Rejoining the large off-road SUV competition is the 2023 Isuzu MU-X. But has it played it too safe against newer, harder-hitting rivals?
- Drive-away pricing specials
- Impressive cabin quality for the price
- Dependable off-road ability
- Powertrain lacks refinement
- Minimal new things to get excited over
- No sliding function for the second row
After 18 months on sale in Australia, it’s high time for the 2023 Isuzu MU-X large off-road SUV to receive a freshen-up alongside its ute sibling, the Isuzu D-Max. But for the 2023 model year, Isuzu isn’t trying to rock the boat by introducing a makeover.
Let’s run through the changes Isuzu has made and weigh up whether (a) it’s worth considering over a 2022 model, and (b) if the tweaks are enough to take on newcomer rivals such as the new Ford Everest.
How much does the Isuzu MU-X cost in Australia?
Isuzu has brought new cosmetic touches such as darkened grille trim pieces to the front fascia and dark surrounds to the tail-lights.
There are also running updates under the skin, including a tweak that sees the blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems automatically switch off if the vehicle is towing a trailer using a genuine Isuzu wiring harness.
It’s still a three-strong range that kicks off from $48,900 before on-road costs for the entry-level 4×2 LS-M variant, and extends to $67,400 for the LS-T 4×4. At the moment Isuzu is running a drive-away deal on the top-spec MU-X LS-T 4×4 which costs $65,990 drive-away. All three can be had in either 4×2 or 4×4 configuration.
Other changes to the range for 2023 include new 17-inch alloy wheels for the entry-level LS-M – with Dunlop all-terrain tyres.
The upper-spec LS-U and LS-T score a tyre pressure monitoring system, hands-free electric boot release, and Magnetite-coloured trim pieces for the dash and door cards.
Common across the range is the familiar 3.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine that outputs 140kW/450Nm through a six-speed automatic transmission. It retains its impressive 3.5-tonne tow rating.
Getting more specific, at launch we spent the most time in the range-topping spec, the Isuzu MU-X LS-T. Equipment adds for the 2023 model-year MU-X LS-T include new-design 20-inch two-tone alloy wheels with Bridgestone highway-terrain tyres, while portions of the front bar include Magnetite (dark grey) accents.
How much space does the Isuzu MU-X have inside?
The LS-T model grade continues to specify leatherette upholstery inside the cabin and owners can also expect heated seating. The seats adjust electrically for front row occupants and the entire space is illuminated by LED interior lighting.
In terms of actually using the space, the MU-X’s cabin is hugely spacious and very comfortable – ripe for the impromptu road trip if need be. Stitched portions of the trim coverings adorn the dash and door cards, which make the cabin feel nicer than its ute-based counterpart.
The tops of the door cards still contain a sharp plastic join-line that belies this SUV’s otherwise impressive array of materials.
Ergonomics-wise, it’s a functional space, and you’re never caught stretching over to operate various bits and pieces such as the infotainment or switchgear.
Thankfully, Isuzu’s left the control of the air-conditioning to physical dials and switches, whereas other manufacturers are progressively moving towards infotainment-based operation.
There’s an adequate amount of storage options in the front row between the large cupholders, centre console bin, a tray in front of the gear selector, a dual-open glovebox, and a set of bottle holders in the doors. However, it is a shame they’re so thin for such a large vehicle.
In the second row there’s a commodious amount of space, no matter how big or small your occupants may be. The seats recline for ultimate laid-back comfort, while the air vents are located within the roof. Unfortunately, the second row doesn’t slide forward and back to help out third-row passengers.
Speaking of which, those two third-row passengers have a decent amount of space for a large SUV. Big knees and long legs are surprisingly well catered for, though headroom is tight for taller occupants.
The boot now opens hands-free in LS-U specifications and above. Boot space stays the same between model years, meaning it’ll carry 311L with the third row up, 1119L with the third row down, and 2138L with third and second rows folded.
|2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-T|
|Boot volume||311L to third row
1119L to second row
2138L to first row
Does the Isuzu MU-X have Apple CarPlay?
There has been no update to Isuzu’s 9.0-inch infotainment system, which it could well have used. The system, while wholly capable, presents as an aftermarket solution and looks ordinary in comparison to its rivals.
It also doesn’t have handy app-based phone integration where you can check certain things about your car from your phone, à la Ford Everest and the FordPass Connect services.
Handily, it does have the ability to run wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, if you don’t like the car’s native satellite navigation or digital radio connectivity.
There’s a small screen within the instrument cluster that shows pertinent information about the car’s driving metrics, such as fuel economy, what status the part-time 4×4 system is in, and a digital speed readout.
Is the Isuzu MU-X a safe car?
The Isuzu MU-X carries a five-star safety rating recently refreshed in September 2022. This test is based on crash test data from the structurally similar D-Max.
The MU-X range carries an 86 per cent rating for adult occupant protection, 85 per cent child occupant protection rating, 69 per cent vulnerable road user (pedestrian) protection, and an 84 per cent safety assist systems rating.
What safety technology does the Isuzu MU-X have?
New equipment for the 2023 MU-X is tyre pressure monitoring which is viewed inside the digital instrument display.
The MU-X also features a full suite of advanced safety tech and speed sign recognition cameras. It continues to stock important active safety features like autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, and lane-keep assistance.
New for 2023 is the ability for the car to automatically turn off the blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems when towing with a genuine Isuzu trailer harness.
Put into practice, the above active safety measures reliably worked with the driver rather than hindered by needlessly alerting to ghost cars or dangers.
How much does the Isuzu MU-X cost to maintain?
Despite the new equipment fitted to the 2023 MU-X, Isuzu’s pricing has remained the same between model years. With the advent of the new Ford Everest, arguably its key rival, Isuzu’s MU-X still shapes up as good value.
For example, taking the comparable Isuzu MU-X LS-T ($67,400 plus on-road costs) and the Ford Everest Sport ($69,590 plus ORCs), both in 4×4 configuration with 3.0-litre engines, the Isuzu is the more affordable of the two. That’s even before you factor in Isuzu’s regular drive-away deals.
Isuzu offers a six-year/150,000km warranty on its vehicles. Service intervals take place at every 15,000km interval or every 12 months, whichever occurs sooner.
Isuzu also provides seven years of roadside assistance and seven years of capped-price servicing. Common across all variants is service pricing: three years of maintenance costs $1545 and five years costs $2435.
The Isuzu MU-X LS-T will cost $1726.83 to insure per year based on a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.
|At a glance||2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-T|
|Service intervals||12 months or 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||$1545 (3 years)
$2435 (5 years)
|Gross combination mass||5900kg|
|Approach/rampover/departure angles||29.2° / 23.1° / 26.4°|
Is the Isuzu MU-X fuel-efficient?
With various drivers behind the wheel and along a series of highway roads, the Isuzu MU-X recorded an 8.7L/100km rating against its 8.3L/100km extra-urban claim. We’ve seen similar recordings out of the MU-X in the past.
|Fuel Useage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||8.3L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||8.7L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||80L|
What is the Isuzu MU-X like to drive?
With its carryover 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine producing an identical 140kW/450Nm to its predecessor and all the same mechanicals underfoot, there’s nothing revolutionary about the MU-X’s drive experience.
But that’s no bad thing. The MU-X is a great SUV to drive whether you’re travelling through suburbia or more open bushland. The powertrain feels strong on overtakes and rumbles away without too many vibrations sent through to the cabin.
However, it’s not the last word in refinement overall. Driveline noises do permeate the cabin under throttle, which would be fair for a dual-cab ute, but should be toned down in an SUV wagon. The six-speed auto transmission works well in unison with the engine and serves up appropriate power when requested. There is no awkward shunting on kick-down pedal inputs, which I have experienced with the Ford Everest’s 10-speed.
The ride is generally very good over speed humps and potholes, eating up impacts with impressive effect. Over sustained corrugations, the body can tend to jitter more than you’d expect from an SUV.
In lieu of hardcore off-roading, we spent some time on the sandy beaches of Noosa’s North Shore on launch and nothing could faze the four-wheel-drive system. A Rough Terrain Mode is available on the console if the going gets really tricky, though you’d have to be doing some hardcore trekking to utilise that specific mode.
|Key details||2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-T|
|Engine||3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel|
|Power||140kW @ 3600rpm|
|Torque||450Nm @ 1600–2600rpm|
|Drive type||Part-time four-wheel drive,
low-range transfer case, locking rear differential
|Transmission||Six-speed torque converter automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||64kW/t|
|Spare tyre type||Full-size|
|Tow rating||3500kg braked
Should I buy an Isuzu MU-X?
Although Isuzu has only issued minor tweaks in place of an all-out redesign, all the cumulative bits and pieces add up to an incrementally better car. But it’s not by a lot.
Whether the small add-ons are enough to consider an MU-X over an all-new model such as the Ford Everest, buyers will have a tough decision to make. It certainly undercuts on a value basis, especially at its impressive semi-permanent $65,990 drive-away (MU-X LS-T) price point. But it can’t match an equivalent Ford Everest on tech, drivetrain and cabin quality.
The game has simply moved on a step with newer rivals. Considering it’s the same price as its predecessor, it’s well worth looking into a 2023 MU-X over a 2022 model. However, if you can get a good deal on a used model, don’t feel like you’re missing out on too much.
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