2017 Isuzu MU-X review, test drive

    Could Isuzu finally have a credible rival to the Fortuner and Endeavour with its long overdue MU-X SUV?

    Published on May 12, 2017 05:04:00 PM


    What’s it like to drive?

    The motor is a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel that makes 177hp and 380Nm. The torque figure is telling because it's considerably lower than most rivals, which generally are past the 400Nm mark, and a good reserve of torque is essential for big SUVs like this one. The gearbox is a five-speed automatic and can be had with either 4x2, or the 4x4 (selectable by a rotary knob) we have here.

    It's not the most refined engine, with lots of vibes and noise being felt once you extend it past 2,000rpm. The fan too is quite loud and can be heard in the cabin. If you punch the accelerator for an overtake or to pick up the pace after a speed breaker, you'll get a massive bellow and not a lot of movement, and you just don't know if the gearbox is going to shift up, down or not at all; it's very inconsistent. If you keep the throttle at about one-third, it will make smooth and beautiful progress, the gearbox shifting away seamlessly.

    Similarly, the ride quality. The long-travel suspension is set up very soft, so if you're driving slowly and smoothly, you get this wonderful, pillow-like ride. But the moment you step the pace up, even past 60kph, it starts to move all over the place. Even the smallest of bumps registers in the cabin and the steering jolts around in your hands. Suffice to say it crashes pretty hard through large, sharp bumps.

    Like most ladder-frame SUVs, this isn't one for corners, and the soft suspension results in a whole lot of roll. The steering, which is seriously heavy at low speeds, does retain some weight and feel at higher speeds, but there's a distinct vagueness around the centre position. Also, with all the mass at work in the corners, the tyres quite easily squeal in protest. Again, provided you corner the car gently, the car will respond just fine.

    So, it all depends on your driving style, whether it's the engine, gearbox, ride or handling. This is not a car to be hustled and prefers being driven at a leisurely pace at all times. Overstep the limits and things start to go awry; stay within them and you'll have a smooth and comfortable drive.

    Should I buy one?

    One thing to remember at the outset is, when the MU-7 was launched in India a few years ago, this MU-X was already on sale in markets like Thailand, and while it’s finally here now, globally it’s recently been given a facelift, and that's not the one we've gotten. So it seems, once again, the Indian market has been denied the latest version of Isuzu’s flagship SUV.

    Still, it's a huge step up from the MU-7 and even the D-Max V-Cross in terms of luxury and creature comforts. Actually, how you view this car depends on what you compare it to. Yes, it's a big step up from the V-Cross pickup, but then it costs nearly twice as much. At Rs 13 lakh, your expectations aren't that high, but once you're past the 20-lakh mark, there's a standard to be met.

    Speaking of which, the MU-X simply can't compare to the new Fortuner or the Endeavour on most counts – performance, refinement, comfort, luxury, equipment and ride quality, but then you have to remember it costs Rs 5-6 lakh less than them. In fact, the entire MU-X range (Rs 23.99-25.99 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi) is cheaper than the cheapest variants of the competition. Only the Chevy Trailblazer compares on price.

    So, it falls a bit short of the gold standard set by the brand new Endeavour and Fortuner in this segment, but it is a whole lot more affordable. Think of it then as the SUV for those who are on somewhat of a budget but also don't mind skipping a few fripperies. The MU-X has all the essentials, if not every luxury, while also being spacious and comfortable, and superb off road.

    Also read

    Isuzu MU-X launched
    Isuzu MU-X price, variants explained
    Isuzu MU-X vs rivals: Specifications comparison
    Isuzu MU-X image gallery

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