The MU-X is a capable and comfortable 4x4 wagon that’s based on the same chassis and running gear as the brand’s popular D-MAX ute. With a strong and economical turbo-diesel engine, a competitive 3000kg towing capacity and seating for seven, the MU-X is great all-rounder.
What is the 2018 Isuzu MU-X LS-U auto?
The MU-X is a medium-size seven-seat 4x4 wagon that shares the same platform as Isuzu’s D-Max ute. As is traditional for the class, the MU-X wagon has a shorter wheelbase than its utility sibling, and the D-Max’s live-axle leaf-spring rear-end has been discarded in favour of a live-axle coil-spring arrangement in the MU-X wagon. Both the ute and wagon share the same independent coil-spring front suspension.
There are three model grades in the MU-X 4x4 line-up. They are the $48,000 LS-M, the $50,300 LS-U and the auto-only $56,100 LS-T. The standard transmission on the LS-M and LS-U models is a six-speed manual; an optional six-speed automatic adds $2100. The vehicle tested here is the MU-X LS-U auto, which is $52,400 plus on-road costs.
Common across the MU-X 4x4 line-up is a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, part-time 4x4 system with two-speed transfer case and seating for seven occupants.
Standard equipment on the MU-X LS-U includes 18-inch alloy wheels, eight-speaker sound system with steering wheel controls and iPod input, an-8-inch colour touchscreen, Multi-Information Display, satnav, second- and third-row privacy glass, two 12V power outlets, two USB ports, climate control air conditioning and keyless entry/start.
> What’s the interior like?
When you slide into the cloth-trimmed driver’s seat of the MU-X LS-U, you’re confronted by acres of dark-grey plastic. The overall interior design is pleasant enough, and the dash design is dominated by a rotary dial and switch arrangement for the climate-control air conditioning system; the switchgear is clearly marked and easy to use but it’s an unusual design.
The eight-inch touchscreen is up nice and high where it’s easy to access and operate and there are steering wheel controls for the sound-system, Bluetooth phone connection and cruise control, which are all clearly marked and are logically positioned.
The driver’s seat itself offers a generous base and comfortable backrest, and there’s good fore and aft adjustment. The steering wheel is adjustable for rake only.
The centre console houses a couple of cup holders, an auxiliary input and a two USB ports, as well as the control for Terrain Command (part-time 4x4) system. There’s a small amount of storage space beneath the centre armrest, a generous double glovebox, a covered storage compartment on the dash and reasonable-size door pockets.
The second-row seat will accommodate three adults, although the centre position isn’t exactly comfortable as the backrest pushes the occupant forwards. There’s reasonable width and good legroom, and all seats have three-point safety belts and adjustable headrests.
Access to the third-row seats is easy thanks to the second-row seat’s simple one-hand operation; just pull on a handle and the seat tumbles forwards and out of the way. But the 60:40 split of the second-row seat seems to favour left-hand drive markets, as the single folding seat is on the driver’s side of the vehicle.
While a couple of fully grown bods will fit in the third-row seats on short trips, there’s not much legroom back there so they’ll likely want to escape as soon as possible. There are roof vents for second- and third-row occupants and a smattering of cup holders, storage bins and pockets.
With all seats in use, there’s enough cargo space in the back for some shopping or a couple of in-cabin size bags. The third-row seats fold flat into the floor when not in use, providing a generous and cargo area, and with the second-row seats also folded there’s enough cargo length for a lie down. There’s a storage bin beneath the cargo floor, which is a great place to stow the cargo blind, but it raises overall cargo loading height.
What’s it like on the road?
While not as powerful as some in its class, the MU-X’s 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine has a nice character with plenty of low-down torque and a meaty midrange. It produces a claimed torque peak of 430Nm from 2000-2200rpm, and 380Nm is available all the way from 1750-3500rpm. As a result, the engine doesn’t need to be revved hard to deliver more than adequate on-road performance. It can be a little raucous if you put your boot into it and let revs climb towards redline, but that’s rarely a necessity.
The six-speed automatic transmission offers smooth and predictable shifts, and it can be operated in sequential sport mode if desired, but most drivers will only find a use for this feature off the road.
Initial compliance over small bumps is on the firm side but the suspension is actually quite soft, and it does a good job of soaking up bigger road surface irregularities such as washouts and big bumps. Body roll is noticeable when cornering but it’s not excessive, and overall the MU-X steers smoothly and predictably.
Claimed fuel economy of 7.9L/100km for the combined cycle is exceptional and while you’d be hard-pressed to achieve that on the road the MU-X is definitely very economical, which is just as well because the 65-litre fuel tank is on the small side.
The MU-X’s 3000kg towing capacity equals its class competitors, and its 300kg maximum tow ball load betters some of them.
Off-road capability was certainly not an afterthought when the Isuzu engineers set about developing the MU-X. It offers a generous 230mm of ground clearance, has good approach and departure angles, is armed with decent under-body protection, is equipped with diff breather extensions, has good low-range reduction and is specified with off-road friendly (255/60R18) tyres. Take a peek under the bonnet and you’ll see the engine’s air intake is up nice and high through the driver’s side inner guard, the alternator sits about halfway up the engine bay and there’s space for an auxiliary battery. Get into strife off-road and there are two decent recovery points up front, but none at the rear… unless you have a tow hitch fitted with a rated recovery hook.
The MU-X’s basic part-time 4x4 system can be engaged on the fly although the vehicle needs to be stationary to engage low range. Overall low-range reduction in first gear is a handy 33.3:1, which combined with the automatic transmission’s torque multiplying effect provides good climbing capability in steep country. While engine braking isn’t fantastic, the MU-X is equipped with Hill Descent Control (HDC).
In particularly bumpy terrain, the under-body protection plates can cop a pounding as the front suspension compresses, but this is the case with most independently sprung 4x4s.
The MU-X deals with most off-road scenarios well but it can be tripped up on steep, slippery inclines where there are lots of ruts and undulations. When full axle articulation is reached the MU-X has no cross-axle diff lock in the rear to help maintain traction. Instead it has to rely on its electronic traction control, which is not always able to arrest wheel spin. If you can pick a line that will allow you to avoid the deepest holes on a track, you should have no problems, but on some tracks there is only one driveable line.
What safety features does it get?
The MU-X has been awarded a five-star ANCAP rating. Standard safety equipment on the LS-U includes Traction Control (TC), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), ABS with EBD and EBA, six air bags (dual front, front side and full length curtain), reversing camera, rear parking sensors, height adjustable front seat belts, audible and visual seat belt warnings, three-point seat belts and height adjustable headrests in all seven seating positions, three child seat tethers and ISO-FIX anchor points, childproof rear door locks, anti-theft alarm system, Bi-LED projector headlights with auto-levelling, Daytime running lights and front fog lights.
Notable omissions from the MU-X safety package include trailer sway control, lane departure warning, active cruise control and autonomous braking.
So, what do we think of the 2018 Isuzu MU-X LS-U auto?
While the MU-X doesn’t excel in any one area, it’s certainly capable in many. It’s well priced, offers good on-road performance and comfort, is economical and genuinely off-road capable.
What’s the interior like? 3.5/5
What’s it like on the road? 3.5/5
What about safety features? 4/5
Safety: 5 star ANCAP
Engine: 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Power: 130kW at 3600rpm
Torque: 430Nm at 2000-2200rpm
Transmission: six-speed automatic
Drive: part-time four-wheel drive
Dimensions: 4825mm (L); 1860mm (W); 1860mm (H)
Turning Circle: 11.6m
Ground Clearance: 230mm
Boot Space 235/878/1830 litres
Spare: Full size
Fuel Tank: 65L
Thirst: From 7.9/100km (combined)