Review: 2015 Isuzu MU-X 4×4, the D-Max turns into a people carrier [+Video]


The words ‘pickup truck’ is nothing short of synonymous with Isuzu, who has now decided to reintroduce their people-carrier model to tap into Malaysia’s rapidly growing SUV market. Having said that, Isuzu has brought out the MU-X model which promises to be a seven-seater SUV with a more-than-capable off-road quality to boot.

The seven-seater SUV comes in two guises, both of which are distinguishable should you peel away the body. The MU-X comes either in 4×4 or 4×2 configurations. Locally however, we will receive the automatic transmission and the 2.5-litre mill as standard.2015-Isuzu-MU-X-Review-Autobuzz-11

QUICK FACTS

NameIsuzu MU-X 4×2Isuzu MU-X 4×4
Engine

2.5 litre, four cylinder, VGS turbodiesel intercooler

Transmission

5-speed automatic transmission with sequential shift

Max Power

135 hp @ 3,400 rpm

Max Torque

320 Nm @ 1,800 – 2,800 rpm

Price (OTR with insurance, with GST)RM151,945 RM164,970

EXTERIOR

At first sight, you could almost mistake the MU-X as the D-Max from the front, on which this it is invariably based on. The LED Day-time Running Lights glisten clearly even when the sun shines especially bright. The headlamps are projector halogen units as opposed to the Bi-Xenon variation. The insignia-incorporated chrome grille lays tribute to the company’s current design philosophy, but differs slightly when compared to the D-Max’s.2015-Isuzu-MU-X-Review-Autobuzz-15

Around the side, a pair of seemingly large chrome-back side mirrors offers great visibility and it definitely helps with manoeuvring.  The wheels are a set of 17-inch alloys that came prescribed with a set of 255/65R17 Bridgestone Dueler H/T rubbers.

A short walk around the back of the car reveals an interesting rear fascia that’s been designed bespoke for the MU-X. You will not find an intrusive large external spare wheel, because it is hidden in the same place as you would normally find on the D-Max. While on the subject, a chromed up exhaust pipe tip isn’t far off, but is only exclusive to the 4×4 variant.2015-Isuzu-MU-X-Review-Autobuzz-46

The large boot is somewhat weighted to say the least. It’s held in place with your typical gas struts but has an electronic release button. The shade of paint you see here is called Uluru Brown – just one of several colours including Splash White, Titanium Silver and Cosmic Black.

INTERIOR

Upon pulling back the chrome door handle, your eyes will discover an interior clad in leather. Grey no doubt but leather nonetheless, accompanied with a matching grey plastic moulded (as you would expect) and textured dashboard which in good taste does compliment the upholstery. The driver receives a six-way electric powered seat whereas the passenger gets manual controls.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Looking past the multi-function steering wheel with the audio, answer/end call button on one side and the auto cruise control button on the other, you will find the rev counter and speedometer. Nestled between them is an LCD screen that displays a multitude of information such gear position, AWD status, trip, fuel and temperature gauges; just to name a few.

Looking over to the centre, you will stumble across a seven-inch Android OS headunit that’s responsible for powering the infotainment system. Not only that, the user-friendly GUI is familiar and easy to use. It comes equipped with a feed for the reverse camera, satellite navigation, micro-USB HDMI ports, micro-SD cards slot, DVD player and a 3.5mm auxiliary jack. Did I neglect to mention the Bluetooth and Spotify compatibility? The Android head-unit is also a digital mirror for the 10-inch flip down monitor for rear passengers, however the aspect ratio isn’t really bang on and the screen resolution could be much, much better.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Speaking of the centre console, one will discover the radially-arranged automatic climate control with all the bells and whistles you could need at the touch of a button. All things considered, the layout of the centre console is crisp and neat. No stray buttons, knobs or switches are found outside ‘the circle’.

As you would imagine, the MU-X is available in a plethora of various seating configurations. The third row, comes with a couple of 50:50 split folding seats that tucks away flat and flushed. The row thereafter comes bolted with a 60:40 split folding seats with cupholders and an arm rest. The second row can be removed should you require the extra space.

PERFORMANCE

Drive is provided by the 2,499cc, 4JK1-TCX four banger, 16 valve VGS turbo diesel mill that makes out a healthy 136 hp at a peak of 3,400 rpm. Given that this is an oil burner, the torque figures are rather interesting, with 320 Nm ready on tap from a mere 1,800 to 2,800 rpm. This is accomplished with an astronomical 18.1:1 compression ratio.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The burning question on most readers’ minds is whether the suspension setup is a carry over from the D-Max, for which I am happy to report the contrary (the rear at least). Soaking up the bumps and dents of the road is an independent double wishbone and coil spring setup accented with help of a stabiliser bar. The leaf springs of the D-Max has been shrugged off in favour of a five-link, coil spring suspension structure which improves ride comfort and handling vastly.

The 4×4 variant here comes equipped with a Terrain Command 4WD Selector knob that allows the driver to switch between 2H and 4H on the fly. Once you’ve come to a halt, pop the gear into neutral and you’re ready to engage 4L. The low-range AWD allows for the power to be split onto whichever corner with the most amount of traction.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stopping power is furnished with the help of a disc brake on all four corners. Not only that, Anti-lock Braking System and an Electronic Stability Control program keep the MU-X in check despite harsh and sudden driving conditions. Now, unlike most car manufacturers who opt to bin the hydraulic steering system for an electric system, Isuzu has elected to abide by the conventional hydraulic rack and pinion steering system. Inspite of the sheer dimensions of the MU-X, it is able to get itself around U-turns in a respectable 5.8 metres.

THE DRIVE

The MU-X was commissioned for a number of various driving conditions. But let’s be honest, a Chelsea tractor such as this will very rarely be taken onto the beaten path in a bid to forge jungle passes and impassable terrain. Hence, the urban, or rather suburban driving condition would be of greater precedence to potential buyers locally.

The driving characteristic in two wheel drive mode, while responsive and torquey makes for a somewhat wobbly ride. On the drive up mountainous roads, it displayed a fairly unsettled ride quality, not to mention the body roll. Descending down the same mountain road in all wheel drive mode displayed a completely different driving feel and handling characteristic. Immediately, the MU-X felt more stable and planted whilst negotiating the bends and corners. Once on the highway, it continues to deliver a calm and composed ride. The downside is that power delivery isn’t as crisp, whereas the fuel economy does suffer quite a bit when compared to the D-Max.

Power delivery is apparent with over 300 Nm of torque at your toes, however it’s been observed that during regular highway driving, it lacks the sufficient mid-range grunt needed for overtaking. On hard acceleration, it does make a fair amount of smoke, but that’s just very characteristic of oil burners and an ode to the quality of diesel available domestically.2015-Isuzu-MU-X-Review-Autobuzz-6

IS IT FOR YOU?

The MU-X is great for a multitude of different purposes, occasions and individuals. The Isuzu MU-X is purpose built for the adventure-aspiring family whose excursions are limited to the extent of their imagination; to the enterprising businessmen whose possibilities for growing a hand-built business are practically endless. The MU-X is up to any job you are able to throw at it. And it does so without as much as breaking a sweat.

Having mentioned its brazen go-anywhere-attitude, this SUV can literally almost go anywhere your heart damn well pleases. The MU-X is also a great highway muncher should you want a toned down drive. It even takes seven people in rather ubiquitous comfort and space. The third row is spacious enough for a couple of chaps that are the better part of 5 feet tall.  The rear occupants are kept cool with rear roof-mounted air-conditioning blowers and not forgetting also the 10-inch monitor to keep you occupied.2015-Isuzu-MU-X-Review-Autobuzz-45

COMPARISONS

The MU-X isn’t one without rivals, but it goes against the many who are determined to pull the rug out from underneath. For this instance, we have lined up two of its biggest rivals to see how they stack up against this newcomer. Worth noting as well is that the Pajero Sport has been around a couple of years now and the Mitsubishi just teased the forthcoming arrival of the 2016 model which sports an entirely new design.

The Toyota Fortuner on the other hand, has been on sale now for nearly a decade and went through multiple facelifts including a TRD Edition under its belt. But Toyota has just recently taken the wraps of the new and wildly designed second-generation Fortuner.

However, for the purpose of scaling the MU-X to both of its current biggest rivals, we will be comparing it to the models that are currently on sale as opposed to comparing it to its upcoming brand new rivals.

Isuzu MU-X 4×4Pajero Sport VGTToyota Fortuner 2.5G
ENGINE
Type4-cylinder, 16-valve DOHC Turbocharged (VGS) and Intercooled4-cylinder, 16-valve Turbocharged (VGT) and Intercooled DI-D DOHC4-cylinder In-line, 16-valve, DOHC, Intercooler VNT Diesel
Displacementcc2,4992,4772,494
Max Powerhp136178144
Max TorqueNm320350343
STEERING
TypeHydraulic Rack and PinionHydraulic Rack and PinionHydraulic Rack and Pinion
DRIVETRAIN
Transmission5-speed Automatic with Sequential Shift.5 A/T with Sports Mode4-speed Automatic with ECT, Gate Shifter
SUSPENSION
TypeFront/RearIndependant double wishbone with coil springs / 5-link suspension with coil springs and stabilizer barDouble Wishbone, Coil Springs with Stabiliser Bar / 3-link, Coil Springs with Stabiliser BarIndependent Double Wishbone with Coil Spring / 4-Link with Coil Spring and Lateral Rod
BRAKES
FrontVentilated discVentilated discVentilated Disc
RearSolid DiscSolid DiscsDrums
TYRE & WHEELS
Tyres255 / 65 R17265 / 65R17265 / 65 R17
WheelsAlloyAlloyAlloy
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHTS
Overall Lengthmm4,8254,6954,705
Overall Widthmm1,8601,8151,840
Overall Heightmm1,8601,8401,850
Wheelbasemm2,8452,8002,750
Kerb Weightkg2,0602,0401,945
Luggage Capacity (VDA)L
FUEL
Tank Capacity657065
Consumption (Combined) L/100km
PERFORMANCE
Max Speedkm/h –
0 – 100km/hsec
PRICE (OTR)
RM (from)RM160,210 (GST Inclusive)RM 171,211 (GST Inclusive)RM 169,930 (GST Inclusive)

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WILL I BUY IT ?

The MU-X is certainly an interesting and versatile bit of kit. It’s able to get any job done with absolute ease, be it a quiet relaxing day trip to the beach with picnic baskets and the family in tow or exploring off the beaten path in pursuit of adventure; the MU-X was built for just that.

An elevated cockpit position makes driving such a breeze, packaged together with a good torquey engine and smooth gearbox, it’s doodle for everyday use, notwithstanding the fact that you need to get adjusted to the sheer size of the SUV and priced at reasonable RM160,210. Uluru Brown maybe a tad too striking for my taste, but I’d have mine in Titanium Silver please.


IMAGE GALLERY


Nicholas Raj

Nicholas Raj

This author was born with an undying love for cars. As the mantra goes, the faster, the better. A hotelier-cum-entrepreneur, he soon gave up the life in pursuit of joining the brinks of the local automotive industry. He spends his days, aside from writing obviously, plotting and scheming his plan ever so carefully in the hopes of bagging a Porsche 991 Turbo in white with the Martini racing colours.
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