Car Review: 2019 Isuzu MU-X LS-U

This Car Review Is About: The 2019 spec Isuzu five door MU-X LS-U. It’s also available in LS-T and LS-M spec and comes in 4×2 and 4×4 driveline options. The range was given a largely cosmetic upgrade in early 2019. It’s currently available in a drive-away package (LS-U 4×4) at $50,490. Recommended retail is $52,400 plus on roads for a RRP of $57,674.Under The Bonnet Is: The rattly 3.0L that makes 130kW and a handy 430Nm of torque from 2,000 to 2,200 revs per minute. In context, that’s below the 500Nm from the 2.8L as found in the Holden Colorado…At just under 1000rpm there is 300Nm and that peak torque is on tap through a narrow rev range of just 500rpm. There’s still 350Nm available at 3,500rpm but it’s a very noisy exercise taking the engine past 3,000rpm. It’s possibly one of the noisiest diesels available in a passenger vehicle when pushed even moderately however, compared to the D-Max utes there is extra noise shielding in the engine bay and transmission tunnel. It bolts to a six speed auto with sports shift and an electronic low range locking system.Economy is quoted as 7.9L/100km for the combined, 9.5L/100km for the urban, and 6.9L/100km for the highway from a 76L tank. In our drive loop we saw a best of 7.8L/100km for the seven seater, and an overall average of 8.1L/100km. Isuzu rate the towing capacity as up to 3.5 tonnes.

On The Inside It’s: Cloth seats for the LS-U, easy pull straps for the third row seats, and a raised cargo floor with covered storage behind them. As it’s clearly based on the D-Max it’s virtually identical otherwise. There is no seat heating, no seat venting. The LS-U’s front seats are manually adjusted. Rear seat passengers have plenty of leg room, and there is a USB port for the centre row passengers at this trim level. The third row seats aren’t recommended for anyone of infant or adult size.The LS-U starts with a traditional key. Isuzu fitted the review car with rubber floor mats front and rear. Only the driver has a one touch window up/down switch in both. The centre console houses the dial for the two or four wheel drive modes, and there are two bottle/cup holders. The driver and passenger have a pull out cup holder, and each door has bottle holders. Near the driver’s knee is some switchgear including one that looked like an On/Off switch for the parking sensors.Sounds come via an 8.0 inch touchscreen, with AM/FM, Bluetooth, no Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, CD, USB and 3.5mm inputs, and even a HDMI connection hidden behind a flexible rubber tab at the bottom of the centre console stack. There is no DAB or Digital Audio Broadcast. The screen’s display is the same as the D-Max, meaning it really needs a massive overhaul. It also features the same driver alert warning note that will stay on screen for as long as the car is running if the OK tab isn’t touched. The driver faces a basic looking but functional dash, with a pair of dials bracketing a display screen that shows trip distances, economy, expected range, and the diesel particulate filter status. Australian spec cars have the right hand stalk as the indicator and the left as wipers, and each has a button at the end of the stalk to access the screen info. The wipers themselves aren’t auto nor is there an Auto headlight setting. This is an oversight in the interest of safety, as a driver can too easily not switch the lights on in situations such as dusk or when it’s raining.Actual switchgear is mostly well laid out and accessible with the minor accessories ports located at the bottom of the stack. The centre stack features Isuzu’s standard aircon controls, with a huge dial for temperature as the hub. Fan controls are on one side, mode on the other, and the dial itself shelters a small LCD screen to indicate what’s going on. The dash itself is a double scallop design, with a stitched leather look to the materials. Fit and finish is mostly ok however the leading edges of the doors have a gap of about a centimetre to the plastics wrapping the windscreen. The upper dash storage locker here at least did open without issue, unlike one found in the D-Max. Total cargo capacity is up to 1830L with the second and third row seats folded flat. With the third row only down it’s 878L.On The Outside It’s: Largely similar to the D-Max from the front to the rear of the second row doors. Here it’s the addition of a the big pillar, roof, and non-powered tailgate, with a towbar added here as well. Rubber is 255/60/18 H/T or Highway Terrain tread from Bridgestone. There are, though, front and rear parking sensors and the warning tone inside is a very high pitched screech, making it unmistakeable in intent. Headlights are self-levelling and there are LED driving lights. The lower front bumper is bespoke for the MU-X.

Out On The Road It’s: More of the same as that found in the D-Max. Steering is a little more assisted than the utes meaning turning and car parking driving is moderately easier. The rear suspension is a rigid live axle and coil springs, with the front being coil springs and gas shocks. Ride is more composed, more family friendly. The engine is the same rackety clackety noisy, just muted thanks to that extra insulation. It’s the same thrashy rattle from a start when pushed, more restrained off throttle, and almost invisible on idle and in cruise.  It’s a determined load lugger too, and in no way can it be considered sporting. There’s a moment of turbo lag before the engine gets lively, and even then it’s a relaxed, don’t hurry we’ll get there, proposition.The transmission is the same in that it’s mostly smooth, will drop a cog or two for downhill runs and engine braking, but will exhibit moments of indecisive shifting as well. On a normal acceleration run it’s slurry with hints of change, will downshift after a pause when the accelerator is pushed, but it’s a leisurely progression forward.

On the upside it’s a brilliant highway cruiser. That relaxed attitude sees the legal freeway speed ticking the engine over at 1800rpm and it’s here that it’s in airplane cruise mode. You know it’s there but it’s settled into the deep thrum that eventually becomes background noise. There is some road noise and the handling shows that the mixed terrain tyres are a compromise at best on tarmac. The front end of the MU-X is prone to running wide but not as wide as the D-Max, and it’s not helped by a steering ratio that has the nose move barely from a quarter to half turn of the wheel. It’s great when off-roading where that flexibility is needed, but normal driving needs something tighter. Also, the steering isn’t as assisted as that found in the MU-X, meaning more arm effort is required.Brake pedal feel is nearly as numb as the D-Max, with perhaps a bit more initial feedback on the downward travel.

The four wheel drive system is electronic and Isuzu call it Terrain Command. Up to 100km/h the car will accept a change to 4WD high range, but for low range it must be stopped, and the transmission placed in neutral. A push of the cabin dial, a clunk as the transfer case engages, and the MU-X will be ready to get dirty. By the way, this is the only drive mode change available, there are no programs for Snow, Mud, etc. Approach angle is 30.0 degrees, with a departure angle of 22.7 degrees. Rollover angle is good too, with 22.3 degrees available.

The Level Of Safety Is: Average. The mandated safety systems are here, there are six airbags, Hill Start and Hill Descent control are here but there is no Autonomous Emergency Braking, no Blind Spot Detection, no Rear Cross Traffic Warning. However, the ABS is a properly sorted four channel system and the reverse camera is of a reasonable quality. Underneath the 4×4 capable MU-X is a sump guard plate that also covers the electrically driven transfer case.

And The Warranty Is: Now up, to counterbalance the price rise, to six years/150,000 kilometres. Roadside assistance is also six years, up from five. According to Isuzu their research says most drivers don’t go over the 20,000 kilometre mark in a year. In regards to service: the D-Max sees 12 months or 15,000 kilometre service intervals with the first service just $350. Second year service is $450, with year three $500. Make it to Year 4 it’s down to $450, then it’s $340, $1110, and year seven is $400.

At The End Of The Drive.
The MU-X is much like the Pajero Sport, the Trailblazer, the Pathfinder. All based on a ute with off-road ability, they’re clunky, agricultural, but still manage to deliver a form of comfort and there’;s the added extra flexibility of the third row seats. Isuzu is a truck maker, not a small sedan or hatch maker, and it shows. There’s value and that appeals, but for real appeal the interior and handling need a serious lift.

Isuzu has seen increased sales of the D-Max range, ahead even of its sibling by any other name, the Colorado. It’s a vehicle that really wins on price, a modicum of ok good looks, and possibly an appeal to those that don’t need what others seem to see as required. It’s an earnest, basic, no frills machine, and with pricing now backed by an extended warranty, there’s more appeal there. Those looking for a higher level of safety, a quieter driveline, and ride quality need to look elsewhere. If it still grabs your attention, go to the Isuzu website

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