The Isuzu MU-X now has the toys to run with the big boys

It’s ready to shake up the segment yet again
by Leandre Grecia | Sep 22, 2021

“The MU-X has never seen this level of sophistication and this amount of tech before”

Isuzu Philippines (IPC) shook up the midsize-SUV segment in 2014 when it finally brought in the MU-X. While it was a long-overdue introduction, the long wait made Isuzu fans and loyalists all the more eager to get their hands on it.

Demand for the MU-X was massive from the get-go—for a time, you had to wait three months to get the brand-new unit you ordered. It was a sure hit for Isuzu, and despite being late to the party, the MU-X immediately established itself as a legit competitor in the market.

But of late, the model has started to lag behind the competition. Sure, it’ll still be easy to spot a MU-X on the road these days, but thanks to recent updates to the Ford Everest, the Mitsubishi Montero Sport, the Toyota Fortuner, and even the Nissan Terra—the youngest among the bunch—Isuzu’s midsize SUV was feeling dated in comparison.

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But now, all that changes. As the nameplate marks its seventh year in our market, we finally get to see the arrival of the next-generation model. I was able to take it out for a quick spin before the grand reveal, and as early as now, I can tell you this: The entire segment had better watch out.

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PHOTO: Echo Antonio

To be honest, I was a bit skeptical about the new MU-X at first. It’s gotten a major overhaul, but I didn’t find the design to be all that impressive. But after seeing it up close, I can attest that press images don’t do it justice.

It’s a lot more stylish than photos suggest. Isuzu has done an excellent job reworking both the front and rear ends, removing the black plastic claddings to give it a classier and less rugged appearance. I particularly like the front fascia, with the macho chrome grille complemented nicely by sporty-looking headlamps.

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I’m also fond of the tailgate—it’s truly a huge step up in design compared with the first-gen MU-X. Below that, though, Isuzu could’ve done a better job tucking in the spare tire underneath to give the vehicle a much cleaner look.

Gripes aside, one more thing I’m raving about are those wheels—they look very good. I saw them as electric fan propellers at first, but it was a different story in the metal. Isuzu has made the right call to do away with the blacked-out wheels on the D-Max here.

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PHOTO: Echo Antonio

What Isuzu has carried over from its pickup are several elements in the cabin. If you’re familiar with how that one looks on the inside, you’ll notice that the interior of the MU-X basically screams D-Max.

The large infotainment system, the A/C vents and controls, and the steering wheel are all familiar. There’s also an identical shift lever here, but the MU-X’s center console gets a slightly different layout with additional buttons and leather trim. The similarity isn’t a bad thing, because the new interior feels a lot more premium than the old one.

There’s now a good mix of gloss-black plastic, gray trim, chrome bits, and contrast stitching to go around. There’s an abundance of leather on the dash and the seats—at least in the top-spec LS-E variants—and the dark finish gives the cabin a more upmarket vibe.

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Creature comforts come aplenty in the new MU-X, too, and that’s arguably one of the biggest selling points of this next-generation model. The infotainment system I mentioned earlier? That 10.1-inch screen comes standard, and so do Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Active safety features like ABS with EBD, traction control, electronic stability control, and hill-start and -descent assist are also available across the range. Opt for the top-of-the-line variant and you’ll get advanced driver-assist system tech like forward-collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert as well as a power liftgate added to the package.

The MU-X does lack paddle shifters, a panoramic sunroof, and a 360-degree-view monitor in its arsenal, but the new additions still bring the vehicle back on a par with competitors in the tech department.

PHOTO: Leandre Grecia

It’s no longer behind in terms of performance as well, as it now gets the new 3.0-liter 4JJ3-TCX four-cylinder turbodiesel engine powering its D-Max stablemate. Maximum output is up from 175hp and 380Nm to 187hp and 450Nm, so it’s right up there with the newer powertrains in the segment.

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The very economical 1.9-liter RZ4E turbodiesel that generates 148hp and 350Nm of torque remains available in the lineup, which we reckon will be to the delight of many of you. It can be had with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic; the 3.0-liter, meanwhile, is standard with an automatic transmission, and only the range-topper is available with a 4x4 drivetrain.

If existing figures are anything to go by, we can expect the MU-X to be similar to the D-Max in terms of fuel efficiency, whether it’s the old RZ4E or the new 4JJ3 engine we’re talking about. However, I can’t exactly say much about performance yet, since I was only able to drive the SUV around a closed-off compound.

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All I can tell you is that the new Isuzu MU-X feels like a very comfortable vehicle to drive. In addition to all the advanced tech, the steering is light and the suspension setup absorbs most road bumps with ease. Sound insulation in the cabin has been improved as well, so you won’t be hearing much of the diesel engine, unlike in the previous-gen model. Best in its class? Perhaps a proper Big Test in the future can settle that. But I’m pretty sure most people won’t have major complaints about this one.

In all honesty, if there’s something that I believe some people might really complain about, it has to be the price tag. The MU-X has always been known to be one of the more affordable and practical choices in its segment, but that won’t be the case anymore for this new model, as prices now range from P1.59 million to P2.45 million. For context, the Toyota Fortuner LTD only stickers for P2.44 million even after the recent price bump.

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PHOTO: Echo Antonio

Will this sway potential buyers away from Isuzu’s newest offering? I highly doubt it. After all, this new model is a far cry from its predecessor. The MU-X has never seen this level of sophistication and this amount of tech before, so when you put things into perspective, that SRP is reasonable.

Besides, the sheer number of old MU-Xs that we still see out and about speak volumes about both the brand’s reliability and also the loyalty of its fans. And I strongly believe that some of these loyalists who’ve been itching for an upgrade for years will now finally pull the trigger on the new MU-X, especially when they see what it brings to the table.

The all-new MU-X may be late to the party—again—but its arrival couldn’t have come at a better time. The recent arrival of refreshed midsize SUVs was the nail in the coffin for the first generation, and Isuzu couldn’t have picked a better schedule for the launch. There might not be a red carpet laid down to signal its arrival, nor would there be buyers flocking in just like the first time around, but nevertheless, this one’s looking to prove once again that it’s ready to shake up the segment and that it’s well worth the wait.

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Check out our rundown on the all-new Isuzu MU-X here.

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