The local arm of Isuzu has seen a significant increase in sales with its current mu-X model over the first generation. This uptrend looks set to continue with the introduction of this value-biased model. Damian Adams attended the local launch in Cape Town to determine if the SUV could usurp the entry-level Fortuner.
Isuzu mu-X 1,9 LS 4×2 Fast Facts
- Price: R708 000
- Engine: 1,9-litre turbodiesel
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic
- Power: 110 kW @ 3 600 r/min
- Torque: 350 N.m @ 1 800-2 600 r/min
- Fuel consumption: 7,0 L/100 km (claimed)
- CO2: 185 g/km
- Towing capacity: 2 100 kg
- Ground clearance: 235 mm
- Rivals: Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Mahindra Scopio N, Ford Everest
What are we driving?
Isuzu has launched a new version of its mu-X seven-seater ladder-frame SUV, in the form of the new 1,9 LS 4×2 automatic. The new derivative, along with the addition of a 4×4 version of the mid-spec 3,0 LSE, expands the local line-up to a total of six mu-X models – the largest range yet for the company.
At the heart of the new 1,9 LS mu-X is Isuzu’s 1 899 cc four-cylinder inter-cooled turbodiesel engine, as used in the D-Max bakkie range. This engine offers respectable fuel economy and a robust design that uses a high-pressure common rail direct injection system and variable geometry turbocharger. It delivers a power output of 110 kW at 3 600 r/min matched to a torque figure of 350 N.m available across a wide band of between 1 800-2 600 r/min. The opportunity to drive the vehicle was scheduled to take place in Cape Town early in August but was postponed due to the taxi strike. Being an important new model to our ladder-frame SUV-crazed market we were itching finally to get behind the wheel.
Why is the mu-X significant?
The 1,9 LS is the first mu-X to employ this engine and is the most affordable model in the mu-X range while it comes with an impressive standard features list. The other drawcard is that Isuzu claims just 7,0 L/100 km and a range of 1 143 km from the 80-litre fuel tank.
Inside, the mu-X offers ample space for passengers and luggage, making it suitable for large-family daily commuting while the seven-seat arrangement is one of the most usable in the segment. The interior materials prioritise durability over high-end luxury, which aligns with the SUV’s utilitarian focus. It does however have niceties like a stitched soft-touch dashboard, a Nappa leather steering wheel and comfortable full-leather seats. Build quality is appreciably solid, in line with Isuzu’s reputation for producing tough-feeling vehicles. That said, it’s a pleasant place to spend time with few distracting gimmicks that could otherwise detract from the experience.
In terms of safety, the Isuzu MU-X is equipped with a plethora of features like seven airbags (including a driver’s knee airbag), electronic stability control with traction control, ABS with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist system (BAS), brake override accelerator (BOA), hill start assist, hill descent control (HDC), trailer sway control as well as cruise control.
What’s new on the mu-X?
The new 1,9 LS mu-X follows the conventional adventure SUV design philosophy, with a large and bold exterior. It does stand out on the road with its LED daytime running lights, 18-inch alloy wheels and a chiselled grille.
It features the latest styling updates applied to the rest of the mu-X range for 2023. This includes privacy glass for the rear windows, a new Norwegian Blue colour option, and darker magnetite finishes for the radiator grille, front and rear bumpers, front fog lamp bezels, roof rails and side steps replacing the silver and chrome items from before. Only eagle-eyed Isuzu fans will spot the difference without seeing this current model parked next to the previous model year.
What does the mu-X lineup cost?
- 1,9 LS 4×2 AT (new) – R708 000
- 3,0 LS 4×2 AT – R800 000
- 3,0 LS 4×4 AT – R885 000
- 3,0 LSE 4×2 AT – R842 800
- 3,0 LSE 4×4 AT (new) – R927 700
- 3,0 Onyx 4×4 AT – R960 600
The mu-X is sold with a five-year/90 000 km service plan, 5 year/120 000 km warranty and roadside assistance, including 5 year/unlimited km anti-corrosion warranty.
What is the mu-X like to drive?
The 1,9-litre turbodiesel engine provides adequate power for most driving situations yet it’s a rumbly oil burner under load in typical Isuzu fashion. It’s not a high-performance engine and it’s not intended to be. Instead it feels relaxed yet suitably punchy from low revs and it should excel in fuel efficiency, making it an economical choice for both urban and open-road driving as consumers constantly watch the fluctuating price of diesel. The towing prowess has seen a decrease from 3,5 tons braked to 2,1 tons braked. For most, this won’t be an issue, and for me this limit is a far safer proposition in reality. You do the physics, a 2-ton vehicle towing 3 tons is simply not responsible. The 1,9 LS should still haul your family, luggage, a venterjie and a bicycle rack relatively smoothly. With 110 kW, the gap in power over the 140 kW 3,0 does not feel significant around town and at cruising speeds.
The six-speed Aisin-sourced transmission pairs well with the engine offering smooth and decisive shifts that match the vehicles low-stress character. The suspension is supple for a ladder-frame vehicle and easily handles coarse roads while the steering is well weighted and accurate allowing you to place the vehicle without concern even on tight and congested city streets. Our launch drive was a brief stint around the Cape Town CBD and along the Sea Point/Camps Bay coast and the mu-X didn’t face significant issues to report. Instead it felt quite comfortable among the sea of expensive SUVs that line the roads in the area. We’re looking forward to loading this new model up to see how it performs over our standard testing procedure and are keen to see how it fairs over long distance driving too.
Isuzu vehicles, including the mu-X, are known for their affordability when it comes to maintenance and servicing. Additionally, the Japanese brands reputation for durability often translates into good resale value, making the mu-X a reasonable long-term purchase and this should remain true for the well-rounded 1,9 LS. It caters to a specific audience seeking a spacious, well-built, efficient, and dependable SUV. It’s an attractive choice for South African consumers who prioritise functionality and longevity over luxury and cutting-edge technology seen in more expensive alternatives. This 1,9 LS makes a compelling case for itself costing R92 000 less than the equivalent-spec 3,0 LS and is well positioned to rival the popular 110 kW 2,4 GD-6 Toyota Fortuner automatic. With its longer warranty and 15 000 km service intervals (a testament to Isuzu’s confidence in the mu-X’s reliability) over the 10 000 km for the Toyota it means mu-X owners will spend less time on dealer visits. Stay tuned for our instrumented road-test to follow in an issue soon.