How an Isuzu became the perfect car for a family holiday

WITH just two models in its portfolio, Isuzu sold more vehicles in Australia last year than BMW, Audi and Land Rover. No wonder you see them everywhere.

Its MU-X seven-seater is the country's best-selling ute-based SUV, proof that not all buyers are swayed by latest safety and entertainment kit and go for solid reliability, six-year warranty and decent value. How will our family of testers warm to the range-topping 4x4 LS-T?

The MU-X is ideal for an outgoing family.
The MU-X is ideal for an outgoing family.

First impressions

Iain: It's school holidays and here's a present: a seven-seat Isuzu MU-X SUV.

Jules: Seven seats? Uh-oh. Guess we'll be transporting extra kids to parks and beaches then.

Iain: Few cars do it better. These MU-Xs are vast inside and the boot's massive as long as you fold those two rearmost seats.

Jules: It looks a big brute but kind of ruggedly cute, if such a thing exists.

Iain: I like their style too. Ours is the range-topper so has 18-inch alloys, fog lights, side steps and roof rails to help aesthetics. Suits the red paint too.

Jules: Sell it to me then.

Iain: If you want to tow 3000kg, cruise around Australia or take the family off-roading, the MU-X is a safe, reliable bet with six-year warranty. Our 4WD is $53,990 drive-away but you can get a 2WD from $39,990 on the road.

The MU-X shares its underpinnings with the D-Max ute.
The MU-X shares its underpinnings with the D-Max ute.

Jules: If ours is the range topper, what else could I get for my $54K?

Iain: Ute-based seven-seat rivals include the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed ($56,990 drive-away), Toyota Fortuner GXL ($53,695 drive-away), Holden Trailblazer Z71 ($53,990 drive-away). More urban-orientated, the seven-seater Skoda Kodiaq Sportline is $51,490 drive-away).

The living space

Jules: Leathery seats! I guess this is the posh Isuzu.

Iain: Sure is. The cabin design is showing its age but it's simply laid out, seats are comfy and there are soft points where it matters for your arms to rest on.

Jules: The touchscreen looks antique. It's a good eight-inch size and has satnav but I'd really want clever smartphone connectivity - nearly everyone else has this now.

Iain: Some soft plastics, ambient lighting in the doors and push-button start are deft touches but some of the buttons and the fiddly dash-top storage bin let the side down.

The kids loved the ceiling mounted TV and DVD player.
The kids loved the ceiling mounted TV and DVD player.

Jules: Kids will love it though. For the middle seats, there's a roof-mounted DVD player and those leather chairs recline for an almost business-class experience. So roomy back there.

The commute

Iain: The MU-X is a lumbering big thing. If your commute is mainly through town you'll be rolling and leaning in corners and roundabouts, so you need to take it easy.

Jules: Different story on the highway though. What a beautiful cruiser. You sit truck-driver high, put on cruise control and you just sail along. I see why so many take these on a lap of Australia.

Iain: Its 3.0-litre turbo diesel is happy to lazily pull you along. At 100km/h you only see 1500rpm, so it effortlessly swallows highway kilometres with next to no noise.

Jules: Until you prod the accelerator.

Iain: Yes. Higher up the rev range and the MU-X's motor shows its truck roots.

Jules: Radar cruise control's becoming more commonplace too. It makes long drives more relaxing, so I missed the Isuzu not having it.

Iain: Another negative is the Bluetooth quality. I could hear callers clearly in the cabin but was often told they couldn't hear me.

The MU-X’s interior looks a little dated compared to rivals.
The MU-X’s interior looks a little dated compared to rivals.

The shopping

Jules: The two rear seats fold completely flat to give a boot the size of a shipping container. I could get a month's worth of groceries in there.

Iain: Rear parking sensors and camera help parking this biggie but, as the range topper, an auto tailgate would be nice.

Jules: The tailgate doesn't go up very high either, so I hit my head on it a couple of times.

Iain: Isuzu can't factor for clumsiness, honey.

Sunday run

J ules: These things are built on the D-Max ute chassis, so is that why they don't handle like a BMW X5?

Iain: One way of looking at it. An MU-X's weekend away won't be your favourite back road but serious off-roading. I've tested these through deserts, rocky mountains and muddy trails. There's no locking rear differential yet it can still conquer really harsh ground, thanks to the 3.0-litre's torque, the great ground clearance and hardcore suspension.

Jules: With that massive boot for kit and roomy second row of seats, a wilderness family camping trip would be ideal.

Iain: True. And if you wanted to tow up to 3000kg it's ready. Check out how many MU-Xs you find in caravan parks and it's clear they're fit for purpose. Isuzu has a loyal following.

The MU-X is a tough 4WD that will go almost anywhere.
The MU-X is a tough 4WD that will go almost anywhere.

The family

Jules: I'll admit, it's pretty much the ideal school holiday car. I got both the kids' bikes, a scooter and numerous bags in the boot with space to spare. You lose that space with the third row of seats up but we fitted two 10-year-olds in with ease.

Iain: Climbing into them could be easier though. And I know kids should have less screen time but our two-hour drive was one of the most peaceful ever thanks to that roof-mounted TV screen.

Jules: There's not much modern safety kit; that's a concern for a mum.

Iain: Ours had a $955 optional blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert system, but no, the MU-X wouldn't replicate its 2013 five-star crash rating if retested today.

Jules: Surprisingly good fuel economy. I've tested smaller cars that have used more than the MU-X's 8.1L/100km average.

The verdict

Iain: For adventurous families or grey nomads, the MU-X is a fuss-free, capable, reliable and roomy seven-seat SUV. I understand why Isuzu sells so many but it's overdue for an update with more modern cabin design, safety and infotainment inclusions.

Jules: As an everyday SUV for around town it's not the best - get a Skoda Kodiaq, Mazda CX-9 or Hyundai Santa Fe instead. If you'll properly use the 4WD kit the MU-X is a brilliant all-rounder I'd be happy to use on the school run then outback weekend adventures.

Isuzu MU-X 4X4 LS-T vitals

Price: $53,990 drive-away

Warranty/servicing: 6 years/150,000km; $2090 for 5 years/75,000km

Engine: 3.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 130kW/430Nm

Safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags, rear camera and sensors, trailer sway control, hill descent control, $955 optional blind spot monitor and rear-cross traffic alert

Thirst: 7.9L/100km

Spare: Full-size alloy

Boot: 235L/878L



Coffs’ alleged drug syndicate members set to be sentenced

premium_icon Coffs’ alleged drug syndicate members set to be sentenced

The alleged members had been dealing commercial quantities of cocaine, ecstasy and...

Family’s horror after finding armed woman hiding in laundry

premium_icon Family’s horror after finding armed woman hiding in laundry

The woman was carrying a knife and screwdriver.

ATTACK: Man left injured after home invasion

premium_icon ATTACK: Man left injured after home invasion

The four assailants were armed with a baseball bat, golf club and knife.