What is it?

One of the current crop of four-wheel drive, 7-seat wagons that are based on a ute. In this case the donor vehicle is the Isuzu D-Max. Savvy readers will also be aware there are strong links between MU-X and the Holden Colorado 7 – now called the Trailblazer. They share a chassis and the body work is largely the same, but the engines and transmissions are different, and they are also fitted out differently — not to mention the Isuzu looks better.

 

What’s it cost?

Built in Thailand, prices start from $42,800 for the entry level 4×2 LS-M.

Top of the line 4×2 LS-T is $48,800, while our test vehicle, the 4×4 version of the LS-T with auto heads up the range at $56,100 — so you can save a bundle if you’re not planning any off-road adventures.

It’s these relatively cheap prices and the solid reputation behind the brand that are the big drawcards.

So what’s the catch?

Being the top of the line anything implies certain givens, such as leather upholstery and climate control air.

They’re there, but where one wonders are auto lights, auto wipers or an auto dimming rear view mirror — all of which usually come with a premium model?

There’s climate air, but it’s single zone only, although we note there are rear air vents with their own controls which is a real plus in a seven-seater.

Trust me you don’t want one of the kids throwing up in the back.

At the same time, it sports a large 8-0-inch touchscreen and 8-speaker audio, with reverse camera, rear parking sensors and satellite navigation — the latter provides speed limit reminders and warnings for school zones and speed cameras.

The LS-T also comes with 18-inch alloys, LED DRLs and headlights, power adjust driver’s seat, six airbags and all but the latest safety stuff, but still attracts a five-star rating for safety from ANCAP.

We’ve always liked the circular design of the centre console with its large central temperature control, but the decor in general is not what you’d call flash.

Some physical shortcut buttons located below the touchscreen, but in our test vehicle they were frustratingly unresponsive at times (we didn’t encounter this problem with the ute).

There’s even a drop down, 10-inch DVD screen with a remote controls to entertain the kids on long stretches.

So it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

20180108 170248 Edited

What’s it go like?

We like the look of this wagon with its low key, unassuming persona.

The four cylinder 3.0-litre turbo diesel produces a handy 130kW of power and 430Nm of torque.

But it’s shaded by the smaller 2.8-litre turbo diesel in the Trailblazer that delivers 147kW/500Nm.

In the MU-X the diesel is paired with a Japanese Aisin adaptive six-speed auto, that allows the driver to change gears manually using the shifter.

MU-X is relatively smooth and quiet for a rattler, that is until you put the engine under pressure when it starts to make itself known.

The design of the car dates back to 2012 and not a great deal has changed since then.

It’s a body on ladder chassis design, that’s better suited to off road driving, although it does get a more sophisticated rear suspension than the ute.

On road performance is okay, with plenty of get up and go, but the feel is old school four-wheel drive, with some body roll and steering that has a spongy, vagueness.

The brakes lack feel too. They do the job but take a bit of getting used to.

If it’s a city hauler you’re looking for, there are smoother options out there that will do the same job.

But if it’s a family fun bus that will be called on to get its feet dirty, then you’re in luck because MU-X feels confident and more at home off the beaten track.

Grab handles are provided for getting in and out of the front and side steps for kids and oldies, although larger feet could struggle to find purchase as they are tucked under the body.

Switching between two-wheel drive and high or low-range four-wheel drive is as easy as turning a rotary control located between the front seats.

Ground clearance is a creditable 230mm and it comes with underbody protection, but things like the side steps, mud flaps and tow bar hanging off the back are likely to scrape.

The small 65-litre tank could also be a limiting factor (the ute gets 76 litres).

We had no trouble getting in or out of low or high range and the wagon is also equipped with hill descent control for tricky downhill stuff, although we prefer to handle this chore ourselves.

MU-X had no trouble negotiating our favourite fire trail, that includes deep bog holes and challenging rocky sections, with a bit of rain thrown in — but we were a little concerned we’d dent the side steps as the going got harder.

In terms of fuel consumption, the wagon is rated at 7.9L/100km. We were getting 8.7 after close to 1000km on and off the road.

Note it’s rated to tow 3 tonnes, not 3.5 like some 4×4 wagons.

What we like?

  • Unassuming
  • Looks better than the Holden effort
  • Competent, medium duty off roader with low range four wheel drive
  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Rear aircon
  • DVD for the kids

 

What we don’t?

  • No reach adjust for the steering wheel
  • No one-touch blinkers
  • No auto headlights
  • No auto wipers
  • No auto dimming rear view mirror
  • Side steps tucked under and of limited practical use
  • Tow rating only 3.0 tonnes
  • No CarPlay or Android Auto (could be a drawback later)

 

The bottom line?

There’s nothing ground breaking about the MU-X, but it looks good and does what it does pretty well, and it’s a good price. With Isuzu’s solid reputation, we think it will appeal to buyers coming from older Toyotas that can’t afford the price tag of a new one.

 

Isuzu MU-X, priced from $42,800
  • Looks - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Performance - 7/10
    7/10
  • Safety - 7/10
    7/10
  • Thirst - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
  • Practicality - 8/10
    8/10
  • Comfort - 7/10
    7/10
  • Tech - 7/10
    7/10
  • Value - 7.5/10
    7.5/10
7.3/10
Headshot Riley 96x96 - Isuzu's 'eXciting' off road wagon

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.
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