The MY17 Isuzu MU-X update has arrived in Australia - before any other export market, and fewer than three months after the rugged seven-seat SUV's last running change, which brought a new Euro 5 diesel engine.
The quickness of the local model launch reflects Australia's importance to Isuzu Ute. Despite a host of new rivals such as Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Holden Trailblazer, Ford Everest and Toyota Fortuner launching relatively recently, the humble MU-X outsold all of them last year.
The basic shape is exactly the same as the 2013 launch model, but there's a small tweak to the grille, and brand new Bi-LED headlights on all variants that work better at night. There are also new 16- or 18-inch alloys depending on spec.
The revised MU-X also benefits from some better cabin trims including soft-touch and dual-tone trims on the dash and doors, plus revised (less naff-aftermarket) infotainment screens measuring 7.0- or 8.0 inches depending on spec, all with reversing cameras. That crap old closing lid atop the dash has been updated as well.
Other new stuff includes an uprated eight-speaker system on all variants, as well as the very welcome addition of a USB charger in the middle seat row, bringing the total to three (matching the number of 12V inputs).
Isuzu also claims to have wiped a few decibels from the noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels - addressing a key weakness of the old car according to some buyers - by adding more insulation in the floor, firewall and windscreen.
There's also that recently introduced 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine that meets stricter Euro 5 regulations. Power is the same 130kW as the original version, but the 430Nm of torque is up 50Nm, and on tap between 2000 and 2200rpm. Isuzu is at pains to say that 380Nm of this is on tap between 1700 and 3500rpm, a wider rev band than before.
Braked towing capacity remains 3.0 tonnes, fuel use kicks off at a claimed class-leading 7.9L/100km on the combined-cycle, the gearboxes are an Isuzu six-speed manual or Aisin six-speed lock-up torque converter-style automatic, and there remain 4x2 or part-time 4x4 drive styles.
The revised engine gets new pistons, new injectors, a new fuel pump, new VGS turbo, new exhaust gas recirculation cooler and subsequent bypass valve, new ceramic glow plugs, new battery sensor and a particulate diffuser.
The 4x4 versions retain the same underbody and transfer-case protection, and all versions sport the familiar double-wishbone/five-link suspension setup front/rear. All derivatives get a revised rear diff but with the same ratio, and hill-descent control.
All MU-X are covered by the company's uprated after-sales program, with five-year/unlimited km warranty, roadside assist and five-year/50,000km capped-price servicing plan with new (but still underdone) intervals of 12 months or 10,000km. The cost of the first five visits totals $1500.
The (partially Australia-exclusive, ergo expensive to amortise) upgrades do come at a cost though, with price hikes of between $1000 and $1300 over the MY16.5, which itself attracted $1300 hikes of its own. The pricing now ranges between $42,800 and $56,100, higher than equivalent Pajero Sport and Trailblazer derivatives.
At least Isuzu Ute Australia generally offers permanent drive-away deals on its site, so you won't really pay this.
For instance, the real price for the foreseeable future will be $42,990 drive-away for the LS-M manual 4x4, and the top-end LS-T 4x4 auto will be $52,990 drive-away (off a MSRP of $56,100). Isuzu Ute's strategy seems baffling...
Isuzu Ute Australia is actually quite the success story, being the world’s largest export market for the light commercial and SUV range, comprising the D-Max ute and MU-X, out of more than 100 countries.
Isuzu Ute Australia’s 23,377 sales last year from its now 130-site dealer network — the eighth consecutive year in which it posted double-digit growth — allowed it to overtake Saudi Arabia.
Only the Thailand market, where Isuzu Motors International Operations produces all its vehicles, accounts for a greater proportion of the company’s volume.
2017 Isuzu MU-X pricing (before on-roads):
- 4x2 LS-M auto - $42,800 (up $1000)
- 4x2 LS-U auto - $45,100 (up $1300)
- 4x2 LS-T auto - $48,800 (up $1300)
- 4x4 LS-M manual - $48,000 (up $1000)
- 4x4 LS-M auto - $50,100 (up $1000)
- 4x4 LS-U manual - $50,300 (up $1300)
- 4x4 LS-U auto - $52,400 (up $1300)
- 4x4 LS-T auto - $56,100 (up $1300)
Standard features by variant:
- Seven seats
- Six airbags
- 7.0-inch touchscreen
- 3x USB/Bluetooth/3x 12V
- Reversing camera with guidelines
- Rear sensors
- LED daytime running lights
- Bi-LED projector headlights
- 16-inch alloy wheels with full-size spare
- All-terrain tyres
MU-X LS-U extras:
- $2300 premium
- 8.0-inch screen
- Fog lights
- 18-inch alloys
- Chrome-look plastic on the grille, mirrors and handles
- Side steps
- Climate control air-conditioning
- Cooling vents for all three rows (in the roof for back two)
- Rear privacy glass
- Sharkfin aerial
MU-X LS-T extras:
- $3700 premium
- Better-grade leather-accented seats
- Keyless entry and start
- Electric driver's set adjust
- Roof rails
- Rear spoiler
- Chrome exhaust tip
- 10-inch roof-mounted folding screen
Key tech specs:
- 3.0-litre Euro 5 diesel engine
- 130kW at 3600rpm and 430Nm at 2000rpm
- Six-speed manual or six-speed Aisin auto
- Fuel use (claimed) combined cycle 7.9-8.1L/100km
- Fuel tank 65L
- Braked towing maximum of 3000kg
- Payload between 593 and 678kg
- 4x2 or 4x4 (with low-range, and shift-on-the-fly 2H to 4H up to 100km/)
- 220 to 230mm ground clearance
- Body-on-frame chassis
- Hydraulic-assisted power steering, 3.84 turns lock-to-lock
- Double wishbone front/five-link rear suspension
- Cargo volume 235L/878L/1830L