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Isuzu MU-X review – A Sense of Freedom

Since driving around the Isuzu off-road course at Fieldays earlier this year, both myself and my family were keen to get some additional time with their MU-X SUV. I liked its capability, the wife liked its 7 seat versatility and my son liked the drop down 10.2” screen with DVD player – evidently it ticked all our boxes.

Having the keys to a spacious (and as it turned out) very proficient SUV meant that I could effectively plan whatever I liked for the week and with Isuzu’s help, rest assured the MU-X got a thorough grilling.

First up came the scrutiny of my better half, with the vehicle’s design and practicality coming into question. The newly refreshed MU-X has a sleeker appearance and a bright chrome grille. The headlights are Bi-LED projector and combined with the daytime running lamps, very dominant. Privacy glass surrounds the rear and its tall road stance, running boards and roof rails offered quite the appeal. Large door access and roll forward 2nd-row seats added practicality, while leather seats and integrated trim really upped the sense of premium. Reversing camera was a plus, as were the USB points, touchscreen SAT NAV and ease of phone connection but lack of heated seats, blind spot alerts and (adaptive) on top of the cruise control were commented on – although, interior space and overall ride comfort apparently more than compensated.

Next up was my 7-year-old son’s impressions. His requirements from a vehicle may be less but believe me, they are certainly just as important. The side steps were an instant hit as were the interior handles. They made his entry to the SUV more of an adventure. The DVD player already had him hooked but the amount of extra legroom on the 3rd row had him conflicted – he liked the space back there but preferred watching the screen from the middle of the truck.

Finally, I got the chance to put it through its paces. As luck would have it, we had organised to take our LeMons racing car out on Pukekohe track for a morning of new clutch testing and going fast in circles. This meant a chance to test out the MU-X’s 3-tonne towing expertise (of which it has a big following for). Unfortunately, the moment I arrived at the trailer rental place the heavens began to open up.  A quick weather forecast check confirmed that the rest of the day would have thunder/lightning and heavy downpours, damn – the track day was canceled and in turn so was the towing test.

Unperturbed, it gave me the freedom to get to my other event of the day early – an off-road test with Trackwise 4WD at Castaways Auckland. The experience had been pre-arranged with Isuzu and despite the slippery wet conditions and the MU-X boasting road tyres Trackwise owner Colin was in no mood to go easy on it (or me for that matter).

We immediately turned the Terrain Command dial putting the MU-X into low range 4WD, pushed the hill descent button and took to the highly undulated mud. The 3L diesel engine and 6 speed intelligent ‘grade-logic’ sequential shift auto box were as happy as that Larry person. The 18”Alloys and high ground clearance made light work of the deep ruts and Colin had me power sliding up hill and down dale, all while the  SUV’s underbody protection (front steel plate skid/splash shield and steel plate guards) kept both man and beast safe.

After an hour or so of treating the 7 seat SUV rather harshly (and caking it thickly in mud), we switched up to 4WD high and took to the Kariotahi beach for a less than romantic stroll. Moving from the harder sand near the tide to the softer dunes towards the cliffs, the beast of an Isuzu engine barely broke a sweat – certainly not as stressed as I was!

With playtime over, we headed back to terra-firma and I have to say I was impressed. Road tyre limitations aside, the MU-X proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that you can drop the kid(s) off at school in the morning and go play in the wild for the rest of the day.

The week behind the wheel of the MU-X confirmed my family’s initial impressions way back at Fieldays. It really is an all-terrain all-rounder.  It’s a seven seater for the family with the adventurous spirit. Yes it does its daily chores without a grumble but it’s an SUV that I feel; looks forward to the weekend and holidays, and all the fun time freedom that goes with it.

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