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2018 Isuzu MU-X LS-U 4×4 review (video)

When you think of Isuzu you think of a Japanese brand that builds solid, reliable vehicles that can take a beating. As the MU-X LS-U 4×4 proves, that doesn’t mean they have to be horrible to drive.

 

Vehicle overview

For the MY17 model Isuzu presented a new 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine as well as a new six-speed automatic to replace the old five-speed unit. There were also some visual changes to help make it more presentable. For this MY18 model not much has changed or been added with the exception of a new exterior hue (Magnetic Red Mica) and a longer run between services (now every 15,000km instead of 10,000km).

In total Isuzu offers seven variants of the MU-X. The range starts with the 4×2 LS-M (auto) for $42,900, then there’s the 4×2 LS-U (auto) for $45,200, and the 4×2 LS-T (auto) for $48,900.

Moving on to the 4×4 models does cost quite a bit more, but definitely worth it if you plan on going bush. The 4×4 range begins with the 4×4 LS-M (auto) for $50,200, then there’s the 4×4 LS-U (manual) at $50,400, then the 4×4 LS-U (auto) we’re testing in this review at $52,500, and lastly there’s the top spec 4×4 LS-T (auto) at $56,200. All models offer seven seats, and all prices exclude on-road costs.

If you’d like to get the best price on an Isuzu MU-X, our car buying team New Vehicle Group can help.

 

What does it come with?

The LS-U comes with an 8.0-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, a reverse camera, as well as a chrome front grille, chrome door mirrors and door handles, side steps for easier access, and rear cabin cooling vents. It also comes with a neat set of 18-inch alloy wheels.

There’s plenty of room in the second row. The third row can easily sit two adults, with quick access via the latch on the top of the second row seat – it folds forward and easily clicks back into place.

There’s 235 litres of boot space when the third row is up, which expands to 878 litres when the 50/50 split-fold third row is folded flat. If you lay the second and third rows down you’ll end up with 1830 litres of very usable space. You could sleep in the MU-X no worries at all.

There’s USB ports front and rear, and three 12V power outlets located in the centre dash, rear cargo area, and the glove box. We love that the car is so simple inside. There’s definitely some tech missing, like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for instance, but you don’t really care. It’s a less is more kind of car. You fall in love with its simplicity.

One area the MU-X range could do with a bump is the availability of advanced safety systems such as blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, and perhaps autonomous emergency braking. Standard safety equipment does include stability control with trailer-sway assist, front seatbelt pretensioners, and no less than six airbags.

Exterior colours include Splash White, Silky White Pearl, Titanium Silver, Obsidian Grey Mica, Havana Brown Mica, Cosmic Black Mica, and the new for the MY18 model is the Magnetic Red Mica option.

 

What’s it like to drive?

The MU-X can take a commercial grade beating, but it doesn’t feel anywhere near as industrial to drive. The steering has a nice weighted feel to it, and the suspension offers great dampening and rebound both off road and around town. Isuzu has done a nice job to get the city/country balance just right.

It’s not particularly light at 2142kg, but it drives more like an SUV that weighs around the 1800kg mark. The seats are well bolstered enough that you can happily pick up some speed down a twisty road – a lot of SUVs would see you slip out of the seat and either fall out the window or slip over to the passenger seat due to a mix of body roll and bad ergonomics. Maybe not that drastic, but you get what we mean.

Though we didn’t tow anything during this review, you can just tell the MU-X would eat up highway kilometres with a big caravan or boat on the back. The six-speed auto feels strong and intuitive, as does the engine. The brake pedal also offers a strong feel. This is a vehicle that definitely leaves you feeling confident behind the wheel – right from the first time you drive it.

The engine is a new unit as of last year, displacing 3.0-litres of turbo-diesel grunt to the tune of 130kW and 430Nm. It’s not the quietest engine, especially when cold, but it feels strong and ready for hundreds of thousands of kilometres. Peak torque is on offer from 2000rpm, with peak power coming up at 3600rpm.

 

What’s it like off-road?

The MU-X LS-U 4×4 comes with two-wheel drive high-range, four-wheel drive high-range,  and four-wheel drive low-range, with a limited-slip diff tucked up under the rear. The MU-X does miss out on a lockable rear or centre diff, but luckily the setup it has offers good tractable effort. That said, it’d definitely be nice if it had one.

Our 4×4 automatic MU-X made mince meat of our usual off road test course, pulling up the steps with ease as well as clambering its way out of trouble through a series of deep and undulated muddy ruts. It’s really easy to drive, even in the tough stuff. The short front and rear overhangs gives the MU-X good approach and departure ability.

The six-speed automatic gearbox allows you creep up, over, and through tricky spots without worry of stalling or changing gears. That’s not to discount the manual gearbox on offer, it’s simply that with the auto transmission it’s just so easy.

The engine responds very well to being under load in tough off road situations, with little to no turbo lag evident. While we were on our test run we even pulled another car out of a ditch. Thanks to Isuzu Australia (or the previous car journalist) leaving some spare straps in the boot floor compartment, our stuck 4×4 compadre was in luck.

 

Is it worth buying?

Last year saw the arrival of a new 3.0-litre engine, as well as a new six-speed automatic transmission. This, for us, really gave the MU-X that little bit extra refinement. The suspension was also beefed up to be more Australian specific.

What the MU-X lacks in terms of airy styling and fancy creature comforts it repays in the way of off-road ability. It’s a mighty thing right out of the box, and would be a perfect companion if you were touring the country or needed something robust to shift the family about.

 

Are there other considerations?

  • 2018 Holden Trailblazer
  • 2018 Ford Everest
  • 2018 Toyota Fortuner
  • 2018 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport

 

Want the best price on a 2018 Isuzu MU-X?

If you are looking to buy a 2018 Isuzu MU-X and you live in Australia, we can help. Our dealer network and bulk-buying power can save you $1000s. And better still, you don’t have to haggle with salespeople – we’ll do it for you. Head over to New Vehicle Group for a free, no-obligation quote.

 

2018 Isuzu MU-X LS-U 4×4 review video

 

Vehicle rating (out of 5 stars)

  • Powertrain
  • Interior tech
  • Build quality
  • Fun factor
  • Safety
3.9

2018 Isuzu MU-X LS-U 4x4

The Isuzu MU-X scores well despite missing advanced safety tech. The engine is strong, as is the transmission, so it scores well there. It’s definitely fun to drive off road, and there’s definitely no questioning Isuzu’s renowned build quality. While it might not be super pretty, it’s super tough.

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Josh Bennis

Josh has worked within the automotive journalism landscape for the best part of a decade. He's driven everything from a 1972 Mazda 808 station wagon to an Aston Martin DBS. Josh's job is to make sure New Vehicle Buyer readers remain informed and entertained on a daily basis.

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