We all remember the Isuzu MU-7 mammoth that roamed the roads (they still do) and scared drivers who saw them in their rear view mirrors. The almost-five-metre old school SUV was becoming, well, too old school. Isuzu had to bring in a replacement to stnd up to competition. And they did it with the Isuzu MU-X.
The MU-X is Isuzu’s way of telling people they have arrived, in style. It is a great looking SUV. Though not as aggressive as its predecessor, the MU-X will still make heads turn. We can forgive you for thinking out loud about the similarities the MU-X shares with a couple other cars. It is based on the same platform as the Isuzu D-Max V-Cross and Chevrolet Trailblazer, thus getting the family face of V-Cross and a rear that looks like the Trailblazer.
There is that chrome heavy face with double-slate grille, fitting right into character. In fact, there is no dearth of chrome in the exterior styling and buyers will love it. The 17-inch diamond cut alloy wheels look beautiful and beefy with 255/65 tyres. Despite being a big SUV, the MU-X doesn’t frighten you in profile.
Having a ladder-frame, you need to climb up to the seats and the XL size cabin will welcome you with its great build quality and space. The front seats offer great view and amazing support with the driver seat getting electric adjust controls. The second row is a good place to be if you want to travel in comfort with lots of leg room and reclining seats. Third row also offers good space when compared to the competition. Despite the lack of legroom or headroom, the third row seating is not bad as the seats are placed higher.
Being an Isuzu, build quality is top-notch and the materials used for the dashboard are of high quality. The dashboard looks simple and intuitive except for the touch screen system, which will take some time to get around. The steering wheel may seem small for the car’s size but proves to be effective. Controls on the steering wheel let you control the telephone, audio and cruise control system. The twin pod instrument cluster looks neat with a MID in between and the information can be toggled using the buttons on the end of the stalks.
Other goodies include keyless entry, push button engine start/stop button, auto climate control, separate AC vents for second and third row seats, three power outlets and more. Safety features include Anti-lock braking system with electronic brakeforce distribution, emergency brake assist system, traction control system, hill start assist and dual airbags.
Although the MU-X shares its base with V-Cross and Trailblazer, it gets its own engine and gearbox. The three-litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel engine is the same that powered the MU-7 but now gets a power bump to a maximum power of 177 PS and a peak torque of 380 Nm. Agreed, the MU-X is less powerful than its rivals but the engine has got good power delivery once its past 2,000 rpm. What really takes away the fun is the five-speed automatic gearbox. The response, be it downshift or upshift, is always a tad slower and we drove it in manual all the time. Slotting the gear into manual mode offers you more control of the power. Unfortunately, there is no manual gearbox option available.
The engine’s flat torque output helps in building up speeds nicely and the sweet spot is cruising around 110-120 kmph with the tacho hovering at 2000 rpm in the top gear. The suspension has been setup for soft and though this helps in city conditions, there is a lot of vertical movements on the highway as the speedo goes east. Body roll is evident around the corners and the tyres squeal even with a bit of pressure.
Coming to the off-road capabilities, the MU-X can be had in either 4x2 or 4x4 variants. We tested the latter, which came with traction control system coupled with shift-on-the-fly, 2W, 4W High and 4W Low modes. The MU-X proved to be a great off-roader as we took it in and out successfully along some wet beaches and mud paths.
With the MU-X, Isuzu has played it safe, offering the right mix of power and features. It looks great, is a genuine seven-seater, a capable off-roader and importantly, more value for money. The 4x2 AT variant is priced at Rs 22.38 lakhs while the 4x4 AT variant costs Rs 24.25 lakhs (ex-showroom price in Chennai), which makes the Isuzu MU-X a great alternative from the much costlier Toyota Fortuner and Ford Endeavour.