It has been a long time since we have seen an SUV offering from Isuzu, if one excludes the Chevrolet badged Trailblazer which incorporated a lot of the Japanese manufacturer’s technology and components. The last true Isuzu SUV’s were the Trooper back in 1992 and six years later the Frontier.

Wholly owned by Isuzu Motors of Japan the local subsidiary, Isuzu Motors South Africa, launched its first new model and it is an SUV. Understandable, as this particular genre is a continually growing segment of the local market. The Isuzu mu-X takes on some fierce competition such as the Toyota Fortuner, Ford Everest and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.

Although new to SA the mu-X is well established in the international market. Launched in 2013 in Thailand it sells well in Australia and is market leader in the Philippines.

The stylish appearance features a chrome front grille, Bi-LED projector lights, LED running lights, low level fog lamps, aluminium side steps, privacy glass and LED tail lights. The stance looks purposeful on alloy wheels carrying 18×255/60 rubber and providing 230mm of ground clearance.

The interior features lots of soft touch materials, full leather upholstery and piano black finishes with silver accenting. The driver’s seat is 6 way electrically adjustable, but strangely, the multi-functional steering wheel is only height adjustable. A 9 inch colour touch screen displays all the information for the infotainment and navigation system as well as the rear facing camera.

The seven seater configuration is versatile, both centre and rear rows can be folded to accommodate extra large luggage, the last row folding flat into the floor.

With disc brakes all round, ABS, EBD, EBA, ESC, TCS (Traction Control System), HSA (Hill Start Assist) and HDC (Hill Descent Control) plus six airbags the mu-X has plenty of safety equipment to keep you out of trouble.

On the road the mu-X surprises with its smooth ride quality, you can attribute that to the new chassis plus high ride coil springs and gas shocks coupled with the new 5 link independent rear suspension and it is just as good both on and off road. It is not just ride quality, overall handling is also good on any surface.

Cruising on the freeway is a joy and it is obvious that a lot of work has gone into the NVH figures, even the traditionally noisy Isuzu diesel engine is far less noticeable. The 3.0 litre turbocharged unit develops 130 kW at 3,600 r/min with torque of 380 Nm between 1800 and 2800 r/min. The output drives through a 6 speed Rev-Tronic automatic transmission with Isuzu’s Terrain Command 4 wheel drive system providing electronic selection of 2-High, 4-High and 4-Low modes. Changes between 2-High and 4-High can be made on the fly up to 100 kph.

Off road the mu-X is very much at home and ready for the rough stuff with 24 degrees of approach angle and 25.1 degrees of departure angle and if it gets really tough there‘s a steel guard for sump and transfer casing and plenty of under-body protection.

The engine appears a little breathless initially but copes very well with everything I could challenge it with. It may have the lowest torque figure in the bakkie/SUV range but it still has the ability to haul 3000 kg comfortably.

Typically Isuzu fuel consumption was good, I could not attain the claimed 7.9l/100km but managed around the 8.8 litre figure overall.

The new Isuzu mu-X is a welcome addition to the market segment and the brand alone is sure to attract many new as well as loyal clients, despite its strange name. If you are wondering why it carries the title mu-X, the explanation is simply multi, utility, crossover.

Pricing

Isuzu mu-X 3.0 4WD           R638 600

Including a 5 year/120,000km warranty and roadside assist, 5 year/unlimited km anti-corrosion warranty and a 5 year /90,000km service plan. Service intervals are every 15,000km / 1 year. Extended cover is available for roadside assist, service and maintenance plans at additional cost.

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