2022 Isuzu MU-X LS-T road test review

The 2022 Isuzu MU-X LS-T driving through the bush

Craig Duff

Posted February 23, 2022


This second-generation, off-road, seven-seat SUV fuses Isuzu practicality with the latest safety to tackle the Toyota Prado, Ford Everest and Mitsubishi Pajero.

In the beginning of off-road people movers, there was the Mitsubishi Pajero - a utilitarian workhorse that sold phenomenally well around the globe.

Toyota noticed those sales numbers and developed the Prado off the LandCruiser to create a more than capable rival.

Since then, everyone’s had a crack at the segment, though the Prado remains the most popular vehicle by a big margin in Australia.

Now Isuzu has upped the ante with its second-generation MU-X that combines serious off-road capability with seven seats and a comprehensive safety suite.

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The Isuzu MU-X can carry seven in comfort through some of our most rugged environments.
The Isuzu MU-X LS-T boasts a towing capacity of up to 3.5 tonnes.
Coil-spring rear suspension endows the Isuzu MU-X with a comfortable ride, even when towing.

How much does the Isuzu MU-X cost?

The range starts with the LS-M with a list price of $53,900. The version we’re testing is the top-spec LS-T which has a driveaway price of $63,990.

That’s $2000 less than its recommended retail price before on-road costs, meaning Isuzu is either doing a great deal or it doesn’t expect anyone to pay full price during dealer negotiations.

The sharp price and the jump in safety and interior civility has propelled the Isuzu to second in the large SUV sales race. To buy a range-topping Prado costs $87,807 before on-roads, making the MU-X look like a bargain.

Service intervals are set at 12 months or 15,000km and a seven-year capped price servicing package costs $3,513, averaging out at around $502 a year. That service pack is a year longer than the Isuzu’s six-year/150,000km warranty.

How safe is the Isuzu MU-X?

Eight airbags are fitted to the Isuzu people-mover, including a driver’s knee bag and a centre bag to prevent the front-seat occupants from butting heads during side-impact crashes.

ANCAP awarded the big SUV with a five-star rating. Adult occupant protection scored 87 per cent, with a marginal rating for the rear passenger’s chest protecting during the full-frontal crash test.

In the offset front test, ANCAP penalised the car on the basis the “front structure of the Isuzu MU-X presented a higher risk to the occupants of an oncoming vehicle”. In layperson’s terms, it rides high and is heavy, so passenger cars tend not to enjoy contact.

Child occupant protection came in at 85 per cent, largely due to a “poor” reading for the 10-year-old dummy’s neck in the frontal offset test. ANCAP also noted there are no top tethers or isofix anchorages in the third-row seats, so it doesn’t recommend fitting child seats down the back.

Vulnerable road user protection came in at 69 per cent. The Isuzu MU-X doesn’t have pedestrian detection in reverse and the autonomous emergency braking wasn’t great at detecting cyclists crossing from the side.

Safety assist features earned an 84 per cent mark, with the biggest criticism a “marginal” rating for the autonomous braking when turning in front of an oncoming vehicle.

What’s the Isuzu MU-X like inside?

The MU-X combines utilitarian plastics in the places where they’re useful in an off-road environment with a veneer of passenger car comfort.

The door panels are durable, the dash is covered in soft-touch material and there’s plenty of gloss black and alloy highlights in the cabin.

Pop-out cupholders in the dash are effective and the regular glovebox is complemented by a smaller unit directly above it. Space in the doors cope with most of the bottles you’re likely to pick up at the service station.

The area ahead of the gear selector holds a 12-volt socket, USB-A and auxiliary ports. You can’t under-rate 12-volt sockets if you need to inflate a tyre after deflating it to get over certain terrain … and the MU-X is more than capable of negotiating tough tracks.

Rear seat passengers are catered for with a pair of USB ports on the back of the centre console bin. Crucially, there are also roof-mounted air vents for the second and third rows.

It doesn’t sound like much, but a waft of cool air into the face during extended spells in a hot car (windows down on dirt tracks isn’t recommended) is a huge relief, as well as helping stave off car-sickness if the children have the misfortune to be so affected.

 

The Isuzu MU-X has a modern look with practical plastics where they're needed.
The Isuzu MU-X features an electric park brake for the first time.
Cargo space in the Isuzu MU-X ranges from 311 litres to 2138 litres, depending on how many seats are dropped.

What’s under the Isuzu MU-X bonnet?

The venerable 3.0-litre four-cylinder engine that helped cement Isuzu’s reputation as a reliable workhorse has been overhauled to improve power outputs and reduce the characteristic diesel clatter.

It’s still not as quiet as some rivals but is far more amenable than its predecessor and the 140kW/450Nm is generous, if not class-leading.

Is the Isuzu MU-X efficient?

Fuel consumption is officially listed at 8.3 litres over 100km on the combined cycle, or 10.3 litres around town.

Owners should be able to come close to matching that and the 80-litre tank means range will approach 1,000km. Of course, towing will see fuel use spike and the range drop.

The MU-X is rated to tow up to 3,500kg, but if you’ve loaded the interior with the maximum 625kg payload (including occupants), that figure falls to 3,100kg.

 

The Isuzu MU-X is based on the D-Max ute.
The Isuzu MU-X can seat seven and the second row seats slide to increase leg room for those in the back.
There's a plethora of accessories to make the Isuzu MU-X more aestheically rugged and more capable off-road.

How does the Isuzu MU-X drive?

Conventional coil rear springs replace the leaf-sprung set-up on the Isuzu D-Max ute and the MU-X is a more compliant ride for it.

The ladder-on-frame chassis means it’s never going to challenge a road-biased monocoque-based car for comfort and corrugation absorption, but they’re not going to handle the off-road conditions the MU-X revels in.

In that regard, the MU-X boasts an 800mm wading depth, 235mm of ground clearance, a rear differential lock, a “rough terrain” electronic driving aid and approach, departure and ramp-over angles of 29.2, 26.1 and 23.1 degrees respectively.

If you do touch ground, there are steel guards around the sump, transfer case and fuel tank leading edge, along with a reinforced resin under the fuel tank itself.

The LS-T version of the Isuzu MU-X rolls on 20-inch alloy wheels matched to “highway terrain” tyres, which try to handle road and bush driving. They’re effective, but I’d be making a call one way or the other in terms of how I planned to use the Isuzu and buying rubber accordingly. Thankfully, the spare is a full-size 20-inch alloy as well.

Boot space is limited to 311 litres if the third-row seats are in use. That’s enough for the weekly groceries.

Drop those rear seats and the area expands to a commodious 1,119 litres, making the MU-X a versatile load-lugger when required. If you’re moving seriously large objects, the second row can also be folded to release 2,138 litres of cargo capacity.

Should I buy one?

Anyone in the market for a seven-seater they plan to take off-road should test-drive the Isuzu MU-X.

It’s never going to challenge the Prado for popularity or cache. Buyers on a budget, though, will appreciate the $20,000 saving. That buys a lot of accessories to make the MU-X even more capable off the beaten track.

It’s horses for courses, though, so if you’re not the outdoors type who smiles when they see a rock shelf on the road or a set of deep, mud-filled ruts, there are plenty of bitumen-focused people-mover SUVs that are capable of negotiating a dirt road or a run along the beach.

 

The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit racv.com.au. As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s) issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.


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