Cars

Published on August 31st, 2016 | by Subhash Nair

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Isuzu MU-X Review: Bigger and Better by All Accounts

The Isuzu MU-X is one of those SUVs made with the family in mind. Yet despite its broad appeal, it’s also one of the most rugged vehicles on sale in Malaysia – both visually and mechanically.

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Before we get too ahead of ourselves, it’s worth explaining that the MU-X is a body-on-frame 7-seater SUV. It shares many mechanical underpinnings with the ever-popular Isuzu D-MAX pickup truck, and this is a good thing. First of all, the D-MAX’s fuel efficiency has been well documented throughout the years with many well-publicised single-tank cross-country trips being made. We’re not surprised, Isuzu is one of the largest manufacturers of diesel engines in the world, making power plants for by dozens of other vehicle producers.

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The reliable 16-Valve, DOHC diesel unit displaces 2.5 litres and comes with a variable geometry turbocharger to bring its maximum torque to a very healthy 320Nm. This certainly helps the MU-X excel when it’s fully loaded with passengers and cargo. It’s a little behind on power, but you don’t notice it. What you will notice is the fuel savings.

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During hill climbs, (as we did on our initial group test drive up Cameron Highlands) we found the 5-speed gearbox to be more than sufficient given how quickly the engine’s full torque output is reached. In any case, there is a Tiptronic-style manual mode in place and four-wheel drive mode can be engaged while driving at speeds of up to 100km/h, but for obvious reasons, using the low-range mode requires you to come to a complete stop first.

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One look and it’s easy to see why Isuzu kept with its aggressive design language. Despite being designed for the family man; the MU-X still looks tough and masculine. We were glad to see that the ‘Soccer Mom’ SUV look is nowhere to be seen here. Instead, you get chiselled body panels and well-defined lines. While it may share some elements with the D-Max in terms of styling, both the front – and obviously – the rear are distinct from its workhorse sibling.

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There’s a mixture of chrome and dark grey trim around the exterior of the vehicle. It’s pretty well balanced, but we would have preferred fewer materials interrupt the car’s design.

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On the inside, all the necessary elements are well placed within the reach of the driver and front passenger.

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Climate control can be manipulated via the circular button cluster in the  centre and buyers will be glad to know that there’s a second compressor for the rear air cond vents.

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The system in place allows control of the rear air conditioner from the cabin and the rear as well. Ease-of-access is the name of the game on the MU-X. The Blaupunkt unit in the MU-X is extremely fluid and fully featured. There’s even a ceiling-mounted flip-out screen to provide passengers in the 2nd and 3rd row some entertainment while on long journeys.

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This can be a godsend for those with children or even a nice way to unwind after work if you intend to be chauffer driven in the MU-X. Yes, this makes the MU-X an alternative for businessmen who frequent off-road sites as its comfort and ruggedness.

Storage bins are everywhere as well. There’s one on the dash, and two glove boxes on the passenger side as well as a hidden cupholder.

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In terms of dimensions, the MU-X is king. It’s longer, taller, wider and even has a bigger wheelbase than any of its Japanese competitors. This translates to larger interior room. And just look at the amount of luggage space available with the seats folded flat.

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It even comes with solid disc brakes at the rear, something not often offered in this segment.

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In terms of safety the MU-X still takes the lead. Again, the Japanese competition withholds where Isuzu gives. This time, it’s the all-important Stability Control. The absence of such a feature should not be taken lightly, especially on high-riding SUVs such as this. What happens if there’s no luggage or passengers on board? Without weight over the rear wheels, control can easily be lost when things go awry. Not for MU-X owners though. Here Stability Control is standard.

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If that’s not enough, there are loads of other features that put the MU-X on top too. 4 sensor rear parking sensors, a reverse camera, and Navigation are all good to have in a vehicle such as this, and thankfully they are present.

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The Isuzu MU-X ends up being the smartest choice in the segment. At just over RM160,000 – the full spec model is a lot more affordable than its competitors but offers better safety and a bigger car. Sure, it still hasn’t made the aesthetic leap that the new Fortuner and Everest have taken, but cosmetics aside, this seems to be the better buy.

Isuzu MU-X 4X4 Specifications

Engine: I4 DOHC Commonrail Diesel with Variable Geometry Turbocharger

Capacity: 2499c

Gearbox: 5-speed automatic

Max power: 134bhp @ 3600rpm

Max torque: 320Nm @ 1800rpm

Selling price: RM162,100


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