille), and the glasshouse and rear quite similar to the Trailblazer. What’s new at the front is a more aggressive contrast-coloured bumper with LED daytime running lamps embedded in it. What’s refreshing is that it does without any black cladding on the sides and instead makes up for that with a set of really chunky wheel arches. The rear end may be similar in shape to the Chevrolet, even getting a similar blacked-out D-pillar, but Isuzu’s wraparound tail-lamps give it a distinct look. Also really attractive are the multi-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels; they may be a little smaller than what some competitors offer, but their design is really smart, and the tall, 65-profile tyres complement the tough look nicely. Overall, the MU-X has a strong SUV stance and a lot of presence.
What’s it like on the inside?
As is befitting this sort of big, ladder-frame SUV, it’s a climb up into the cabin, and once there you’ll find a dashboard similar to the D-Max V-Cross, but with a number of new embellishments. For a start, there’s a nice texture to the plastics, there’s piano black frames for the vents and centre console, around the cool, circular AC control pod, and silver accents on the steering wheel with many more controls at your disposal. There's even nice soft leather cushioning on the armrests and door pads. Fit and finish is pretty tight and the design is very neat, but you don’t get that same sense of richness you do in, say, a Fortuner or an Endeavour.
The equipment list is pretty good too. You get leather upholstery and a powered driver’s seat, keyless entry and go, there’s cruise control and there’s even a seven-inch touchscreen. The highlight though is a 10-inch screen that folds out of the roof so rear passengers can watch movies. Still, it doesn’t quite match up to more modern rivals; the touchscreen, for instance, is functional and easy to use, but doesn’t feature any form of smartphone integration.
What you'll really love is the space, or even just the sense of space. For one, the front seats feel nice and comfortable even though they're not heavily contoured. The driver's seat is set very high (even short drivers won't mind it in its lowest position), and that gives you a superb view out and a commanding position from the wheel. The middle row has huge amounts of legroom, thigh support is pretty good, and you can even recline the 60:40 split backrest. The third row is accessible with a single lever pull that folds and flips the middle row forward. Space here is pretty good too, but what's better is that the seat itself is placed high enough and is well cushioned too. Boot volume isn't tremendous but you could just about squeeze in a medium size suitcase with all three rows up.