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Private Fleet Car Review: 2015 Isuzu D-Max LS-T 4×4

Isuzu. It’s a brand name perhaps more familiar to truck owners and drivers than car owners, however it’s a name that’s been part of the Australian automotive landscape for over four decades. Of late, Isuzu is known for the two tier range of D-Max and MU-X, a ute and SUV pairing. A Wheel Thing spent a week with the Isuzu MU-X.

Isuzu have aimed for a market, it seems, that go for functionality. That’s the initial feelings upon getting inside the vehicle. The seats are of a vinyl look, the plastics are hard but smooth in texture in the centre stack, there’s some contrasting silver highlights in the fluid looking, the centre console has an eyecatching circular cluster design with a bold, red, LED display for the temperature and there’s a DVD player (sans headphones in the review car) that didn’t appear to be able to not play the audio separately for the rear seat passengers. 2015 Isuzu MU-X dash2015 Isuzu MU-X roof dvd screenThe audio screen itself is surrounded by control tabs, which were legible and soft touch however the screen itself had a colour screen and font at odds with the modern look of the housing. It did, however, sound clear and punchy through the six speakers fitted to the LS-T, plus there’s Bluetooth and auxilary connectivity. There’s an copper-ish hue to the silver look plastic trim on the tiller, and a hard feel to the tabs as well, needing a little more cushioning.

The dash has an easy on the eye monochrome centre screen display, which was simple in design and presentation, offering basic information such as trip meter, outside temp and fuel, with a complementary charcoal-grey colour to the mechanical dials. Unfortunately, the storage locker in the upper console refused to play, not opening cleanly every time the release was pressed.

The centre console surrounding the circular aircon controls was a matt black plastic with a hint of satin to the finish, the gear selector has the same plastic trim as the steering wheel and the off road drive selector dial, housed in the matt/satin plastic between the driver and passenger seat, has the same copperish hue in the look, and a definitive click/clack feel to it. Although clean and simple in design, there’s a feeling it doesn’t match the competition as well as perhaps a $53K SUV should.2015 Isuzu MU-X centre console2015 Isuzu MU-X rear seatsSeat coverings in the rear were the same, with the seats themselves of a fold and tumble design. It’s a seven seater, to boot, with the rear folding flat, offering up 235L (seven seat mode) to a very usable 800L (five seater configuration). There’s plenty of family oriented storage, with 14 cupholders (!) and some extra nooks spread throughout the cabin.2015 Isuzu MU-X folded rear seats2015 Isuzu MU-X folded rear and centre seats2015 Isuzu MU-X folded rear and centre seats cargoUnder the bonnet, a non alloy one, is a somewhat noisy 3.0 litre diesel, with 130 kilowatts and 380 torques. To context that, the Holden Colorado, effectively the M-UX’s fraternal twin, packs a smaller engine with more power and 500 torques, 120 more than the Isuzu. Noisy it may be, but it pulls the near two tonne MU-X well enough, slurping 8.3L of diesel (combined figure, automatic transmission) from the 65 litre tank for every one hundred kilometres covered.2015 Isuzu MU-X engineThe auto is five ratios, not six, a curious decision in a landscape filled with six, seven and even eight speed autos, such as Mitsubishi’s new Pajero Sport. It’s smooth enough in its changes, if sometimes a bit jolty under light throttle and it’s reasonable to think an extra ratio would help in overall driveability and economy. Being four wheel drive capable, it’s a matter of twisting the drive selector, making sure that you’re at the appropriate speed to safely move between two and four wheel high range.

Low range requires, like all 4WD electronic transfer cases, the vehicle to be stopped and in Neutral to engage cleanly. The MU-X delivers good gravel road holding in 2WD, taken to a rocky road in the far west of the Blue Mountains. With the four wheel drive engaged, the LS-T tightens up in ride quality, with a more surefooted apprioach to the road and exhibiting only a small amount of plough on understeer in the tighter turns, easily controlled by a dab on the well balanced brakes.

Road wise, it’s typical 4WD SUV; floaty on top but speedbumps and potholes crash through the suspension. In slow corners there’s a clear sensation of body roll, with the car leaning into the suspension whilst the somewhat vague steering on centre has the MU-X understeer more on tarmac. On the freeway it absorbs the undulations effortlessly, with the ride settling quickly once the road flattens out, rather than endlessly pogoing. Dive and squate were there, but not to any extreme. The ride’s also helped by the all purpose 255/65/17 rubber.2015 Isuzu MU-X wheelAcceleration is adequate, accompanied by the rising and falling chatter of the engine as the gearbox changes. There’s no paddles on the steering column and the manual shift made no difference to the alacrity of the changes, so the discerning driver will use the five speed auto as an auto, rather than getting involved. Brake feel was also a good thing, as mentioned, with a slight amount of travel in the pedal before the vented 300 mm front and 318 mm rear discs bit and with a good progression in the pedal there on. Handy, given the MU-X is rated to tow up to 3000 kilos.

There’s also some hidden smarts in the MU-X’s drivetrain, with an adaptive learning function on board. It reads the gearbox’s shift points depending on throttle input and brake behaviour, modifying the shifts to suit. Safety wise, there’s Hill Start Assist, ascent and descent controls, curtain airbags and a strong high tensile steel safety cell with side intrusion bars.2015 Isuzu D-Max frontThe exterior finishes off the MU-X, with a wedgey, almost blokey profile, solid rear window pillars ahead of the rear window, angular headlights bracketing a two bar grille, and broad spread tail lights are linked by a chrome bar. Although top of the range, the LS-T misses out on a power tail gate, increasingly common in this sector. Also, there’s a door handle visible at bottom centre but the actual door release is near the numberplate.

There’s flared guards,and in black poly-urethane, the lower section of the front bumper plus the test vehicle came fitted with a sports nudge bar. Overall, it’s a cleaner look than its Holden badged sibling, the Colorado 7. It rides on a 2845 mm wheelbase, covers 4825 mm in total length and stands an imposing 1830 mm in height.2015 Isuzu D-Max rearAt The End Of The Drive.
Isuzu Australia offers the MU-X with a five year, 130000 kilometre warranty. Mechanically, that shouldn’t be called into play but it’s a goodly amount of peace of mind. Although the cabin needs more soft touch plastics, there weren’t any squeaks or rattles; impressivegiven the MU-X LS-T had clocked up nearly 17000 kilometres and there’s a sense of being solidly built.

The car provided costs in the order of $53K and that’s a reasonable ask, given the range starts at just over $40K. It puts it in right in the game play with the Colorado 7, the Pajero Sport, Fortuner from Toyota and Ford’s Explorer range. There’s certainly good enough ride quality, an economic diesel, but a few details such as no powered tail gate would need to be considered.

For more info on the Isuzu MU-X, go here: 2016