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There’s a reason you see so many MU-X 4WDs towing caravans, boats and camper trailers all around our broad country. Reliability, value for money, off-road ability and robust build quality all highlight the appeal of the 2022 Isuzu MU-X LS-U. Trent Nikolic heads into Mungo National Park in search of an iconic Aussie off-road experience.
- Feels in every way like it was built to explore the country
- Long-haul comfort matched by space and ergonomics in town
- Genuine off-road ability
- Engine feels like it could use more grunt
- Price has climbed and isn’t as affordable as it once was
- Engine refinement not as good as best in class
Rugged four-wheel drives, ute-based wagons, 4×4 SUVs, family adventure four-wheel drives, call them what you will, this segment is burgeoning, and with good reason. Chief among the combatants is the 2022 Isuzu MU-X we’re testing here, along with the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest.
In effect, you could also throw the Toyota Prado into the mix, but it moves the game forward a little further. Imagine how competitive it would be if Mazda had a BT-50-based wagon, and Volkswagen an Amarok-based wagon.
While plenty live in town as so many four-wheel drives do, a large cross-section of Isuzu MU-X owners hitch up a van, trailer of some kind, or boat and head off along the highways in search of adventure. In real terms, it’s what this segment is all about, and the Isuzu is one of the favourites among Australian buyers. And, that badge of honour comes with good reason.
Reliability and robust build quality are key. Isuzu’s truck-derived diesel engines are seemingly indestructible, designed for years of hard work with little love or care. As such, when you move that kind of engineering into the passenger vehicle space, the legend grows.
Speak to anyone who’s owned an Isuzu in the last decade or so, and they almost categorically have another new one on the consideration list. Repeat business and loyalty say a lot about the goals a brand is kicking.
On test for our great drive, we have the MU-X LS-U, which starts from $61,400 before on-road costs. In the 4WD MU-X range (there is also a 2WD variant, for those who don’t need to venture into the wilderness), LS-U sits in the middle of the three-grade range. LS-M starts from $54,900 before on-road costs, while the range-topping LS-T starts from $67,400 plus on-roads.
We’ve detailed the options fitted to our test vehicle below, but it’s always worth checking drive-away deals when you’re considering an Isuzu. Offers change, and there may be a bargain to be had within the range.
|2022 Isuzu MU-X LS-U
|$61,400 plus on-road costs
|Colour of test car
|Moonstone White Pearl
|Pearlescent paint – $650
Tow bar kit – $1100
Electronic brake controller – $820
Tow bar wiring harness – $359
Roof rail cross bars – $539
|Price as tested
|$64,868 plus on-road costs
$70,145 drive-away (Sydney)
|Ford Everest | Toyota Fortuner | Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
A move to the new generation, of both D-Max and MU-X, brought with it a significant lift in the cabin ambience in addition to revised tech. Below the infotainment screen there’s a single-pane control panel for the heating and air-conditioning, which works well and is easy to use even on the move. A storage bin beneath that is perfect for smartphones, keys, wallets and the like.
If you like to consume a regular-size takeaway coffee on the move, the pop-out cupholders in the outer edges of the dash are fantastic. I wish more manufacturers used them, actually, as they are up out of the way.
Two cupholders are in the centre console, and the door pockets take large bottles easily. Family buyers will find useful storage throughout the cabin. The centre console bin is likewise useful.
Cabin comfort is a strong point, but so are the ergonomics. The design of the seats and the material in our test vehicle are comfortable and hard-wearing.
There are hard plastics in the cabin, but they don’t affect the driving comfort. I always find it easy to get comfortable behind the wheel of an MU-X, with enough seat adjustment, and a tilt/reach-adjustable steering wheel. Our tester featured manual seat adjustment, but an electric lumbar support.
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Into the second row, and space for the family is in good supply. The seat base doesn’t slide fore and aft, but there’s plenty of room across the second row, even for adults, so the kids will be right unless they get super tall.
Second-row occupants get USB-A power outlets and cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest. The second row folds down with a 60/40 split to open up a huge luggage space if you need it.
The third row also gets vents and cupholders, but like we’ve seen with most SUVs, the third row is more suited to younger children than adults. With the second and third rows folded flat, you get a whopping 2138L of storage space, which is more like a small van than an SUV. Visibility across all three rows is good, too, so anyone in the second or third row won’t feel like the roof is closing in on a longer road trip.
|2022 Isuzu MU-X LS-U
|311L to third row
1119L to second row
2138L to first row
Infotainment and Connectivity
Connectivity, and the way in which you control the system, is perhaps the most obvious change for the new MU-X. There’s plenty of equipment (like safety) that is much more important, and yet infotainment is always a focal point for new car buyers.
The screen now measures 9.0 inches in our test LS-U, and features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, on-board satellite navigation and digital radio. At set-up, you can choose either wired or wireless Apple CarPlay, and both worked well for us on test.
The operating system and the graphics aren’t the most modern on the market, but, and I find myself writing this often, I’d prefer a less slick appearance that works reliably than eye-catching graphics and a glitchy OS. Isuzu’s system has some detail and depth to it, but once you work it out, it’s easy to use on the move, and it’s easy to understand.
Given most drivers’ preference to mirror their smartphone, that changes the game a little as well. The lower section of the centre console houses one conventional 12-volt power outlet and one USB-A port.
MU-X drivers get a multifunction display between the two gauges, and there’s plenty to work out within that too. You can customise the display to suit the information you want to look at and leave it set up. For mine, the digital speed readout is key, and on test we’ll always toggle back to look at live and average fuel use.
The new MU-X comes with a full five-star ANCAP safety rating, and therefore a host of standard safety equipment into the bargain. Isuzu’s IDAS safety suite is standard, and there’s also autonomous emergency braking with intersection, pedestrian, cyclist activation, and road sign detection via two windscreen-mounted cameras.
Rear cross-traffic alert is standard, as well as blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, post-collision braking, and drive-attention assist. Eight airbags are also standard, including curtain airbags, which extend into the third row, along with a front centre airbag between the front seat passengers.
Pricing for the MU-X range puts it right in the firing line of its main competition. On one hand, you could argue that 70 grand for a family 4WD is a lot of money. On the other, you could argue that 70 grand for a one-size-fits-all family 4WD, that can do the school drop-off as easily as it can climb Big Red, or tow a 3500kg load, is strong value for money.
Family buyers looking at this segment are working within a budget for a new vehicle, and the longevity of the MU-X – you can still be driving it in a decade if you like – positions it well.
A solid warranty, although we’d like the kilometre limit higher, is also noteworthy, and the cost of servicing is affordable for a modern turbo diesel.
|At a glance
|2022 Isuzu MU-X LS-U
|Six years / 150,000km
|12 months or 15,000km
|$1407 (3 years), $2215 (5 years)
The cost of options isn’t out of the stratosphere either, and as we discovered, even when you’re slogging through mud and dirt, the MU-X remains frugal.
Against Isuzu’s claimed 8.3L/100km useage, we averaged 9.1L/100km across nearly 3000km of testing. On the highway it drops into the low eights on a cruise, which is impressive for a large 4WD.
|Fuel cons. (claimed)
|Fuel cons. (on test)
|Fuel tank size
Driving the MU-X is a tangible reminder of how far capable 4WDs have come. Only a generation or two ago, buyers had to cop a hefty compromise on-road if they wanted a capable 4WD off-road.
That’s all changed for this generation of off-road adventure vehicles. Around town, once you get used to the physical size of the MU-X, it’s a cinch to drive. The light steering (electric power assistance) at low speed especially is worthy of note.
Our drive had us firing along between 80–110km/h on country roads and highways, tackling both sealed and unsealed surfaces, with plenty of lashing rain into the bargain. The MU-X takes all conditions in its stride with ease. Keep in mind, we also moved from the standard 18-inch wheel and tyre package to a 17-inch with all-terrain tyre package for our off-road touring.
The BFGoodrich tyres we chose made a marked difference in the slippery dirt and mud once the rain came in. If you’re doing any serious off-road touring, take the time to do some research on the best tyres for your driving.
On that note, some of the off-road factoids are worth recapping. Best-in-class 235mm ground clearance, factory standard 1.5mm underbody steel bash plates, 800mm wading depth, 29.2-degree approach angle, 23.1-degree ramp-over angle and 26.9-degree departure angle all ensure the MU-X – even in standard guise – can handle the heat off-road.
Isuzu has even fitted snorkelled breathers for the drivetrain. In terms of off-road technology, the novice driver has the safety of Terrain Command mode with low-range, an electric rear diff lock, and rough terrain mode.
Proper low-range gearing obviously makes a massive difference off-road, and while advanced drivers won’t need – or want – some of the terrain tech that is standard, it’s a clever addition from Isuzu.
Back to more tame driving, then, and the MU-X is an effortless family hauler. It’s frugal around town in traffic, never climbing into double figures during testing. On the highway, the live fuel-use figure drops into the low eights.
This is a diesel engine that rarely works hard. On that note, in typical Isuzu fashion, power and torque figures aren’t the knockout blow, but rather the way they are delivered is like an accumulation of punches.
When you’re getting off the mark, overtaking, climbing off-road, or towing a trailer, 140kW at 3600rpm is handy, but 450Nm from just 1600rpm up to 2600rpm is where it’s at. That punchy mid-range torque delivery is excellent.
We found the six-speed auto to be well behaved, no matter what sort of driving we were doing. While some competitors feel punchier or more urgent, the Isuzu doesn’t lack for real world, usable power. I still reckon eight and 10-speed autos are often unnecessary, and the Isuzu’s six-speed is further evidence of that.
The gearbox plays its part in keeping engine RPM as low as possible for the given speed, but the fact remains that the MU-X isn’t the most refined wagon in the class. As we’ve said, the engine doesn’t work hard too often, but you can hear it working away beneath the bonnet.
The 3.0-litre has a workmanlike feel to it, which is oddly appealing. Some buyers might prefer more refinement, but for mine, I don’t mind some of the old-school diesel clatter.
The steering, which is effortless to use around town, weights up at speed, meaning it doesn’t feel floaty or vague at highway speeds. We liked the ride quality, too, with the MU-X eating up damaged rural road surfaces with ease. The areas we were testing in had been hit with flooding rains before our arrival, with more rain coming, and the roads were pretty heavily impacted.
The more time we spent behind the wheel on what was a long road trip, the more at home and enjoyable the experience. It’s easy to see why so many Australians like the MU-X as much as they do, and why they keep coming back once they’ve owned one.
Doing what it is designed to do – exploring the country – the Isuzu MU-X is effortless under any conditions.
|2022 Isuzu MU-X LS-U
|3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
|140kW @ 3600rpm
|450Nm @ 1600–2600rpm
|Part-time four-wheel drive, low-range
|Six-speed torque converter automatic
|Power to weight ratio
|3500kg braked, 750kg unbraked
Price aside if the MU-X doesn’t fit within your budget, it’s tough to come up with too many arguments for the case against the Isuzu. History would indicate they are reliable, more than fairly priced to maintain, efficient, and capable of tackling anything that adventurous families can throw at them.
While this segment is tough – and I know we write that about most, but this one really is – the Isuzu is still up with the best. Taking on Toyota, Mitsubishi and Ford is no mean feat either, and the MU-X has been a success.
While the LS-U we’ve tested here, which sits in the middle of the 4WD range, positions itself as the smart choice, drive-away deals on the more expensive MU-X LS-T variant often bring that model into tighter budgets for buyers.
Keep an eye on what is available and when, but the fact remains: any Isuzu MU-X is a good one.