What is it?
The recipe is simple. Keep the interior, most of the front end and mid-body, leave it on a ladder frame chassis, add a bit of extra roof, and a tailgate.
Factor in a third row of seats and you have a big family-oriented SUV with largely the same driving capabilities and characteristics of the ute.
MU-X is exactly that. From the nose back, bar a slight change to the lower bumper, it’s the D-Max ute up until the trailing edge of the rear doors — with a thick rear pillar and non-powered tailgate.
The engine is exactly the same too. That means a noisy, but reasonably economical and low-stressed 3.0-litre donk. Power is 130kW, torque is 430Nm, and economy is claimed to be the same.
The transmission is (almost) the same, with a choice of six speeds for the auto. Driveline is 4×2 or 4×4.
What’s it cost?
Recommended retail for our test vehicle, the mid-range LS-U — is $52,600.
Using the Isuzu website’s price calculator however delivers a driveaway price of $50,490.
The review vehicle came fitted with towbar, Red Mica metallic paint and rubber floor mats. Metallic paint is normally a $500 option while a towbar is $1100.
Apart from the addition of a roof and tailgate, Isuzu adds front and rear parking sensors, a bespoke front bumper, and pair of folding third row seats.
These are mounted higher than many making the safest way in and out via the rear doors.
There is a number of storage lockers under cover behind the third row.
Total storage with the middle row up is 878 litres. Second row down, it jumps to 1830 litres. It’s well and truly enough for a standard-sized family’s weekly shop.
The interior is virtually identical to the D-Max.
There are sockets for the HDMI and USB which are located separately underneath the large aircon dial and controls. Near the driver’s right knee is a small flick-switch that looks to be the on/off for the parking sensors.
Isuzu goes with the flow when it comes to operating the third row seats. It uses the brilliantly simple pull strap system.
Pull the strap, seat comes up. Pull the strap taut, give the seat a gentle push, and the seat goes down.
In LS-U trim, seating is the same non-powered, cloth covered versions as seen in the equivalent D-Max. So is the safety level, with six airbags, no Auto Emergency Braking (AEB) and no Blind Spot Monitor — nada.
Rubber is from Bridgestone and 255/60/18.
What’s it go like?
Exactly the same as the D-Max. Turbo lag aplenty from a standing start. Rattly under throttle. Subdued murmur off throttle. Background purr when cruising.
It downshifts easily when needed, and drops nicely on a downhill run.
Transmission shifts are slowish but smooth in contrast. Being a low revving beast, the engine pulls nicely enough on the highway and freeway, with shifts slurry and unhurried.
Brakes feel marginally more responsive in comparison to the D-Max.
Engine noise is more subdued because the MU-X has more noise insulation in the engine bay and transmission tunnel.
Steering, too, is improved, with more assistance.
The four-wheel drive system is identical. Activate high range with a twist of the cabin mounted dial, or stop, select Neutral, to get low range.
The 3.0-litre diesel is good for 7.9L/100km on a combined cycle. Our best seen was 7.8L/100km, with an overall average of 8.1L/100km.
What we like?
- Extra room and security with a roof at the rear
- Same low stress driving as D-Max
- Under cover extra storage spaces
- Flexibility of the engine and transmission
What we don’t like?
- Everything we didn’t like about the D-Max
The bottom line?
As it is with the donor D-Max, the MU-X is family friendly and practical, but in dire need of major generational change.
It’s not unattractive, looks okay inside, but is left behind by its competitors in terms of safety, audio, screen look, and more.
Bring on the updates!
CHECKOUT: Isuzu D-Max: Modern day Bellett
CHECKOUT: Isuzu’s ‘eXciting’ off road wagon
Isuzu M-UX LS-U 3.0 4x4, proiced from $52,600