Japanese-designed and Thai-built, the second-generation MU-X wagon costs a few more dollars than its well-regarded predecessor and is a complete re-work of a successful formula.
Again based around Isuzu’s D-Max ute, four-wheel drive versions of the MU-X remain competent off-roaders in the rough and tumble, but these new wagons offer more in the way of on-road comforts.
Australia is Isuzu’s second largest market outside Thailand and here the MU-X has been favoured by caravanners and families chasing a no-nonsense wagon for travelling across town or across the country.
Isuzu has paid attention to customer feedback here, as evidenced by a beefier chassis with re-enginered rear suspension for more ride comfort and towing ability up to 3.5 tonne.
Style-wise these new SUVs look familiar although they arrive a tad longer at 4850mm and a little wider and lower. It’s a clean, bold look though the coupe-like roof line at the rear means those distinctive rear windows have gone.
The Isuzu sticks with a five-door, seven-seat body on full ladder-frame chassis with coil suspension and choice of two or four-wheel drive; 4WD comes with rear differential lock with centre console dial for 2-H, 4-H and 4-L.
There’s decent ground clearance plus good approach and departure angles while a “rough terrain” drive mode adjusts engine and transmission settings to help with extra traction.
The three MU-X – LS-M, LS-U and LS-T with different trim and features – all use an uprated 3-litre, turbocharged diesel engine producing 140kW of power and 400Nm from 1400rpm. Power and torque head on to the wheels through a revised six-speed automatic transmission.
Brakes and suspension have been reworked and there’s now electric power steering which, while maybe a little light at the straight ahead, is handy on rough tracks or at the local shopping centre.
The extra engineering plus new body, more refined chassis and further attention to insulation, means the MU-X is quieter and smoother than before.
It remains a gentle drive. This is no tarmac terror but works with quiet authority for the most part.
A tonne of torque, available from the low down, is always appreciated in slow and steady four-wheel drive work on rocks or ruts. Average fuel consumption is listed at 8.3 litres per 100 kilometres but expect that to be a little higher when the wagon’s new.
Out and about, in town or down the highway, the new MU-X has improved road manners with more suppleness and better control from the underpinnings. While handling and road-holding is quite assured it’s still not one to be thrown around like some SUVs – but then those don’t have a separate chassis and rarely the off-road or towing abilities offered by the Isuzu.
Inside there’s a little more room for people and cargo, a tidier dashboard and more features offered (though could we please have old-fashioned knobs for audio volume control – swiping touch screens quickly can be frustrating).
The very back seats are best left to smaller folk, but the front five passengers have fair accommodation while the back two rows fold away in a number of useful configurations.
Two-wheel drive versions of Isuzu’s MU-X now start from $47,900 and four-wheel drives from $53,900; these are refined successors to a proper four-wheel drive wagon which is as capable running down the Birdsville Track as it is picking its way through the Bunnings carpark.