|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
A lot of criticism has been leveled against Isuzu for not trying hard enough with its recent crop of products. A lot of this stems from the brand’s overreliance on in-car entertainment functions rather than mechanical upgrades. And in the case of the Crosswind, this may be true. However, with the mu-X (or the D-Max even), this is the most they can realistically do. Mechanically, Isuzu’s mid-sized offering doesn’t push the mechanical envelope and playing Top Trumps with that’s written on the spec sheets won’t do it justice. Instead, you’ve got to give it a try, free from bias and all. And you know what, as long as you’ve got that kind of mindset, it gets the job done.
Built as a joint-venture with Chevrolet, the mu-X shares a lot in common with the Trailblazer in terms of sheet metal and it shows in cues like how the rear door meets with the D-pillar. Of course, that’s not to say that they’re carbon copies of each other. In fact, subjectively, the mu-X feels much more cohesively designed. The front clip, with its angular headlamps, chromed six-hole grille, and grayed out lower bumper gives it an aggressive and sporty appearance. The doors themselves, featuring a hard-creased character line, look much better than the slab-sided Chevy. The rear though is the mu-X’s biggest strength. It echoes the same angular treatment with just the right amount of chrome to keep it interesting.
Like the exterior, the mu-X’s interior is once again largely shared with its American relative. In fact, looking at them back-to-back reveals that, save for the overall color scheme and detail changes like the audio system and gauges, they’re practically the same—down to the trapezoidal-shaped center vents, dual glove box, center storage bin, and the large circular climate control system. It’s only when you go down to the details that you begin to appreciate the mu-X. First, despite being twins and all, the mu-X actually feels better made. This is perhaps all an illusion brought about by the all-black interior, but even if it is, it works. The plastics are of the hard variety for sure, but at least, there’s consistent graining and free from any rattling. Second, the gauges on the mu-X look and read great. Not only do they have LED backlight, but at night, a spotlight shines on them creating the illusion that the digits are carved in metal. And, all the controls light up at night with a serious shade of red.
The space and flexibility of the mu-X is better than most of the current crop of mid-sized SUV. In girth alone, it promotes good levels of shoulder and hip room for all rows. This is especially true for the second row where it can fit three adults comfortably. It doesn’t seem to slide fore and aft, but at least it tumbles upward offering easy ingress and egress into the third row. Here, the space isn’t as big, but it’s still good for two adults. You seat with your knees up back there and almost brushing the second row backrests, but at least they’ve got their own adjustable headrests. In terms of cargo flexibility, the mu-X offers close to a flat loading bay that spans from the back all the way to the second row.
In terms of toys, Isuzu has thankfully shown restraint with the mu-X offering just the right balance of needs and wants. In keeping with its tradition of providing a robust in-car entertainment system, it has an AVT touchscreen audio system with all the usual AM/FM, USB, and GPS functions. On top of that, it also has an overhead-mounted DVD system with a 10-inch monitor. For the designated driver, it comes with a powered seat and the segment’s first passive entry system with push button start/stop. Unfortunately, on this particular unit, the keyless entry already lost the receiver in the hatch thus displaying a ‘Check System’ and annoying loud beeps each time the driver’s door is opened.
Perhaps the biggest concern with the mu-X is its on-road performance. Considering it has some 2,025 kilograms to push, the 2.5-liter 4JK1-TC 4-cylinder CRDi looks taxed on paper alone. The mu-X produces just 67 HP/ton which pales in comparison to any of the competition: Chevrolet Trailblazer (96 HP/ton), Mitsubishi Montero Sport (92 HP/ton), Ford Everest (87 HP/ton), and Toyota Fortuner (84 HP/ton). Therefore, don’t expect it to be blistering quick; in fact, don’t expect it to be quick at all. While it will never smoke the drag strip, it does have a fat and usable torque curve. In fact, this is one of the mu-X’s saving graces. Because of this, locomotive progression is still achievable even when it’s fully loaded. A climb up Tagaytay with seven aboard proves effortless. Because of its smaller displacement, at least it’s quiet with the diesel clatter barely reaching the cabin. And surprisingly, despite the portly weight and weak engine, the mu-X produces shockingly good fuel economy figures: 9.25 km/L in the city and 15.62 km/L on the highway enough for a combined figure of 11.76 km/L.
For as long as you find yourself adjusting to the mu-X’s more relaxed and leisurely engine, the rest of the mechanical package impresses with its relative smoothness. Despite the large size, it’s easy enough to pilot through traffic. The steering is hefty and takes more turns than necessary, but still belittles its large size. However, because of the tall ride height, there are visibility issues with the dead-side and rear portion. Thankfully, rear parking sensors with a backing camera (no guidelines) comes standard. At high speeds, it’s still pretty secure and stable, but of course, you do feel it tip through tighter turns. Plus, despite being fitted with four-wheel disc brakes, it feels largely underbraked with a spongy pedal feel.
Going back to the question thrown in the beginning, does the Isuzu mu-X have what it takes to survive the mid-sized SUV wars? That truly depends on what you expect it to do. If you expect to top an aspect or two, you’ll be largely disappointed. Instead, what Isuzu has done here is to create an SUV that gets the job done, plain and simple. Yes, there are some frills built into the package, but since it tops out at below P 1.8-million, it doesn’t break the bank as well. The Isuzu mu-X is the silent performer of the mid-sized SUV; it’ll do what you ask it to, nothing more and nothing less.
2015 Isuzu mu-X LS-A 4x4
|Ownership||2015 Isuzu mu-X LS-A 4x4 A/T|
|Vehicle Classification||Mid-sized SUV|
|Body Type||5-door SUV|
|Engine / Drive||F/4WD, Low|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Common Rail, Turbo|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||136 @ 3,400|
|Nm @ rpm||320 @ 1,800-2,800|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Diesel|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||2,025|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, Double Wishbone|
|Rear Suspension||Five-Link Coil Spring|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Bridgestone Dueler H/T 255/65 R 17 H (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||Yes, Rear|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Seating Adjustment||Electric (driver)|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40, tumble (2nd row); 50/50 (3rd row)|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|Climate Control||Yes, w/ Rear Aircon|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|