If one were to guess based on this picture only, then you would be totally forgiven for thinking that this is the Chevrolet Trailblazer. It´s not. This is, in fact, the new Isuzu MU-X which has replaced the ageing MU-7. But it does resemble the big American car because both are based on the same platform. This iteration of the MU-X came to India at a time when Isuzu was introducing the facelifted version to the other markets. So technically, the new Indian MU-X is not really new for the global markets, but for us, it is. The Japanese maker has tried to make the MU-X more appealing, without compromising on the conventional SUV design. So will the new MU-X quench the Indian buyer’s thirst? Let’s find out!
The MU-X isn´t going to win any prizes for its looks. While the design saw a major leap from the MU-7, the MU-X still doesn’t have that imposing character which one looks for in an SUV. The front is similar to the V-Cross (the one that can carry a motorcycle and a lot of luggage), so there’s a lot of chrome.
The bumper gets a sharp design and also houses these snazzy LED DRLs which turn heads wherever the car goes. However, that’s not the case with the rest of the car. The side profile is simple and doesn’t beg attention. Sure, the beautifully designed 17-inch diamond cut alloy wheels do add a bit of appeal. The tail lamp, on the other hand, reminds us of the Maruti-Suzuki S-Cross and the plastic cladding protruding from the rear bumper adds a bit toughness to vehicle.
The inside of the MU-X feels quite simple. It doesn’t have that premium aura that is expected from a vehicle that costs more than Rs 20 lakhs. The dashboard design follows a very simple and old-fashioned approach. The quality of plastics is consistent, but due to lack of modern bits, it fails to look premium. The textured plastics around the instrument cluster feels nice to touch and it’s the same story with the center console. The clocks have a basic design and it´s not exciting. The touch screen infotainment system, too, is outdated and requires some effort to operate.
While the MU-X offers basic functions like radio and Bluetooth connectivity, it misses out on navigation system and better user interface and graphics. Isuzu has surely cut corners on some of these aspects, but has managed to fare well in others. The leather upholstery, for example, is of excellent quality. The door pads and armrest have leather touch, too. The driver seat, which gives an excellent view of the road, gets electric adjustments and offers good comfort.
For the second row passengers, there’s plenty of space to play around, thanks to the good knee and head room. But the seats lack the required thigh support due to the low seating position and the high floor. Other than the roof mounted air-conditioning, you also have the foldable LCD for entertainment. The third row is quite practical for the average Indian. It is recommended, however, that taller passengers use the third row only for short drives.
Other than offering good cabin space and comfort, the MU-X is quite practical too. With the third row down, there’s enough space to store a small bicycle along with a few bags. Drop the second row and you get a playground that will stock a lot of luggage. All this can be done using a single lever. The MU-X is equipped with features like automatic climate control, steering-mounted controls, push start-stop button, cruise control, three 12V power sockets and keyless entry. Other than ABS with EBD and dual airbags, the car is equipped with hill-hold assist too.
The MU-X is powered by a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel motor. Producing 175bhp of power and 380Nm of torque, this engine looks good on paper as compared to the Ford Endeavour 3.2 diesel. Mated to a 5-speed torque converter gearbox, this motor makes a good impression once started. It settles down to a fairly quiet idle and vibrations are in check too. But like with the Toyota Fortuner or the Ford Endeavour, this motor feels old-school as there is lot of inertia and the motor tends to rev without giving out much power initially. This makes it quite cumbersome to drive in the city as the throttle response is too mushy. Once past 2000rpm, there is nice surge from the engine and this is where it feels the best. So out on the highway the MU-X feels comfortable while cruising around 100kmph or has enough oomph when you need the power to overtake. But ask anything more of it and it disappoints.
The combination of the heavy body and slow gearbox makes the car feel lazy if you want to drive fast and the fact that the motor runs out of steam at around 3200rpm, gives you a very narrow power band to play with. On a positive note, though the motor gets quite vocal it doesn’t emit a sharp clattery sound (like the Fortuner) and the good sound insulation helps too. The MU-X posted some decent times against the clock as it took 12.15 seconds to reach 100kmph.
The MU-X is softly sprung, so it offers a very good ride, especially at low speeds. This plush ride is a treat all the way till 70kmph, but after that, even the smallest undulations and bumps could be felt. At the same time, you also begin to feel a lot of steering kickbacks and that isn’t a nice experience. The steering feels heavy at low speeds and things get worse when there’s a U-turn. The MU-X demands four lock-to-lock steering turns and that takes a lot of effort. Also, because of its ladder-frame structure and soft suspension setup, there is loads of body roll. That means, there’s no option but to go sober around the corners. The fact that this heavy mammoth tends to coast off-throttle, demands a lot of the brakes and requires even more caution. For adventure junkies, Isuzu has equipped this SUV with a four-wheel drive system which can be operated on the fly using a rotary knob located near the gear shifter. While we didn’t get a chance to test out this feature, the four-low mode can be used for heavy off-roading.
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||174@3600|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||380@1800|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||65|
|Tyre size||255 / 65 R17|
|Four-wheel drive system||Yes|
|Touchscreen infotainment system||Yes|
|Electric driver seat||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Variant||4x4 AT||4x4 AT||4x4 AT|
|Max. Power (bhp)||174@3400||197@3000||174@3600|
|Max. torque (Nm)||450@1600||470@1750||380@1800|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||80||80||65|
|Tyre size||265 / 60 R18||265 / 60 R18||255 / 65 R17|
The Isuzu MU-X comes across as a rugged SUV that has a good ride quality, lots of cabin space, is very practical and has an imposing exterior too. The MU-X competes with the Toyota Fortuner and the Ford Endeavour. But both these SUVs offer more performance, features and a better brand image too. To cover that, Isuzu has priced the MU-X almost Rs 5-6 lakh cheaper than its rivals which makes it look good on paper. But when you look closely, the MU-X doesn’t get all the bells and whistles that its rivals offer. So the MU-X makes sense for a buyer who has a limited budget or wants to buy something other than a Ford or Toyota badge. Although it fares well in some areas, it just doesn´t measure up in comparison to its competition.