Isuzu MU-X is no longer satisfied with playing the third violin: The Citizen

The history of the Isuzu MU-X in South Africa is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing in the history of the local automotive landscape and the Japanese automaker is unlikely to appreciate.

Third in line

Whether it’s for its price, production taking place in Thailand instead of South Africa like Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest, or for the fact that it and not the Chevrolet TrailBlazer should have been marketed locally from the start, the MU-X simply wasn’t the success many expected.

New Isuzu MU-X South Africa road test
Longer rear overhang but no longer so square.

Complicating matters further was the continued popularity of his brother D-Max who performed well into the twilight years of it has now replaced the sixth generation which remains on sale as the renamed D-Max Gen 6.

READ ALSO: The retouched Isuzu MU-X puts robustness first for seven

By contrast, MU-X sales never came close to threatening those of Everest and Fortuner, as four years of the original rarely resulted in moving more than 100 units on a monthly basis.

The price puzzle

It goes without saying then that Isuzu threw a lot on the second generation MU-X, which despite being still of Thai origin, is a world away from the original.

Even more bizarre is its price. Originally the most expensive of lei at launch of lei in South Africa last year, recent increases have led to the flagship MU-X Onyx is cheaper at R860.500 compared to R870.900 Fortuna VX and the outgoing R877.300 Everest Limited.

Although it is more expensive than the cheapest in the segment, the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport surpasses (R751.995), until the arrival of the everest, the MU-X serves as the newer segment model later showing itself globally two years ago.

Feel free to stare

Based on the same Drive Dynamics platform such as D-Maxthe departure of the MU-X from its predecessor became immediately evident after a week in the company of the Onyx.

Designed to resemble the D-Max, the MU-X feels sturdier and looser than its predecessor, thanks in part to a longer rear overhang and a 25mm increase in overall length.

Onyx runs standard on 20-inch alloy wheels.

Although the use of words like “muscular” and “butch” may be considered cliché, they certainly apply to the MU-X and the Onyx, whose standard inclusion of side steps and model-specific 20-inch alloy wheels works. beautifully shaping what is arguably the best look in the segment.

This continues at the rear, where the rear fascia replaces the boxy look of the previous MU-X and a satin silver skidplate added to the bumper base. Of the eight colors available, our tester’s Red Spinel was rated as the proverbial icing on the cake.

The interior amazes but also disappoints

As surprising as the outside is, the inside amazes. Featuring a new nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system, the design is clean and, at first glance, elegant without the nastiness that accompanied the plastic dashboard used by the old MU-X.

Interior a huge step forward.

Additionally, the TrailBlazer-style rotary climate dial has gone in favor of a conventional button configuration, which looks much more exclusive and well contrasted with the infotainment system, refined instrument cluster, and new steering wheel with its physical buttons.

Black inlays with piano keys set to attract a lot of fingerprints on the otherwise neat looking center console.

However, that’s not all good as Isuzu has stubbornly kept the same quality plastic on the doors, center console and dashboard as that of the previous MU-X. Affordable and far from luxurious, the overall build quality is sturdy, but a slight let down when viewed alongside the soft leather and overall workmanship.

Technical and missed meetings

The same goes for infotainment. While it’s a noticeable step up from the old aftermarket-looking setup, it’s not easy to understand from the start, and it’s not the most intuitive despite the shortcut buttons below. In fact, it has become a nuisance not to allow the selection of multimedia elements on the go.

The nine-inch touchscreen infotainment system looks sharp, but it’s still not the easiest to crack.

However, it comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as good eight-speaker audio. Equally pleasant are the heated and electric front seats, the myriad of storage compartments and the always comfortable cup holders under the air vents of the dual-zone climate control.

Lots of space

In the seven-seater form, the declared volume is 311 liters.

The good news doesn’t stop there because, aside from the fact that the second row is unlikely to attract criticism for the lack of head or leg room, but also for the rock hard cushions, the third row can almost be recommended for young adults.

The boot can swallow 1 119 liters with the third row down.

Aside from the fact that entry is as easy as sliding the second row 60/40 forward, head and leg room is relatively impressive for a seven-seater.

With the second and third row at the bottom, the trunk of the MU-X can accommodate 2 pieces of 138 liter luggage.

Although Isuzu Motors South Africa has not disclosed details regarding the MU-X boat, data from Australia confirms a capacity of 311 liters with all seven seats and 1,119 liters with the third row stored. With the second row down, the completely flat floor translates into a total capacity of 2,138 liters.

Fully equipped

Standard specifications are just as comprehensive and include, among others, electric tailgate, rear vents, push button start and keyless entry, LED headlights, ambient lighting, electric folding and heated mirrors, front and rear parking sensors , as well as a reversing camera.

The head and legroom in the third row, depending on the position of the backrest of the front seats, is impressive for a vehicle of this type.

In addition to Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist, Trailer Sway Control and Blind Spot Monitoring, the Onyx is also the only derivative to have Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning with autonomous emergency braking, Auto High Beam Assist, Lane Departure Notice, Driver Attention Notice and Lane Keeping Assist.

Energy source

Where things become less lucid is on the move. Up front, the MU-X continues to use the N Series truck-derived 3.0-liter turbodiesel engine, now updated with the 4JJ3-TCX internal moniker and DDI nomenclature despite the “TD” badge on the tailgate.

Boosted from 130kW / 380Nm to 140kW / 450Nm, the oil burner still emits a typical hoarse soundtrack of the Isuzu diesel that calms down, but not by much, when it’s at the national limit.

The front seats are electric and heated.

Charged with carrying 2,125kg, the engine does a friendly job with a strong initial thrust, before running out of steam and a horribly strained note at anything above 3,000rpm.

Part of the blame lies with the six-speed automatic transmission, which while relatively smooth, reacts similarly to the previous MU-X by becoming agitated and indecisive when downshifting.

Fortunately, this can be compensated for by using the shift levers for the first time fixed to the steering wheel or by clicking the shift lever, which requires a steady hand, to the left in manual mode.

Drive and pump

The highlight, however, is the race. Also an Isuzu trait, the new platform has greatly improved the MU-X’s ride from unstable to more like a unibody SUV as the suspension smooths out the bumps rather than crashing into them.

Lots of room for the head and rear legs, but the seat cushions are on the hard side.

As the only model in the range to be fitted with four-wheel drive as standard, the Onyx’s ability outside of the black material, as well as its 235mm ground clearance, missed the action this time around, which probably also explained its fuel consumption.

While its predecessor not only saw off-road action but also embarked on a road trip, the MU-X remained primarily tied to the city where the seven days and 701km led to an indicated record of 8.6l / 100km – 0.2l / 100km better than before and still impressive considering the increased length, specs and 40kg weight gain.


While Isuzu has carried out an incredible overhaul of the MU-X, the reasons it continues to lag behind its rivals remain an unfortunate event that is unlikely to change.

MU-X badge

Despite the pricing situation, plus the fact that it is now more suited to the “day-to-day role” than before, it is unlikely to overthrow its rivals at any time unless it is a plan of sorts – local production perhaps? – is designed to make the most of what is capable of being a segment leader.