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Isuzu makes a strong comeback to SUV market: We drive the new mu-X in Joburg

2018-05-11 08:55

Image: Isuzu Motors SA

Janine Van der Post

Despite the automaker being no stranger to South Africa, and being around for decades, it was only four months ago that Isuzu Motors SA was re-established as a wholly owned subsidiary of Isuzu Motors Limited of Japan.

And, just three months after its return, the automaker has launched its "first new product", the mu-X SUV. Of course, this vehicle builds on the heritage of the 1992 Trooper and 1998 Frontier models sold locally.

New SUV from Isuzu: Here's how much the mu-X costs in SA

The mu-X has a lot to live up to in a rapidly growing SUV market and Wheels24 has been inundated with queries about the vehicle since the announcement was made that it would be arriving locally. 

There's always excitement when there's a "new" SUV bound for SA as is evident in monthly Naamsa sales figures. Isuzu SA says they have no predictions yet on how well the SUV will sell but are quick to point out it has more than enough stock at all dealerships.

Will the mu-X make its mark in a market dominated by other Japanese SUVs? As a seven-seater, it might just stand a chance.

GALLERY: 2018 Isuzu mu-X

It's available in two versions both with a 3.0-litre four-cylinder intercooled turbodiesel diesel engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission; 4X2 and 4X4 models with a sequential sport mode, priced at R568 000 and R629 100 respectively. The mu-X delivers 130kW and 380Nm and has a three-tonne towing capacity.

The automaker says the four-wheel drive version relies on Isuzu’s easy to use Terrain Command 4x4 system with electronically selected two and four-wheel drive high-range modes, or 4x4 low-range for more challenging off-road driving. It's equipped with a fully independent suspension all round, encompassing a five-link set-up at the rear.

Styling

The mu-X has standard LED daytime running lights and Bi-LED projector headlights with auto-levelling functionality, Aluminium side-steps, 18" alloys, privacy glass and LED rear combination lights. 

The seven-seat configuration means both rows of seats can be folded flat, making it convenient for families. The electronic climate control system caters for front and rear occupants – the latter having access to their own cooling vents for added comfort.

Featured goodies

A multi-function infotainment unit is a stand-out feature of the mu-X, boasting a nine-inch colour touchscreen display that provides access to the embedded satellite navigation, audio and communication system. There are both front and rear USB slots along with auxiliary iPod input and HDMI port.

Leather trim is standard, along with the multi-functional leather-trimmed steering wheel. 

Convenience goods include keyless entry and start system, along with touch sensor opening and push-button locking functions on door handles.

What's it like to drive?

On the long road, or even in traffic, it drives comfortably though you can tell by its engine, having been launched in other markets since 2013, it feels a tad bit outdated compared to the Isuzu KB. However, it is more modern than the Chevrolet Trailblazer's 2.8 unit. 

While the automatic gearbox swop cogs smoothly, driving up in the Highlands meant that turbolag was quite evident. With that said, I'm very keen to see how it will drive down at the coast. Even overtaking requires some foresight and proper reading of the road ahead.

However, the 4x4 model can handle off-road terrain - and seats seven people - with its sump guard and slide plates, it can tackle the most challenging 4X4 trail.

Sure it might not be as refined as the new Mitsubishi Sport, or Ford Everest, but it is more than capable to provide a pleasant drive and present itself as a good offering to loyal Isuzu customers and bring potential new buyers to the brand.
   

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