The Isuzu MU-X is one of the most popular 7-seat SUVs on sale in Australia, according to VFACTS figures. It’s available in a range of trim levels, spanning from the LS-M, LS-U, to the LS-T (as featured here), and buyers can opt for either rear-wheel drive (4×2) or dual-range four-wheel drive (4×4).
What are the best and worst things about the MU-X? Well, we’ve tried to answer that by coming up with a top 10 list for both the good and the bad. Our full written review and separate 0-100km/h video are coming soon.
Top 10 good things about the 2023 Isuzu MU-X (LS-T)
10. Neat design – The MU-X showcases very tidy proportions, especially against some of the awkward and weird rivals in this class. We like the bulging wheel arches that give it a firm stance, and the tinted taillights added in recent years give it a classy look from behind.
9. Full safety suite across range – Isuzu has applied its latest safety systems to all variants across the board. This is good because it doesn’t corner buyers into opting up for the high-spec models, just to receive the best safety. Some of the highlights include LED headlights, rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking (low speed), blind-spot sensors and a rear-view camera, for all.
8. Real-world fuel economy – The official rating for this MU-X LS-T variant is 8.3L/100km. We managed to score 8.6L/100km during our test, which is very close, and rare to see. Usually, real-world figures are way off the official ratings so it’s good to see the claim is pretty much achievable here.
7. One the largest third-row seats in its class – Compared with its direct competitors – those with a body-on-frame layout such as the Ford Everest, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Toyota Fortuner – the third row in the MU-X offers good legroom and headroom. The second row seat fold mechanism is a bit heavy, but access room is great.
6. Wireless Apple CarPlay as standard – It is becoming the norm but for now, having it standard on all variants is impressive. Android Auto is wired, though. We’re not saying it’s a huge tick for a ‘good’ rating but it’s still nice to see as some rivals remain wired only for both connectivity systems.
5. Off road performance – Thanks to a decent 235mm of ground clearance on this spec, as well as a 30-degree approach angle, the MU-X performs very well off road. There’s a rear diff lock to help get you out of really sticky situations, as well as a clever rough terrain mode that responds really quickly, like a fine-tuned traction control system. This example does come with highway terrain tyres mounted on 20-inch wheels, but all-terrains are available. It is great to see a full-size spare as well.
4. Accessories – Speaking of things that are also available, Isuzu offers a huge range of official accessories so you can kit this up so it’s prepared for whatever you want to do with it. These are covered by the factory warranty as well just for extra peace of mind.
3. Reliability – This is a difficult one for us to prove as, typically, we only test vehicles over a one-week period. However, we see Isuzu has been awarded a couple of Roy Morgan survey-based awards in recent years, potentially providing good indications on long-term reliability. The fact that Isuzu evolves its components rather than constantly creates new ones is also a way to ensure long-term reliability, in our opinion. There are less plastics used under the bonnet, with stainless steel fasteners and other heavy-duty parts used for the important bits. The range also features proper metal protection plates covering all of the important bits underneath.
2. Warranty – Isuzu offers six years or 150,000km. This is one of the highest in the industry and one of the highest in its specific class. Kia does offer seven years for the Sorento but that’s not really a direct competitor in our view, as it’s not a heavy-duty, chassis-rails type of product. Mind you, Mitsubishi does offer a whopping 10 years with its Pajero Sport. Servicing is every 15,000km or 12 months.
1. Towing – Yes, the number one good thing has to be towing. Towing enthusiasts love the MU-X and D-Max. And part of the reason, we think, is because of the big-capacity four-cylinder engine. With a big capacity, the engine provides good engine braking for downhills. The heavier rotating mass also helps to cruise things along, compared with some of the smaller-engined rivals. The gross combination mass leaves some payload for passengers and gear, too. It does offer a max 3500kg braked capacity, but if you subtract some of that down to where some rivals top out (Pajero Sport 3100kg, Prado 3000kg), you get a bonus circa-400kg in payload. We wouldn’t recommend towing such a heavy weight with any vehicle that weighs well under 2500kg in any case.
Top 10 bad things about the 2023 Isuzu MU-X (LS-T)
10. Boring lineup – There’s no X-Terrain or black pack, or look-how-big-my-wheels-are pack. This LS-T is the top-line model but it doesn’t look all that different from the base LS-M, except for the 20-inch wheels. We think Isuzu is missing an opportunity here to claw in younger-generation buyers. If it offered something like the Ford Everest Sport or Wildtrak it could liven up the lineup. Even Subaru offers the Outback Sport XT, pitched in the same class as this.
9. Powertrain falling behind – Isuzu did update its long-running but trusted ‘4JJ’ 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine a few years ago, boosting power to 140kW and lifting torque to 450Nm. However, these figures are weak compared with many rivals. Most offer around 150kW and 500Nm these days. In saying that, we’ve timed 0-100km/h around 9.8 seconds (video coming soon), which is a respectable time, including against those 150kW rivals.
8. Noisy engine – We know this engine is great and has a huge fanbase. But, compared with some of the modern rivals, it does sound a bit unrefined. Isuzu did apply some upgrades and revisions a couple of years ago, which did bring the noise down (which I verified on my previous YouTube channel, PDriveTV). Although improved, it still doesn’t sound as smooth or as quiet as others.
7. A bit basic inside – This is meant to be the flagship variant. But the LS-T doesn’t really say much inside. Sure, there is some white contrasting stitching scattered around, but what about dividing up the mono-tone black trim with something a bit more stylish?
6. Lacks technology – Again, the LS-T is supposed to be the top-rung model but there is no surround-view camera to be seen, or a wireless phone charger (available as an accessory, though). It’s just a bit simplistic and old-school. Which is probably a good thing to traditional fans but it’s going to hinder its appeal to younger customers. At least to some degree
5. No sliding middle row – The second row flips up and out of the way nicely, so it’s easy to get in. But the ability to slide the second row is more important in our opinion. Because if you have kids in the back and adults in the middle, you can prioritise space to where it’s needed most. Isuzu has no doubt positioned the seats evenly, particularly the middle row, and middle row legroom is actually very good.
4. Long wait time – We’ve asked around and it seems the wait time on a newly-ordered MU-X today is around 8-12 months. They say the upper-spec models are usually a longer wait, so if you really don’t need the leather seats inside and the big rims, you might be able to get into the mid-level LS-U a bit sooner.
3. No full-time four-wheel drive for the road – The MU-X has a dual-range gearbox with 4H and 4L, but you can’t drive on the tarmac in 4H. Well, you can but you mind break the driveline. That’s because the front and rear axles are essentially locked in 4H. In the Ford Everest you have a ‘4A’ mode to select, which does allow on-road driving, and the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport’s drive system also allows on-road driving with the grip and safety of four-wheel drive.
2. Fiddly instrument cluster – This is easily one of the most frustrating instrument cluster menus we’ve ever come across. Not only does it give you about one second to make a selection, before disappearing, but the menu sequence is very basic and long-winded. It is truly off-putting. We gave up on adjusting the settings that we wanted. And of course it all resets the moment you turn the engine off.
1. Touch-screen – It’s a pretty big screen, we’ll give it that, and there is wireless Apple CarPlay as mentioned. Other that that, it presents very basic, mostly black-and-white graphics, the menus are all over the place and the depth is confusing and lacks intuitiveness. Isuzu needs to include a fresh system with the next-generation, and we hope it at least meets the segment standards.
Overall, the Isuzu MU-X is a superb seven-seat SUV for touring this great country. It can go off road, unlike some rivals, and it offers excellent practicality in most areas. Warranty and resale are also attractive traits.
Prices are reasonable, especially compared with some nameplates that have really skyrocketed in recent times. We will have our full review and 0-100 video coming soon, going over the base LS-M and this top LS-T. Stay tuned.