Article from Drive.
How big a jump forward is the new-generation four-wheel drive wagon from Isuzu? We grabbed a new and old MU-X and headed offroad to find out.
The previous generation Isuzu MU-X was a long-serving, and stubbornly popular, choice for Australians looking for a diesel-powered family four-wheel drive, that can adeptly dabble in a bit of off-roading and towing.
For those that want it (and can afford the additional cost), options like the Nissan Patrol, Toyota LandCruiser and Land Rover Discovery were there. However, when considered against its slightly smaller – but still seven-seat – competition like the Pajero Sport and now-dead Holden Trailblazer, Isuzu’s MU-X always seemed to punch above its weight.
The first generation Isuzu MU-X came to Australia back in 2013. Like many others of its ilk, the four-wheel-drive wagon uses the D-Max ute as a base to build upon. Much of the hardware up front was retained, but the chassis has been shortened and coil springs replace leaf springs at the back.
Isuzu does have some good four-wheel driving heritage to draw upon, too. Much of this landed in Australia with a Holden badge, with models like the Jackaroo (nee Isuzu Trooper) and Frontera (nee Isuzu MU or Wizard), although the latter’s four-cylinder Holden Family 2 engine was never up to the task.
There was also the unique Isuzu Vehicross, which kept the audacious concept styling it debuted with at the 1993 Tokyo International Auto Show. Sadly not offered in Australia, but noteworthy nonetheless.
The world has come a long way since the MU-X’s 2013 debut. And while the MU-X did get constant updates and incremental changes over the years, it was quite tired by the time it was put out to pasture in 2021.
The 2022 Isuzu MU-X is new in every sense, with a ground-up redesign. Much of the recipe remains unchanged: 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine, room for seven onboard, and a coil-sprung platform adapted from the D-Max.
To see how different new and old MU-X models are – and to compare them back-to-back – we’ve brought an example of each out into the bush.
|Key details||2022 Isuzu MU-X LS-T||2021 Isuzu MU-X LS-T|
|Price (MSRP)||$63,990 (driveaway)||$57,400 (plus on-road costs)|
|Colour of test car||Cobalt Blue||Obsidian Grey|
This is probably the area where the old Isuzu MU-X feels the most dated and tired. Ergonomically, it’s not too bad; seats could do with more under-thigh support and general bolstering, and the steering column only has tilt adjustment.
One does grow to love the amount of storage on offer inside the MU-X, with slide-out cupholders and twin gloveboxes adding to the usual spots around the centre console and dashboard. Door cards are usable size, and the lidded compartment atop the dashboard also comes in handy. Although, it can be a pain in the bum to open sometimes.
The new Isuzu MU-X combines a few of the nice practical elements of the previous generation but wraps it up in an interior and experience that is more comfortable, higher quality and modern. Unlike the Isuzu D-Max, the dash-top storage compartment didn’t make the cut on this new MU-X. But the slide-out cupholders did, along with the second glovebox.
Seats are much better in the new MU-X as well, especially in this LS-T specification which comes with electric adjustment. The materials are a cut above the previous generation, and the general comfort and adjustability are much better.
Maybe Isuzu listened to some of our moaning about the previous generation, because the addition of reach adjustment for the steering column and extra under-thigh support (which is also adjustable) makes it much better for long stints behind the wheel.
The new Isuzu MU-X is slightly longer than the previous generation, and also carries a little more in terms of wheelbase. You get a sense of that in the second row.
Both of these examples have enough room to fit adults in the second row comfortably. The middle seat is a decent size, but better suited to smaller humans. Or, being used for the two cupholders in its fold-down armrest.
The third row of both examples is certainly more suited to kids. I can fit in both, and the new generation MU-X could be slightly more spacious, but I would call both examples occasional for full-bones adults.
While the new generation Isuzu MU-X loses the roof-mounted drop-down TV screen, equipping the kids with a couple of tablets easily makes up for the loss. Plus, they pack a much bigger punch in terms of usability and versatility.
The new-generation Isuzu MU-X has a couple of USB power outlets in the second row, and keeps the roof-mounted air vents for second and third rows.
While the new MU-X enjoys a larger boot when one looks at the spec sheet, they are measured using different methods. In person, the amount of boot space in the new MU-X is slightly better, as measured with some Maxtrax recovery boards.
|2022 Isuzu MU-X LS-T||2021 Isuzu MU-X LS-T|
Infotainment and Connectivity
Considering how quickly the game is moving forward in infotainment technology, the old 8.0-inch hardware in the previous generation MU-X is hopelessly dated. Firstly, it lacks important functionality like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The screen size is decent and native navigation is nice to have, but that’s about all one can say.
On the other hand, the new 9.0-inch infotainment display is much better. It’s got Apple Carplay, Android Auto (both of which can be connected wired or wirelessly) and digital radio, as well as native navigation in this specification. The operating system isn’t as nice or seamless as other new systems out there, but you quickly forget about this once your smartphone is plugged in.
The multifunction display in front of the driver is new and larger as well, offering up more control and functionality. The old system is mostly made up of digital fuel and coolant temperature readouts, with basic trip computer information. The new display gives a digital speed readout as well as controls for some of the driving aids and body electric controls.
That last point is important because depending on how the MU-X has been set, it’s prone to beeping a lot. Some will find the constant reminders handy, but others (like me) will find them annoying. But spend some time digging through the menu, and you can turn them down or off.
Safety & Technology
This is another important area where the new Isuzu MU-X moves the game forward. A long way.
With no autonomous emergency braking or lane departure warning, the old Isuzu MU-X trails new MU-X in terms of safety, as you’d expect. Isuzu added blind-spot monitoring as an option in the twilight months, but the age of the platform precludes anything beyond that.
And while a five-star ANCAP safety rating from 2013 is good to have, the test back then was not as strict as it is today. So a five-star ANCAP result from 2021 carries a lot more weight.
Using two cameras mounted high in the windscreen – just like the Isuzu D-Max – the new MU-X gains important active safety technology like autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keep assistance and traffic sign recognition.
Autonomous emergency braking has pedestrian and cyclist detection and works in conjunction with intersections as well.
The airbag count rises to eight in the new MU-X, with the usual complement of front, side and curtain airbags gaining a front centre and driver’s knee for the new generation.
|At a glance||2022 Isuzu MU-X LS-T||2021 Isuzu MU-X LS-T|
|ANCAP rating & year tested||5 stars (tested in 2020)||5 stars (tested in 2013)|
|Safety report||Link to results||Link to results|
Value for Money
Although a drive-away deal (which is only in place for the top-spec LS-T) muddies the waters in terms of value for money, the asking price has gone up by approximately a few thousand dollars if you account for the on-road costs. However, a big difference here in real terms is that the old MU-X was often sold at a price lower than the recommended figure.
No doubt, the new Isuzu MU-X is a more expensive proposition. And when you look at the competitive set, it doesn’t carry the value card like the previous generation MU-X used to.
Toyota’s Fortuner – in top-spec Crusade trim – is priced from $62,945 before on-road costs, while the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is sharpest at $57,690 before on-road costs in Exceed specification.
At least one can see where a lot of this extra money goes with the new generation MU-X. Along with carrying plenty of extra safety technology, there’s a bigger and better infotainment display, more high-end interior, and improved powertrain.
And don’t forget, the increased 3500kg towing capacity and slightly improved payload for the new Isuzu MU-X. However, the numbers are complicated and those keen to tow should sit down (with a large cup of tea) and read this story. Cliff notes: the new Isuzu MU-X is better off sticking to 3000kg towing, instead of using all of it.
|At a glance||2022 Isuzu MU-X LS-T||2021 Isuzu MU-X LS-T|
|Warranty||Six years / 150,000 km||Six years / 150,000 km|
|Service intervals||12 months / 15,000km||12 months / 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||$1397 (3yr) / $2205 (5yr)||$1407 (3yr) / $2305 (5yr)|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||8.3L/100km||7.9L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||8.8L/100km||8.4L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||80L||65L|
While the new Isuzu MU-X carries over the same engine size and configuration, it’s a new-generation diesel engine that has more power and torque thanks mostly to a new turbocharging and fuel system. It’s a little smoother, as well. There’s less harshness and vibrations going on with the new ‘4JJ3’ turbo diesel engine, as well as feeling more flexible.
It’s the first time Isuzu has split the development of their passenger and commercial diesel engines, which wasn’t done with the long-serving 4JJ1 from the earlier MU-X.
Both of these engines still go about their business in a similar manner, preferring to lug and slog through the middle ranges than reach up towards redline.
Once I spent some time back-to-back with both of these Isuzus, you can clearly see the improvements made with this new engine. It’s better off-idle, more responsive, and is less resistant to high RPMs.
Part of the improvement comes from the gearbox, the same Aisin-sourced six-speed automatic gearbox was improved for the new MU-X. It shifts a little faster, but still smoothly and predictably.
Ride quality between the two Isuzus is remarkably similar. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise because both have the same combination of four-link rear suspension and coil springs at the back, along with strut-based independent front suspension.
An increased payload and towing capacity often result in a stiffer overall ride quality, but I couldn’t sense it in the back-to-back testing.
With an electric steering system, the new MU-X has a sense of refinement and adjustability that the older hydraulic system cannot match. Steering feels much lighter at a stop, but weight comes on progressively as speeds increase.
And while the new MU-X might feel a little more tied-down and dynamic, this still isn’t a standout element for the breed. Toyota’s Fortuner and Ford’s Everest both feel more compelling in this regard.
Adding a locking differential into the new MU-X improves the off-road credentials straight off the bat, and makes it a better candidate for capability.
During the testing, however, I have to tip my cap to the old battler. Although it’s lacking any locking diffs or a competent off-road traction control system, it did manage to climb some tricky tracks. In comparison to the new MU-X, I needed to be more adroit with throttle, momentum and line selection. But, I was able to do it.
That 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine is a nice companion. While it does lack the on-paper grunt of others in the segment, its laziness and ease of control help greatly.
It’s a similar case with the new Isuzu MU-X, but with the addition of a better traction control system and locking rear differential means you don’t need to punch it so hard through the cross-axle situations. Rather, you can let the car do the hard work of keeping the tractable wheels turning against the earth.
The ‘Rough Terrain Mode’ button is a powerful ally, improving the off-road traction control significantly. In our testing, it worked well on steep and loose hill climbs off-road, allowing us to keep a steady crawl with small throttle inputs.
Unfortunately, you can’t use both of these at the same time; Isuzu forces you to choose between the two. Which is better overall? That’s a tricky one to answer and will depend on the kind of driving that you are doing. It will also depend on your own tastes and preferences.
One thing holding the new MU-X back a little in this specification is the wheel and tyre package, because 20-inch tyres don’t offer the same amount of sidewall as the old 18-inch tyres did. If it were me with an LS-T, I’d be moth-balling the 20s and swapping for something more off-road appropriate.
|Key details||2022 Isuzu MU-X LS-T||2021 Isuzu MU-X LS-T|
|Engine||3.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel||3.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel|
|Power||140kW @ 3600rpm||130kW @ 3600rpm|
|Torque||450Nm @ 1600-2600rpm||430Nm @ 2000-2200rpm|
|Drive type||part-time four-wheel drive, low range transfer case||part-time four-wheel drive, low range transfer case|
|Transmission||Six-speed automatic||Six-speed automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||67.6kW/t||61.6kW/t|
|Tow rating||3500kg braked, 750kg unbraked||3000kg braked, 750kg unbraked|
|Gross Combination Mass||5900kg||5750kg|
The new Isuzu MU-X is no doubt a step forward in every respect. While it’s now more expensive than it used to be – and there is less chance of a good deal in the current supply-strapped landscape – you can see where the money goes. It’s safer, more powerful, more refined and more comfortable.
It is priced on par with other ute-based four-wheel-drive wagons, but it at least now competes on quality and inclusions. In some respects – like safety credentials and towing capacity – it is a leader.
But at the same time, it is a familiar – albeit better – experience. There is a gutsy turbo-diesel under the bonnet, low-range transfer case, good towing prospects and room for seven onboard.
Loyal fans and followers of the MU-X won’t be disappointed with the new model. But it’s also good enough to appeal to a wider range of buyers that might have thought the previous generation MU-X a little too blunt of an instrument.
|2021 Isuzu MU-X LS-T Wagon||2021 Isuzu MU-X LS-T Wagon|
|Doors & Seats||5 Doors, 7 Seats||5 Doors, 7 Seats|
|Engine||3L, 4 Cyl.||3L, 4 Cyl.|
|Power & Torque||140 kW, 450 Nm||130 kW, 430 Nm|
|Transmission||6 Speed, Auto||6 Speed, Auto|
|Drivetrain||4 X 4 Dual Range||4 X 4 Dual Range|
|Fuel||Diesel, 8.3L/100KM||Diesel, 7.9L/100KM|
|Warranty||6 Yr||6 Yr|
|Safety||5 Stars||5 Stars|