Tested: 2022 Isuzu mu-X  

There aren’t many cars that I feel genuinely sorry for, but the small list just got a brand-new member: this 2022 Isuzu mu-X.

I’ll start at the beginning – sort of – when GM was still in town and they suddenly presented a new rival to the extremely popular Toyota Fortuner, Ford Everest and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. These bakkie-based three-row SUV were (mostly) 4-wheel-driven simpletons whose value ratio was directly inverse to their finesse.

Was that a bad thing? Of course not, they sold like hotcakes, and most of those still enjoy firm pre-owned prices so GM slash Isuzu launched the then-new mu-X! Yeah right, said anyone with half a brain because plainly they just stuck some new panels onto a Chevy Trailblazer. Again, not a bad idea, because the price was right.

If I have my time-line correct, we in southern Africa only got the face-lifted first-generation mu-X and we were also spared any lesser engines than the tried and crusty 3L in-line 4-cylinder turbo-diesel motor. With 130kW or 380Nm on offer, it followed Isuzu tradition by not bothering with races but rather going for longevity.

We tested various iterations of this bulky beast over the years, including a long-term and medium-distance test during the 2019 Festive Season: click here. Back then we were impressed by its easy-going and roomy character, irritated by its stubborn media centre, but glad to see that its large 18-inch alloys with road-biased rubber was a good combination.

So where do we go from here?

Isuzu and all its competitors in this segment have a tough choice to make. Should they keep their product simple but lose buyers to the dynamic SUV crowd? Or do they update everything they can within the limits of what these older platforms can do? Thanks to their new D-Max pick-up range, Isuzu went for the latter option.

Actually, it’s not that simple. The fresh D-Max shares a lot with Mazda’s new BT-50; a fact that’s easily proven by both bakkies suddenly being offered with a smaller 1.9L power plant. We have yet to test one, but apparently the new D-Max has abandoned some of its rustic charms, so the mu-X simply had to follow suit.

Which finally brings us to the striking blue vehicle on this page. I won’t award it all-time beauty prizes, but in my humble opinion, the mu-X has lifted itself back into Pajero Sport or New Everest territory; design-wise. It’s striking. Oh, and for whatever reason, it’s only available with the uprated 3L power plant (140kW/450Nm).

The interior has also received a good dose of new shapes, although I’ll admit that it still feels hard and hardy when compared to the avalanching SUV segment. Isuzu slapped some even more impressive (20-inch) wheels onto this car which meant that its on-road behaviour also feels more settled than the new underpinnings already provide.

How this vehicle will fare on badly corrugated Namibian roads is a test for another day, I guess.

One issue that every tester found is the new armada of driver aids which have suddenly found their way into large kiddy-haulers like these. This is most certainly a great idea, but we found the cruise-, lane- and collision-mitigation systems to be a bit hard-core.

At this point I could also take a large stick to Isuzu’s new pricing strategy but then I’d have to swing out to hit everyone except those spit-and-cleanex efforts from India. What didn’t help was that I test-drove the most expensive “Onyx 4×4” model. Three cheaper derivatives (two with only RWD) follow below this one on the pricelist.

Now add an 80L fuel tank, 7.6L/100km claimed average diesel use, seven airbags, LED headlights, new media system, large warranty and service plan, excellent ground clearance, all sorts of vehicle stability controls and plenty of room into the mix and this splinter-new Muxy Wupsy se woepsie worsie is baie lief vir jou!

To reiterate: I feel sorry for the new Isuzu mu-X because it had a difficult (local) birth and was struggling to find its feet against the established players. This new version certainly puts it on par but those fancy wheels and new-fangled driver aids push it dangerously close to the edge of what a 7-seater pick-up-based SUV should stand for.

If I were in the market, and Mitsubishi still doesn’t have any new stock, I’d choose the base LS model with 17-inch wheels and far fewer thingamajigs to annoy its driver. The LS 4×4 is almost 100,000 cheaper than this techno-laden range topper, while going for 2WD will save you another whopping 75k.

Well done on your model positioning, Isuzu!

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