We explore what the future may hold for the Isuzu-Mazda collaboration.
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With the 'Isuzda' alliance up and running, now that both the 2021 Isuzu D-Max and 2021 Mazda BT-50 ranges have hit Australian showrooms, what else can we expect from the Isuzu-Mazda partnership?

Well, we don't know for sure. The recent discovery of a series of MU-X patent images paints a clear picture of what Isuzu has in store for its seven-seat SUV range.

While the current MU-X is perhaps a little more skewed towards a robust and rugged aesthetic, the new-generation wears much sleeker styling. Seeking to bridge the gap between Isuzu's famed off-road heritage, and a buyer pool seeking a broader mix of urban civility and off-road escapism.

Of course, there was never any doubt Isuzu would follow up a new D-Max with a new MU-X, which itself follows on from the MU-7 sold overseas, and a long list of three-row 4x4s in overseas markets, as well as the Holden Jackaroo (a rebadged Isuzu Trooper) since the early 1980s.

With the building blocks laid out in patent form, CarAdvice illustrator Theophilus Chin has filled in some of the details to show what to expect from the new MU-X once it's officially revealed.

Rather than being a wagon back tacked onto the front of a D-Max, Isuzu will once again give the family SUV some unique traits to differentiate it. Sheet metal up front likely won't change, but the plastic parts will, meaning the MU-X sport its own set of headlights, a different front bumper, and a rework of Isuzu's two-bar grille, with a more angular and expressive face than that of the D-Max.

While the look is all-new, the biggest departure is seen in the glasshouse profile, with the solid body-coloured C-pillar replaced by continuous glazing. In the process, the previous wraparound rear glass has been switched for an angled D-pillar, with its forward-leaning look created through clever masking at the trailing edge.

The result is a window profile that could easily be a close cousin of that already seen on Mazda's SUV range – the CX-8 in particular. It wouldn't be the first time Isuzu has followed the lead of a collaboration partner either, with the previous MU-X window line reportedly devised to fit General Motors' styling demands.

If that's the case, does Mazda have an SUV of its own in store? Certainly anything's possible, and while Mazda's range is already quite full with everything from the compact CX-3 and CX-30 to more family-friendly CX-5, CX-8 and CX-9 models, there's no genuine 4x4 among them – only all-wheel drive.

Enter the CX-70, a body-on-frame, three-row SUV that would allow Mazda to compete with cars like the Ford Everest, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, and platform partner, Isuzu.

For now the name is just a shot in the dark, but with all Mazda SUVs using a CX prefix, and single-digit names set to be replaced by two-digit suffixes (think CX-50 and CX-90 down the track), the CX-70 is no huge leap of the imagination.

While Mazda has tried the segment overseas with the 1990s Ford Raider-based Proceed Marvie (itself based on the Mazda B-Series ute), and the Navajo, a Ford Explorer rebadge, the CX-70 could be Mazda's first real tilt at a three-row, body-on-frame family SUV, the likes of which would make it popular throughout Asia and Oceania markets.

Not too dissimilar from the relationship between the current MU-X and its Holden Trailblazer twin, the CX-70 and MU-X would share key design elements to keep costs down, but may deviate is some areas. While the main body structure, door apertures and glasshouse will stay the same, signature front and rear elements would be unique.

In this instance, we've gone for the 'low cost' development options and kept the CX-70's door skins the same as those of the MU-X. But in order to keep the two brand identities separate, these renders show how a unique rear quarter panel skin, tailgate, different front guards and bonnet sheet metal would create a distinct look for the Mazda.

Naturally, the CX-70 would keep Mazda hallmarks, like the chrome strip linking the slimline tail lights as seen on the brand's existing three-row models, the CX-8 and CX-9.

Up front, a remix of BT-50 elements would see familiar grille and headlight sections meet a new lower bumper to give the wagon a distinct face, without straying too far from the Mazda corporate playbook.

No prizes for guessing here, but under the bonnet, if Mazda were to spin-off its own version of the MU-X, the mechanical package would be identical, with a 140kW/450Nm 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel under the bonnet of both cars, paired to a six-speed automatic, with part-time four-wheel drive and a locking rear differential.

Similarly, there'd be little in the way of interior surprises. Both Mazda and Isuzu have their own interior themes, albeit with a handful of shared elements. Within their respective SUVs the dash and console are likely to be transplanted straight from the dual-cab ute variants already on sale.

While it remains to be seen if Mazda has any plans to enter the off-road market, one of the last remaining gaps in its current SUV range is a more off-road capable, tow-ready 4x4.