THE Isuzu Mu-X did improve on the SUV credentials of the model it replaced in 2014 (the Isuzu Alterra, which, however competent, always came across as a family wagon on stilts). But the Mu-X is maybe too much of an SUV, lacking the overall refinement, plus the more advanced power train, its competitors have. In its 2018 form though, Isuzu’s flagship model catches up with the pack.
• Subtle styling upgrades in front, courtesy of a new grille, bumper and head lamps, all help to enhance the basic silhouette of the vehicle — which is already well proportioned to begin with. Larger wheels, meanwhile, improve the Mu-X’s stance and fill up the wheel wells nicely.
• LED daytime running lights and cluster within the sharper head lamp units effective at freshening up the vehicle’s looks, and articulate the up-market moves done to the cabin clearly.
• Various cabin furniture now have softer, better quality plastics. Leather covering the seats is reasonably supple. Instruments have updated, more tasteful graphics, and functions of the multimedia unit are easier to decipher. The all-black palette is, obviously, dark. But it’s the kind of dark that appears sophisticated rather than drab.
• Additional insulation shushes the cabin, keeping out most of the din of traffic, engine clatter, and vibrations caused by bad surfaces. Like refreshed looks and the use of better materials, this quality promotes a premium feel.
• Isuzu’s 3.0-liter Blue Power engine — a clean-diesel, Euro4-compliant unit — finally lands under the Mu-X’s hood. It packs 14hp more than the 3.0-liter mill used previously, and so spins even more relaxed than before. It’s the new six-speed automatic gearbox that makes a noticeable difference though; it spreads the grunt better, improving acceleration response, but also keeps to the unhurried nature for which Isuzus are known.
• Isuzu’s attempts at softening the Mu-X’s ride, though largely successful, also means the vehicle can feel cumbersome to drive — it’s slow to change directions and can tilt heavily on one side when cornering at a faster-than-usual clip. Slow steering (you need to spin the wheel more) does not help either, and its sluggishness is particularly noticeable during parking.
• Steering wheel column does not adjust forward or backward (tilting only up or down), so taller drivers, who need to sit farther back so their feet won’t end up too upright on the pedals, will have to stretch their arms to reach the steering wheel. Not a comfortable — or ideal — position.
• Folding down the middle-row seats, either to expand cargo room or to gain access into the rearmost seats, requires some effort. Either the springs that let the seats tumble are too stiff, so it’s hard to pull the seats back up, or they’re too supple to support the weight of the seats.
New equipment and styling, at a price that’s roughly the same as its truck-based rivals have, make the Mu-X a more serious competitor in the segment. Isuzu’s solid reputation for having miserly and bulletproof diesel engines, as well as tough underpinnings, may swing the vote for some buyers. — Brian M. Afuang
Isuzu Mu-X 3.0 LS-A Blue Power
Price: P1.648 million
Engine: 3.0-liter, inline-four, Euro4-compliant clean diesel with VGS turbocharger, intercooler and common rail direct injection; 174hp @ 3,5500-3,650rpm, 380Nm @ 1,800-2,800rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
Wheels/Tires: 18 inches, 255/60
Key features: Bi-LED head lamps with daytime running lights; multi-information display; multimedia with eight-inch touch screen and USB, aux-in, iPod and Bluetooth connectivity; leather steering wheel and seats; reversing camera; automatic climate control; smart entry with push-button start/stop; speed-sensing locks