2021 Isuzu MU-X has arrived in Australia

Isuzu has released a much-improved – and more expensive – version of its rugged MU-X off-roader.

The seven-seat large SUV now offers segment-leading 3500kg towing capacity, a locking rear differential for better off-road ability, a roomier cabin and advanced safety and technology.

Prices are up to reflect the upgrades, though. The recommended retail price has climbed by between $2700 and $9800, depending on the model grade.

The Ford Everest aside, a four-wheel-drive Isuzu MU-X is now pricier than all its rivals. The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport starts from $47,490 and the Toyota Fortuner $49,080. Only the Ford Everest is more expensive at $55,090 for its entry-level 4WD.

The MU-X range kicks off at $47,900 for a 2WD LS-M; $53,900 buys the same model as a 4WD, while the flagship LS-T 4WD is $65,900.

Isuzu typically does drive-away deals, but from launch the only MU-X on special is the range-topper at $63,990 on the road, $2000 below its RRP.

A mid-spec LS-U 4WD has an RRP of $59,900. Add likely on-road costs of about $5000 and it will cost more than the top-spec model.

While the initial pricing is hard to fathom, it’s harder to pick holes in the MU-X’s hardware and specification. The seven-seater is based on the impressive D-Max ute, and the new MU-X has been developed according to Australian customer feedback. As the Thailand-built vehicle’s biggest export market, what we say counts.

Braked towing capacity at 3500kg will delight Isuzu’s many towing customers. From its ute-based seven-seat SUV rivals, only the SsangYong Rexton is rated this highly. The Everest, Pajero Sport and Fortuner have a maximum of only 3100kg.

Aussie feedback has also seen the MU-X’s fuel tanks increased to 80L and its wading depth raised from 600mm to 800mm.

The only engine available is Isuzu’s truck-derived 3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel offering 140kW and 450Nm. Re-engineered to bring an extra 10kW and 20Nm over the old version, it promises better throttle response, efficiency and longevity.

Isuzu also promises a smoother and more refined six-speed auto gearbox. It’s the only choice on the new model, as manual versions have been given the chop.

Fuel economy is a claimed 7.8L/100km for the 2WD and 8.3L/100km for the 4WD.

Isuzu Ute Australia says it is “investigating alternatives” for more fuel-efficient models.

Since its introduction in late 2013, the MU-X has been Australia’s best-selling ute-based SUV. Buyers have been attracted to its reputation for reliability, towing skills and strong value. A longer equipment list now adds to the appeal.

Every MU-X scores eight airbags and Isuzu’s Intelligent Driver Assistance System, which includes auto emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitor, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign recognition and more.

All models also have wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, smart entry and start and LED headlights. Mid-spec LS-Us gain larger alloys, a better cabin finish, a 9-inch infotainment screen, dual zone aircon and a power tailgate.

The top-grade LS-T has 20-inch alloys, leather-accented seats, a heated and power driver’s seat, ambient lighting and remote engine start.

Isuzu trumps most rivals with a six-year/150,000km warranty. Service costs are average at $2215 for the first five visits.

The improved equipment, safety, cabin space and material quality will be a hit with families, especially those who don’t need four-wheel-drive, as the 2WD versions are $6000 cheaper.

Advanced safety will attract fleet buyers, while the 3500kg towing capacity and locking rear differential should draw some buyers away from Toyota’s evergreen Prado.

The launch pricing will be the main sticking point for potential buyers, although with record demand for off-road vehicles post-Covid, it may not prove an issue.

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