• The Isuzu mu-X received an update in the middle of 2020.
• The changes include several cosmetic upgrades inside and out.
• It retains the 3.0-litre turbodiesel motor with 130kW and 380Nm.
It's no secret the Toyota Fortuner dominates the SUV segment in South Africa. In January 2021, Toyota sold 820 units of the SUV. It's the bar that every carmaker fighting in this segment is trying to match or beat.
Another Japanese SUV that uses a ladder frame chassis and mainly shares components with its bakkie sibling, like the Fortuner, is Isuzu's mu-X.
In the middle of last year, Isuzu gave its Fortuner-fighter "styling enhancements for the exterior, along with more sophisticated and upmarket finishes for the cabin."
First launched in 2018, the mu-X is available in both 4x2 and 4x4 configurations. The seven-seater SUV has been substantially upgraded on the outside.
There's a new radiator grille design, complemented by a restyled front bumper incorporating colour coding for the upper section and a contrasting gloss black finish for the lower portion, as well as for the fog light bezels.
It has new 18-inch gloss black diamond-cut alloy wheels and gloss black finish for the side steps.
Moving to the rear, the rear bumper is a colour-coded upper section for the rear bumper, gloss back treatment for the lower trim, two-tone silver, and black roof rails.The interior has moved up a notch too, with black piano finishes featuring on the door switch bezels and trim panels, gear shift surround, and the centre stack for the infotainment system and climate control.
The silver and black colour combination extend to the switches located on the leather-trimmed steering wheel for the audio system, phone functions and cruise control.
Under the skin, the latest version features BOS or a brake override system, first seen on the D-MAX.
Isuzu says the system is linked to the ABS braking system and restricts accelerator input if the brakes are applied at the same time. The aim is to reduce the mu-X's stopping distance in an emergency. Admittedly, I didn't brake for an emergency, but I was impressed by the behemoth's stopping power. The brake pedal feels progressive with good feel.
So, what's it like to drive?
Well, it still feels like a bakkie to be honest. The 3.0-litre turbodiesel motor with 130kW and 380Nm is loud and not very refined. It has a fair amount of power once the turbo starts spooling but lacks severe lag when pulling away. It does offer excellent fuel consumption, and I managed to reduce it to around eight litres per 100 kilometres. Impressive.
The steering is light, and I found the lofty SUV struggling in windy conditions, mainly highway driving. However, it offers good ride quality in normal conditions, strong mid-range grunt, and a fine job with the six-speed automatic gearbox.
For the record, the mu-X boasts a three-tonne towing capacity. I transported a few items in storage, and the boot gobbled it up while keeping four people sufficiently cool in the summer heat. The rear air-con is a boon.
At R747 900, the mu-X is cheaper than the Fortuner but lacks Toyota's refinement inside and out. Isuzu sells the mu-X with a five-year or 120 000km warranty and five-year or 90 000km service plan.