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Date: 27 Aug 2018 Author Type: Public Review
Author: Julian Lurie edited by Liam Mothilall
Source: Julian Lurie
Last year when General Motors announced that it was leaving South Africa and taking the Chevrolet Brand with it, many people were concerned about what will happen to the Opel and Isuzu brands in South Africa but fortunately, the Opel brand will be marketed by the Unitrans Group and Isuzu Motors South Africa in marking the brand's return to the rapidly growing SUV segment with the debut of the seven-seater mu-X SUV. The mu-X SUV is the first vehicle to be launched under the newly established Isuzu Motors South Africa, which is wholly owned by Isuzu Motors Limited of Japan.

Many Isuzu fans will remember the Isuzu Frontier of 1998, with its spare wheel mounted on the tailgate, and it sold very well. Then, with the Chevrolet Trailblazer also leaving our shores, the introduction of the mu-X couldn’t have come at a better time. Built on the same platform as the popular Isuzu KB range, the mu-X, although new to South Africa, has already established a name for itself, being sold in several international markets, after being launched in Thailand in 2013.

The styling of the mu-X embodies the familiar DNA of the Isuzu brand. LED daytime running lights and Bi-LED projector headlamps with auto-levelling functionality, is standard on both models. From its macho chrome grille to its high stance, rugged looks, its aluminum side-steps, privacy glass and LED rear combination lamps, plus the large 12-spoke alloy wheels, which on the test vehicle were shod with Bridgestone Dueller 255/60R18 tyres, the exterior looks every bit the off-road vehicle.

There are two models available with the choice of 4x2 or 4x4 derivatives, however, the model we feature in today’s road impression is the 4x2 6-speed automatic. The mu-X is powered by Isuzu's proven 3.0-litre four-cylinder intercooled common rail turbo-diesel engine, producing 130 kW of power at 3 600 RPM and 380 NM of torque from 2 000 to 2 200 RPM and sends power to the rear wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission, which also boasts a sequential sport mode. An impressive three-ton towing capacity makes it a good choice for towing trailers or caravans.

In performance tests, leaving the automatic in “D” mode to do its own changing, the mu-X pulled smartly off the line and did the 0 to 100 km/h dash in just under 12 seconds and has a top speed of about 180 km/h. Combined fuel consumption is given as 8.8 litres/100 km which is a bit optimistic, as the trip recorder gave me a reading of 10.9 litres/100 kms, but that did include all the testing.

Another plus for the mu-X is that in manual mode, the auto performs just like a manual box in that if the driver chooses manual mode, it can accelerate right up to the red line on the rev counter and the box will not change gears until the driver makes the change.

Moving inside, Isuzu's new mu-X SUV offers practicality with comfort and, luxury and is roomy enough for seven. The seven-seat configuration has the two front bucket seats, the second row is a 60/40 split-fold with a fold-away center armrest, while the third row is a tight fit for adults but that’s not unusual for most seven-seaters. The electronic climate control system caters for front and rear occupants - the latter having access to their own cooling vents for added comfort, while a factory fitted immobilizer and alarm system is standard fitment. There is 235 litres of boot space when the third row is up, expanding to 878 litres when the 50/50 split-fold third row is folded flat. When the second and third rows are down, there is 1 830 litres of space. There’s no push button in the cab to open the rear tailgate, so to access the boot, it must be done manually. A multi-function infotainment unit is a stand-out feature of the mu-X, boasting a nine-inch colour touch-screen display that provides access to the imbedded satellite navigation, audio and communication systems that includes a DVD and MP3-compatible CD player, Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. Front and rear USB slots are provided, in conjunction with an auxiliary iPod input and HDMI port. Leather trim is standard for the seats, with the driver's seat offering six-way electric adjustment. The leather-covered steering wheel contains the fingertip controls for the audio, phone functions and the cruise control. It is adjustable for rake but not for reach.

Convenience items include the keyless entry and push button start system, along with touch-sensor opening and push-button locking functions on the door handles. As expected of a leisure-oriented SUV, several storage compartments are in the cabin, including 12 cup-holders, door compartments with bottle bulge, rear cargo organizer box, USB ports front and rear, three 12V power outlets and two cubby holes – one under the other.

Safety features for the Isuzu mu-X include; ABS brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Emergency Brake Assist. This is complemented by Electronic Stability Control Traction Control System, and Hill Descent Control. Passive safety equipment includes; dual front, side and full-length curtain airbags, linked to front seat pre-tensioner seatbelts, plus a high-tensile steel passenger safety cell for strength and rigidity. A rear-facing camera aids reversing and parking via the nine-inch full colour display, but there are no parking sensors fitted, unless you order them from the options list.

From behind the wheel, the seats are comfortable, the driving position is good, and there's decent rear vision with the camera. Driving the mu-X is very car-like, and around town, despite its size, the well weighted power steering makes it easy to park and maneuver in tight places. At idle and at parking speeds there is quite a bit of diesel clatter in the cab, but as the speed builds up, it quietens down and runs just as quiet as a petrol model.

On the road, the Isuzu mu-X 6-speed auto was very impressive. Travelling on the freeways at the 120 km/h legal limit with the auto in 6th gear, the motor turns at a relaxed 1 900 RPM, and when extra power is required for overtaking, the box responds instantly to ensure an easy overtake. There is some body roll in fast cornering, but the road-holding is well contained, and the power steering is very accurate even at high speeds. On gravel roads, the mu-X has a planted and stable feel while the revised suspension does a good job ironing out the rough sections.

The recommended retail selling price for the Isuzu MU-X 3.0 4X2 SUV 6-speed automatic is R 568 000, which includes the Isuzu Complete Care, comprising a five-year / 120 000 km bumper-to-bumper warranty and Isuzu Roadside Assistance, a five-year / unlimited km anti-corrosion warranty and a five-year / 90 000 km Service Plan. Service intervals are every 15 000 km / 12 months.