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When Isuzu launched its MU-7 SUV a while ago, the car had to take on the likes of the (now last-gen) Fortuner and Endeavour, and the Isuzu felt dated in comparison so it struggled to sell. This all-new model, the MU-X, shares its platform with the D-Max V-Cross and Chevrolet’s Trailblazer (it comes with its own unique engine and gearbox combination though).
On the outside
The New Isuzu’s front end, complete with the massive ‘fanged’ chrome grille, is similar to the V-Cross, and the glasshouse and rear look like they’re inspired by the Trailblazer.
At the front, there’s a more aggressive contrast-coloured bumper with LED daytime running lamps. There are really chunky wheel arches and while the rear end may be similar in shape to the Chevrolet, Isuzu’s wraparound tail-lamps give it a distinct look. The multi-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels are attractive and the tall, 65-profile tyres complement the SUV’s rugged appearance.
On the inside
Naturally, it’s a bit of a climb up into the cabin. Once inside, you’ll notice the dashboard is similar to the V-Cross, but embellished to feel more premium. There’s a nice texture to the plastics and there’s piano black frames for the vents and centre console, around the cool, circular AC control pod, and silver accents on the steering wheel. The soft leather cushioning on the armrests and door pads is a nice touch. Fit and finish is good and the design is very neat, but the interiors don’t feel as plush as a Fortuner or an Endeavour.
There’s a lot of equipment - leather upholstery and a powered driver’s seat, keyless entry and go, cruise control and a seven-inch touchscreen. What’s unique is the 10-inch screen that folds out of the roof so rear passengers can watch movies. However, while the touchscreen is functional and easy to use, there’s no smartphone integration.
When it comes to space, this SUV has loads, and then some. The front seats feel nice and comfortable - the driver's seat is set very high and allows you a superb view out and a commanding position from behind the wheel. There’s lots of legroom in the middle row and thigh support is pretty good too. The backrest on the middle row reclines in a 60:40 split. The third row is easy to access – you have to pull a single lever to fold and flip the middle row forward. Space here is pretty good too. The seat itself is high and is well cushioned too, so you’re not sitting as knees up as most other third rows. You could just about squeeze in a medium-sized suitcase with all three rows up in the boot.
Powering the Isuzu is a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel that makes 177hp and 380Nm. The gearbox is a five-speed automatic and you can switch from either 4x2 or 4x4 modes using the rotary selector knob.
From behind the wheel
The engine isn’t the most refined -there’s lots of vibration and noise when you go past 2,000rpm. The loud sound of the fan creeps into the cabin as well. Step on the gas and you'll get a massive bellow and not a lot of movement, and you just don't know if the gearbox is going to shift up, down or not at all; it's very inconsistent. But, if you press the throttle to about one-third, it will make smooth and beautiful progress.
The suspension is set up to be very soft – at slow speeds, you get this wonderful, pillow-like ride. But the moment you step the pace up, even past 60kph, this car’s not the easiest to control. Even the smallest of bumps filter through and the steering jolts around in your hands. Sharp bumps also catch it out.
The steering, which is seriously heavy at low speeds, retains some weight and feel when you get to faster speeds. This is not a car that’s meant to be driven fast.
Is it worth the money?
This MU-X was already on sale in markets like Thailand, and while it’s finally on sale here, it recently was facelifted abroad. What we have is the pre-facelift car. Still, it's a huge step up from the MU-7 and even the D-Max V-Cross in terms of luxury and creature comforts. The MU-X though, simply can't compare to the new Fortuner or the Endeavour when it comes to performance, refinement, comfort, luxury, equipment and ride quality. However, it costs ₹5-6 lakh less at a starting price of ₹23.99 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi. So, if you’re on somewhat of a budget and don't mind skipping a few freebies, the MU-X has all the essentials.
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