Patent images previewing the design of the next-generation Isuzu MU-X have emerged online, giving us an early look at the new D-Max-based seven-seater SUV.

While Isuzu has yet to confirm when the new MU-X – which will again take on the likes of the Toyota Fortuner, Ford Everest and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport – will hit the road, we’d speculate a reveal is on the cards for some point in 2021.

The next MU-X is expected to borrow the new D-Max’s ladder-frame underpinnings and is also in line to inherit the bakkie’s uprated 3,0-litre turbodiesel engine. In the D-Max, this powerplant generates 140 kW at 3 600 r/min and 450 N.m between 1 600 and 2 600 r/min.

Uncovered by the eagle-eyed folks over at AutoWeek in the Netherlands, the images were recently filed with a Japanese patent office.

Based on the images, the new model appears to have been handed a front-end design distinct from that of the D-Max, gaining new headlamps and a fresh grille. The lower section of the front bumper, meanwhile, looks to be body coloured rather than finished in a contrasting hue.

While it will still likely share a handful of panels with the bakkie, the new MU-X looks set to adopt a new C-pillar treatment. The taillamps appear sleeker as well.

The original MU-X debuted as long ago as 2013, although the SUV arrived in South Africa only in mid-2018. A lightly refreshed version hit local roads in May 2020.