Isuzu has committed to attempting the impossible: marketing a rival to the all-conquering Fortuner.
As part of its revived South African marketing strategy it has been confirmed that its Isuzu MU-X SUV will shorty become available locally. Price and exact specification remain unclear, but we have quite a good idea of what configuration the KB-based seven-seater will take.
It’s an ambitious move as Fortuner and Everest absolutely dominate market share in the bakkie-based SUV market. Chevrolet’s Trailblazer never made much of an impact and the Isuzu MU-X is very similar to its. But there are differences too, and they are perhaps crucial.
Isuzu’s brand was always more respected by South Africans than Chevrolets. Isuzu has proven itself on mines, construction sites and farms as diesel-powered bakkies worthy of their place in the local market. After all, Isuzu is the world’s largest producer of diesel engines, they know how to do a reliable compression-ignition engine.
The badge and styling aspects put Isuzu MU-X in a superior posture when entering such a hostile market and it should offer fair performance too. In other markets is features the familiar 3-litre turbodiesel four (130kW/430Nm) and a 1.9-litre too, good for 110kW/350Nm. Transmission are six-speeds all-round, both manual and automatic, and unlike the Trailblazer Isuzu has a proper rear differential lock option for Isuzu MU-X.
Isuzu’s KBs are celebrated for their ride quality on gravel and the Isuzu MU-X SUV should improve on that with the addition of multi-link rear-suspension. Isuzu’s return to the ladder-frame SUV market is deeply ironic, as it was the Japanese bakkie brand which established it, with Frontier, and then retreated… Allowing Toyota to launch its immensely successful Fortuner.
However, MU-X sales total throughout 2018, they could do not worse than Trailblazer did in 2017. For those who still believe in the cult of the KB280, this might an attractive alternative to the tidal wave of Fortuners saturating the SUV market.