OFF-ROAD: 17MY Isuzu M-UX tackles the rough stuff in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.
OFF-ROAD: 17MY Isuzu M-UX tackles the rough stuff in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

17MY Isuzu M-UX on and off-road test and review

ISUZU is the Australian car market's specialisation wunderkind.  

Walk into an Isuzu Ute dealership, of which there are more than 130 today, and you're met with just two models: the D-Max ute and MU-X seven-seat SUV. 

17MY Isuzu MU-X
17MY Isuzu MU-X

Sales figures have surprised both Isuzu and the competition alike. The mighty MU-X SUV was Australia's best-selling ute-based SUV of 2016, ahead of the likes of Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Toyota Fortuner, Ford Everest and Holden Colorado7/Trailblazer.

We bought more than 7000 of these Thailand-built Isuzu seven-seaters last year.  

With Australia now Isuzu's biggest export market for D-Max and MU-X, revisions to the 17MY MU-X have specifically addressed Aussie customer and car reviewer feedback. Namely, less of the harsh plastics in the cabin and a reduction in noise from its 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine. In short, we want it less truck-like but still with the truck-tough engine and chassis.  

17MY Isuzu MU-X
17MY Isuzu MU-X

These facelifted MU-X cabins now have classier dual-tone dashboards, new chrome and piano-black trimming and soft armrest and console coverings where before they were utilitarian hard.   

Exterior design has been freshened too with brighter Bi-LED projection headlights, new design grille, fog lights and alloy wheel design: 16-inch for the base LS-M model and 18-inch the mid-spec LS-U and range-topping LS-T.   Prices are up about $1000 for the three grades, with RRPs from $42,800, $45,100 and $48,800 respectively, before on-roads, for 4x2 variants. All-wheel-drives with auto gearbox (unpopular manuals are $2100 cheaper) are from $50,100, $52,400 and $56,100.   

Getting expensive? Good news is you'll never pay these prices. Isuzu does permanent drive away deals, and its adverts show the range-topping new 17MY MU-X LS-T 4x4 is $52,990 drive away. It's confusing, but these on-the-road deals are markedly more appealing than those steep-looking list prices.

17MY Isuzu MU-X
17MY Isuzu MU-X

A five-year/130,000km warranty and five-year capped price servicing plan also trumps most of the competition.   Carried over is the 3.0-litre diesel "Euro5 compliant" engine introduced specifically for the Australian MU-X range just a few months ago. With 130kW and 430Nm (up fro 380Nm) it's not the most powerful or torquiest in the segment, but it is the most economical by returning 7.9l/100km when mated to Isuzu's new six-speed automatic transmission.  

Judging by the MU-X's popularity with those favouring old-school larger displacement engines, reliability and towing grunt (3000kg is your limit here), the diesel's power and peak torque available from a low 1700rpm is ample.  

Standard gear on all MU-X variants include seven seats, touchscreen audio system (7-inch for LS-M, 8-inch the top two), reverse camera with rear parking sensors and LED daytime running lights.   

17MY Isuzu MU-X
17MY Isuzu MU-X

LS-U grades bring sat nav, chrome exterior styling, side steps, climate control air con and rear cabin cooling vents. Halo LS-T adds leather accented seats, passive entry and start, electric driver's seat, roof rails, spoiler and a  10-inch rear DVD monitor.  

The 5 star crash-tested MU-X lacks the increasingly commonplace active safety and driver assistance systems of some rivals, but such inclusions (unwanted by some buyers) would push prices up.  

On the road

The MU-X is a giant inside. Those demanding a true seven-seater won't be disappointed, as the third row can accommodate six-foot adults in respectable comfort. It's still a clamber to get into those two rear chairs though, and while boot space is excellent as a five seater, with seven seats up you've only space for a couple of sports bags.

17MY Isuzu MU-X
17MY Isuzu MU-X

We wanted a plusher cabin and we've got it here, but the Isuzu still doesn't feel on a par with a lot of the competition. Yes there are softer touch surfaces and a less truck-like dash which are good improvements, but slightly flimsy door trim, switchgear and dash-top storage bin remain.   

Leather accents for the top grade MU-X boosts the luxe, and combined with the rear DVD monitor, it's the one to aim for as the family favourite. not least with the LS-T's reduced drive away price.  

Isuzu's claiming a 5% reduction in noise, vibration and harshness over the 2016 model thanks to better insulation and indeed the MU-X does hum along with little cabin noise intrusion. Stomp on the accelerator - there's a bit of a delay - and the higher revs do reveal truckie roots, but when cruising it's a quiet, lazy treat.  

17MY Isuzu MU-X
17MY Isuzu MU-X

The 3.0-litre feels very unstressed, the ride comfortable and less wallowy that some ute-based seven-seaters. Yes the steering is vague and the body leans in the turns, but that's hardly unusual for the segment. The big Isuzu has no sporty intentions; no bad thing in the eyes of its core buying market.  

Such buyers want the proven towing ability and off-road nous. There's no locking rear differential on offer unlike in, say, a Toyota Fortuner or Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, but our muddy, rocky off-road test with steep enough descents didn't trouble the MU-X, and few owners would push harder terrain than this.   

Verdict: 3.5 Stars

Sales leader among its ute-based seven-seat rivals, Isuzu is doing plenty right with the MU-X and has smartly addressed owners' few grumbles with this 17MY model.  

A better if not class-leading cabin and quieter ride improves the breed, and with Isuzu's bulletproof 3.0-litre turbo diesel and reluctance to add in-vogue but costly driver assistance systems the MU-X should remain a rugged, value proposition.

Just make sure you ask for the drive away price.  

17MY Isuzu MU-X
17MY Isuzu MU-X

AT A GLANCE

17MY Isuzu MU-X  

PRICE  $42,800 - $56,100 ($52,990 drive away deal for range topper)  

WARRANTY 5 years/130,000km  

CAPPED SERVICING $860 over 3 years  

SERVICE INTERVAL 12 months/10,000km  

SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags  

ENGINE 3.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 130kW/430Nm  

TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto, AWD or RWD  

THIRST 7.9l/100km - 8.1l/100km.  

DIMENSIONS 4825mm(L), 1860mm(W), 1860mm(H), 2845(WB)  

WEIGHT 1992kg - 2157kg   T

OWING 3000kg (braked)  

SPARE Full-size  

17MY Isuzu MU-X
17MY Isuzu MU-X


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