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Driven: Isuzu updates MU-X for 2017 again

Local link: The popularity of the MU-X in Australia has meant Isuzu Ute has listened to local customers in making changes to the big off-roader.

Euro 5 engine for Isuzu MU-X joined by updated interior and trim for 2017

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Isuzu logo1 May 2017

By TIM ROBSON

ISUZU Ute Australia has updated its popular MU-X four-wheel-drive SUV for the second time in less than four months, with the Japanese company adding an updated exterior and interior package to the Euro 5 powertrain it introduced in February this year.

The MU-X – which, along with D-Max ute, makes up the company’s entire roster – has also benefitted from an Australian-led push to reduce levels of cabin noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) and to lift the quality of the interior.

It has come at a price, though, with the range increasing in price between $1000 and $1300 across the line-up of two-wheel and four-wheel-drive seven-seat variants.

The MU-X now starts at $42,800 plus on-road costs for the entry-level 4x2 LS-M auto, a $1000 increase over the outgoing model, while it tops out at $56,100 for the flagship 4x4 LS-T, a $1300 price hike.

Both the 4x2 and 4x4 variants are offered in three specification grades including LS-M, LS-U and LS-T, with the all-paw versions available with a manual gearbox or an automatic transmission.

In terms of rivals, only the Pajero Sport undercuts the MU-X with prices ranging from $45,000 to $53,000, while the Toyota Fortuner is priced from $47,990 to $61,990 and Holden’s Trailblazer runs from $47,990 to $52,490.

Even with the price increases, the MU-X (short for Mysterious Utility eXtreme) still undercuts the Ford Everest by an average of $5000 variant for variant.

Isuzu Ute Australia (IUA) managing director and CEO Yasuhiro Takeuchi told journalists at the vehicle’s launch in Queensland that the MU-X was initially forecast to sell 2700 units per annum in Australia when it was launched in 2013 – and at the time he was not confident that the target could be reached.

“But we made sharp pricing and good marketing, and kept the core competencies of the Isuzu brand,” he said.

“Last year’s sales of MU-X were 7000 – much more than planned, and a bit of a surprise to me. We are now sixth position in the large SUV segment, and that is a fantastic result. We’ve made it a big success and we want to continue that big success.”

Mr Takeuchi said he was targeting an annual sales figure of approximately 7800 units for the refreshed high-rider, based on 2016’s figures and factoring in an 11 per cent improvement.

Australia is the number one export market for the Thai-built MU-X, and local feedback has resulted in a raft of changes that are only seen here.

For example, the updated 3.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel and Aisin six-speed automatic transmission combination is not used anywhere else, while extensive sound deadening under and around the car is also specific to Australia.

Mr Takeuchi said that one of the keys was listening to feedback from Australian buyers, and that the improvements in the updated car are the result of collaboration and consultation with current Isuzu owners.

“We are open to customer’s voices, and would still like to keep making necessary improvements to fit the product to Australian’s needs,” he said.

The updated 4JJ1-TC 3.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel benefits from a new piston design, fuel injectors and variable geometry turbocharger, as well as a larger EGR cooler and new diesel particulate filter needed to meet Euro 5 standards.

Power output remains at 130kW, while torque jumps 50Nm to 430Nm. Up to 380Nm of that torque is delivered over a wider range of 1700–3500rpm, according to Isuzu.

Fuel consumption remains the same at 7.9 litres per 100km on the combined fuel economy cycle.

A new six-speed Aisin-built automatic transmission replaces a five-speed unit, while an in-house-designed six-speed manual gearbox sports triple synchros on the first three gears and a shorter overall ratio than the previous unit. Isuzu estimates that autos will make up 95 per cent of sales.

A new front bar and fasica design adds bi-LED headlights and LED daytime running lamps to the MU-X, while new tail-lights with LED indicators and new rear bumper and fascia join new design 18-inch alloys to round out the body tweaks.

Sixteen-inch rims are available as an option, but the 17s on the previous generation car have been deleted.

Inside, newly designed part-leather seat trims have been added, along with new soft-touch surfaces on the centre console bin lid, armrests, dash and instrument cowling. Silver, chrome and piano black highlights have also been added, while large sections of the dash and doors have been refinished with an updated plastic finish.

An 8.0-inch multimedia screen with satellite navigation replaces the 7.0-inch version on the previous car. All versions of the MU-X are offered in a three-row, seven-seat configuration.

There are now seven layers of noise insulation material on the firewall instead of five, and there is more insulation around the air vents, in behind the multimedia system, behind the dash and in the transmission tunnel, while the base of windscreen has been reprofiled and the majority of the floor pan has had insulation added to it.

Isuzu says the MU-X is now three decibels or five per cent quieter inside the cabin.

Because the insulation updates and auto powertrain are unique to Australia, cars destined for IUA are built in batches of 15 at either the Gateway or Samsang plants in central Thailand.

The base LS-M offers the 8.0-inch multimedia system, reversing camera and sensors, bi-LED headlights, 16-inch alloy rims and cloth interior, while the LS-U adds satellite navigation, rear roof vents, 18-inch rims, rear privacy glass and side steps.

The range topping LS-T adds leather accented trim, keyless entry with push-button start, electric driver’s seat, roof rails and a rear spoiler.

ANCAP has rated the current version of the MU-X at the maximum five stars.

2017 Isuzu MU-X pricing*
4x2 LS-M (a)$42,800(+$1000)
4x2 LS-U (a)$45,100(+$1300)
4x2 LS-T (a)$48,800(+$1300)
4x4 LS-M$48,000(+$1000)
4x4 LS-M (a)$50,100(+$1000)
4x4 LS-U$50,300(+$1300)
4x4 LS-U (a)$52,400(+$1300)
4x4 LS-T (a)$56,100(+$1300)
*Excludes on-road costs

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