By Richard van Ryneveld
After spending two weeks driving the new Isuzu mu-X (which stands for multi utility crossover), I can safely say that it is a very capable tow vehicle. During my entire trip, I actually travelled with three different caravans, and all of them were towed effortlessly.
This new SUV from Isuzu comes in 4×2 and 4×4 versions, the latter being the one I put through its paces. Both derivatives of the mu-X have 6-speed automatic gearboxes and the 4×4 version has a terrain command dial that allows the driver to shift easily from 2H to 4H, and finally into 4L. On a particularly precarious descent and ascent section I needed to negotiate, the vehicle made easy headway up and down the steep rocky trail with caravan in tow.
Turning radiuses and margins were very tight, but a quick reconnaissance on foot gave me enough confidence to ensure that I would not have to radio a tow truck … but it was touch and go!
The vehicle performed well when the low range 4‑wheel drive was engaged, and though the ground underfoot was bedrock, affording the vehicle considerable grip, I felt it would have performed well in sandy conditions too.
The mu-X is a seven-seater offering ample seating for the whole family, though the two fold-away rear seats in the boot are more suited to children, due to the limited space they offer. If these fold-away seats are not in use, they can be dropped flat to allow for increased packing space. The second row of seats is incredibly spacious for passengers, as are the driver and passenger seats. The driver’s seat is electrically operated, making finding your ideal seating position that much easier.
Interior specifications include navigation displayed on a large screen and the infotainment system offers excellent quality sound with cruise control and radio operation from the multi-function steering wheel. I used the navigation system during the entire trip to great effect. Interior styling is functional and the leather seating is very comfortable.
Under the bonnet is a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine producing 130 kW @ 3 600 rpm, and 380 Nm at 1 800 – 2 800 rpm.
With a ground clearance of 230 mm, a 24‑degree approach angle and 25.1‑degree departure angle, getting over the larger rocks, humps and bumps is easy.
The 18-inch rims and running boards present on the vehicles are indicative that the mu-X will be used predominantly as a soft-roader for easier off-road jaunts by most who purchase it, though it does have good off-road capabilities.
The mu-X is loaded with active and passive safety features which include ABS braking with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and emergency brake assist (EBA), electronic stability control (ESC), traction control system (TCS) and hill start assist (HSA).
Hill descent control (HDC) can be engaged when driving in low-range 4×4 mode.
The mu-X has 6 airbags and pre-tensioner seatbelts to protect passengers in the event of an accident and enjoys a 5-star NCAP crash test rating. The multi-function steering wheel controls with radio operation and cruise control are great for the long open road.
Isuzu has certainly shown its commitment to the South African market, buying up much of the local Chevrolet infrastructure, but the Isuzu mu-X is imported from Thailand. Being a global leader in the production of commercial diesel engines for the light, medium and heavy commercial vehicle markets (they have produced over 25-million engines to date), it is clear from their investment in our market that they are here for the long haul.
It remains to be seen whether the host of loyal Isuzu fans will relinquish control of their much-loved bakkies, double cabs and the few Troopers that still remain in use for Isuzu’s latest sport utility offering, but if the interest it received at the Sprinbok Boma is anything to go by, it should be well received.
SPECS (4x4 Model)
Tare: 2 085 kg
GVM: 2 750 kg
GCM: 5 750 kg
Towing capacity unbraked: 750 kg
Towing capacity braked: 3 000 kg
Ground clearance: 230 mm
Isuzu mu-X 3.0 4X2 A/T (6-speed): R 568 000
Isuzu mu-X 3.0 4X4 A/T (6-speed): R 629 100