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First Drive: New Isuzu mu-X is a transformed bruiser

Isuzu has done remarkably well when it comes to making the new mu-X a genuine people carrier.

TopGear Reporter
November 29, 2021
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If you were to corner the folks at Isuzu South Africa and ask, they too wouldn’t believe the luck that the first generation of their mu-X possessed. It had decent sales, while also carving a specific fanbase within the small but hotly-contested family-friendly SUV fraternity.


The brand’s interest has always been in the commercial and bakkie segments but, in 2018, things changed when the first generation mu-X was introduced as an answer to Toyota’s Fortuner, Mitsubishi’s Pajero and the Ford Everest.


Simply put, where the D-Max goes, the mu-X follows, which brings us to the subject at hand: the latest Isuzu mu-X that is now entering its second generation. It is based on the upcoming D-Max bakkie and with it, it brings a more potent engine, safer equipment while also gaining more tech than the outgoing model.


The new Isuzu mu-X has radically changed but retains its big, bulky and sturdy look. It enters the market with a sole 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine and three trim levels; LS, LSE and the range-topping ONYX.


Isuzu has hit the nail on the head with the design of the new mu-X. If there is one thing I could fault the previous-gen mu-X on, it would be the looks but I’m glad the brand has addressed that by making it livelier and cleaning up some of the lines.


In terms of looks, it features a chrome-detailed front grille, arrow-shaped bi-LED headlights and rear light 3D LED winglets.


Isuzu offers new alloy wheels with the LS getting 17”, 18” for the LSE and 20” for the ONYX. The new mu-X can also be had in eight colours, five of which are new; Splash White, Dolomite White, ONYX Black, Mercury Silver, Obsidian Gray, Red Spinel, Santos Brown, and Sapphire blue.


As monstrous as it is, it is spacious inside with enough cupholders, air vents and while you can fold the second and third row of seats flat, there is also a storage box under the aft section in the boot thanks to the spare wheel that is hung underneath the car.


Saddle into the driver’s seat and you are greeted by a far more appealing dashboard that is a big step-up from what it used to be in the predecessor. Although one can easily spot some resemblances inside, the majority is vastly improved.


Depending on the model, the mu-X can be had with either a 9” or 7” touchscreen infotainment system that I got to fiddle around with at the launch and I can safely say they carried their functions with so much nonchalance. There is a multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, yes you read that right. The ONYX and LSE come fitted with eight speakers while the LS only comes with six.


Offered as standard are wireless Apple Carplay, Android Auto, Bluetooth voice and audio streaming, Wi-Fi, integrated mobile handsfree and a rear-view camera. Isuzu has also added an additional USB port for the rear passengers.  


Also, for convenience’s sake, dual-zone climate control with two HVAC units is available on the ONYX and LSE models. Rear passengers of all mu-X models are taken care of with roof-mounted aircon vents for both rows.


The drive is well-received thanks to the good combination of the 6-speed automatic transmission and tweaked 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine now with 140 kW and 450 Nm that allows for a low-down torque flex. While it is still not as refined as what rivals offer in this stable, Isuzu has added sound deadening and that can be felt as soon as you press the start button – the ‘clattering’ sound has been toned down, thanks in part, to the three areas that Isuzu is said to have paid attention to; fuel consumption, power, and engine noise.


The launch drive took us through mountain passes and off-road terrains where the 4x4’s capabilities were put to the test and it did so without breaking a sweat. On the road, I found the drive to be plusher than the outgoing model, however, I noticed a huge amount of wind noise at cruising speeds.


While the 4x4 version would let you tackle even the harshest off-road terrains, it is the 4x2 that I felt interested in, it is lighter and perhaps if you are like me (I hardly do off-roading), it makes absolute sense.


Safety is assured with Isuzu’s Intelligent Driver Assistance System making its debut on the range-topping ONYX model. The system adds a suite of passive and active safety systems. Also warranting a five-star ANCAP rating is the inclusion of a centre airbag between the front passengers as well as the use of high tensile steel in key parts of the body structure.


The folks at Isuzu have done remarkably well here. The mu-X is a genuine people carrier that not only has good off-roading and towing abilities but also an SUV that copes well with suburban tasks.


The new Isuzu mu-X is a transformed bruiser, thanks to its notably superb interior tech, more powerful engine and added active safety systems. Besides appealing to possibly the same sort of patron, it makes a great buy for people who are first-time buyers within the SUV segment.


3.0 Ddi mu-X 4x2 LS A/T Price: R 693,800.00 including VAT

3.0 Ddi mu-X 4x4 LS A/T Price: R771,600.00 including VAT

3.0 Ddi mu-X 4x2 LSE A/T Price: R 763,300.00 including VAT

3.0 Ddi mu-X 4x4 ONYX A/T Price: R 860,500.00 including VAT


All models are covered by the Isuzu Complete Care package with a five-year warranty or 120,000 km.

Words: Ntsako Mthethwa

Images: Isuzu SA


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