- Durable and tough diesel engine
- Great active safety features
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- 4x4 is a $6,000 premium
- Missing some key features
- Interior isn't as nice as the Ford Everest
In Australia, Isuzu has turned into a byword for reliability and dependability. Just go to the local pub and ask anyone there what the Isuzu brand stands for. Most will say that Isuzus are work horses that will just go and go, with a brand enjoying a loyal following across the country. We tested the entry level to the Isuzu SUV range, the 2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-M fitted with the optional 4×4 system to see if you should look elsewhere or ‘go your own way’ with the Isuzu Ute brand.
With more and more modern Isuzu Utes and SUVs on the road today, it has become apparent that people love the brand’s new look and the upmarket positioning to this rugged brand. But is this enough to compete with the both other established players and the newcomers on the market? Let’s find out.
Price & Equipment: 7.5/10
The 2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-M is the entry point into the MU-X range and kicks off at $48,900 plus on road costs for the two-wheel drive model. Add the dual-range 4×4 system that our test car has, and this price increases by $6,000 to $54,900 plus on road costs.
Despite being an entry-level model, the MU-X LS-M does come with a reasonable amount of equipment:
- 17-inch alloy wheels with a full-sized steel spare wheel
- Dusk-sensing automatic bi-LED headlights
- Automatic wipers
- Electric mirrors and windows
- Cloth upholstery
- Height-adjustable driver’s seat
- Remote central locking with push button start
- Manual air conditioning with a fan speed controller for the rear seats
- Electric handbrake
- 7.0-inch touchscreen
- AM/FM/digital radio
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Four-speaker sound system
- Four USB-A ports
- Trip computer
- Hill descent control
Isuzu hasn’t skimped on the safety kit as the 2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-M comes with:
- Eight airbags (including a front centre unit)
- Auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian, cyclist and intersection assist
- Automatic post-collision braking
- Mis-acceleration mitigation braking
- Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert
- Lane keep assist with lane trace assist
- Driver attention monitoring
- Speed sign recognition
- Adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality
- Reversing camera
- Rear parking sensors
The MU-X range earned a five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2022 with scores of 86 per cent for adult occupant protection, 85 per cent for child occupant protection, 69 per cent for vulnerable road user protection and 84 per cent for safety assist.
Colours for the 2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-M:
- Mineral White
- Basalt Black ($650)
- Cobalt Blue ($650)
- Magnetic Red ($650)
- Obsidian Grey ($650)
- Mercury Silver (on our test car – $650)
The closest rivals to the MU-X LS-M are the $58,490 plus on-road costs Ford Everest Ambiente 4×4 and the $55,190 +ORC Mitsubishi Pajero Sport GLS 4×4. The Everest may be $3,590 more expensive than the MU-X but it gains an extra airbag (nine instead of eight), rear AEB, front parking sensors, a larger 10.1-inch touch screen with satellite navigation, live traffic updates and digital radio, front fog lights, auto-folding exterior mirrors and an eight-speaker sound system. The Pajero Sport gains larger 18-inch wheels, keyless entry, satellite navigation, LED front fog lights, auto folding exterior mirrors, a power tailgate, digital radio, a six-speaker sound system, tyre pressure monitoring and rear privacy glass over the MU-X LS-M. Not bad for only an extra $290 and we think Isuzu should give the base MU-X more kit.
Performance & Economy: 7.5/10
The entire 2023 Isuzu MU-X range comes with a 3.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that can also be found in the Isuzu D-Max. In this application, it produces 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque. The sole transmission option is a six-speed torque converter automatic sending the engine’s power to either the rear wheels, or all four wheels through a dual-range transfer case. Rivals like the 2.0-litre bi-turbo Ford Everest Ambiente (154kW/500Nm) are more powerful than the MU-X, but it does weigh more than the MU-X – the Everest is rated at a porky 2,323kg (tare), 253kg more than the MU-X, so they feel similarly fast in the real world. The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport isn’t as powerful as its 2.4-litre turbo diesel produces 133kW/430Nm.
The ‘4JJ3-TC’ engine that sits in front of the MU-X has been improved in the Isuzu range over the years, and is now more powerful, more efficient and quieter than ever. It’s a nice unit that has more than enough grunt to push you around. Even with seven-people in the MU-X, we found the grunt more than acceptable. There’s no getting around that it’s a diesel engine however, and the engine used in the Everest Ambiente is more refined. We do prefer the engine and drivetrain of the MU-X over the Pajero Sport though, as it’s quieter and punchier.
As we mentioned, the sole transmission on offer is a six-speed torque converter automatic that does a decent job of getting the MU-X moving. The MU-X pulls away with no fuss and gearbox shuffles through the gears smoothly and almost imperceptibly, though we’d like to see an eight-speed transmission added as that would increase drivability and efficiency. The Isuzu MU-X has a braked towing capacity of 3,500kg, with an unbraked capacity of 750kg. This is matched by the Ford Everest Trend though the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport can only tow a braked capacity of 3,100kg (but unbraked 750kg). The MU-X could easily tow a mid-sized boat or even a car trailer with a car.
As a large seven-seat diesel SUV, you wouldn’t think that the MU-X would be fuel efficient, but its efficiency in the real world might surprise you. The claimed average fuel consumption of the MU-X LS-M 4×4 is 8.3L/100km and we averaged 10.6L/100km in mostly urban driving, which we were happy with. The MU-X has an 80-litre fuel tank, so even in urban driving, a range of around 800km is possible.
Ride & Handling: 8.5/10
As we’ve discovered in the past, the ride and handling balance of the Isuzu MU-X is excellent, especially in LS-M spec with the smaller 17-inch wheels and chunky Dunlop GrandTrek AT26 rubber. The MU-X comes with a well-sorted suspension setup which does a good job of soaking up the city’s pot holes and speed bumps and rides down the road quite well. It is blessed with a good mix of comfort and great off-road clearances and a sophisticate multi-link rear suspension with plenty of articulation. Sitting in the third row of the MU-X is a little more uncomfortable ride wise, compared to being up front, as we found it a little firm. Due to the high centre of gravity, the 2023 Isuzu MU-X doesn’t handle like a sports car – or even a regular passenger SUV – but this is to be expected for a large ute based 4×4. Pushing into a corner at speed reveals some body roll, but it’s controllable.
The Ford Everest is definitely more car-like in its ride quality and handling, but the MU-X is still comfortably ahead of the Pajero Sport, offering a relaxed and safe feel behind the wheel. We found the steering a little light for our liking and would like a little more road feel communicated through the steering wheel. The active safety tech on the MU-X worked rather well, too. Most systems work intuitively, without interrupting the driving experience. The only criticism we had was with the lane keep assist system, which seemed to be a little sensitive. Overall the MU-X is a safe and comfortable daily driver that just so happens to have the ability to go off into the sticks.
Interior & Practicality: 8/10
While the 2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-M is an entry level model, its interior is still quite a nice place to spend time. If you were to sit in the cabin not knowing that it was a base model, you would be pleasantly surprised. The seats, the driving position and the amenities make the cabin of the MU-X a comfortable place to spend time. It’s got more than enough tech for modern drivers, while it also has more than enough space for families and their paraphernalia too.
The materials used throughout the cabin are what we would call adequate, and fit for purpose. There is a fair bit of hard plastic on the door panels and other touch points, but the dashboard and lower centre console are covered in stitched soft touch materials. The storage options on offer include a large centre console, two cupholders behind the gear selector, a space to put your phone and wallet in front of the gear shifter, two glove boxes, cup holders at each end of the dash that double as small storage cubbies, a cubby by the drivers right knee, map pockets and door bins that can hold large bottles. You’d be hard pressed finding things to put in all of these storage solutions.
Sitting in the centre of the MU-X LS-M’s dashboard is an 7.0-inch touchscreen that comes with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s not amazingly intuitive to use as it’s a bit slow but it’s a massive improvement on the previous car. Sure, it might not be as flash as the massive touchscreens seen in Ford Everest models, but it is definitely better than the systems you get in most competitors. A Toyota Fortuner feels a decade older than the MU-X, that’s for sure. We’d love to see a fully digital instrument cluster join the MU-X though, as it would make it feel more expensive inside.
Sitting in the second row is easy with doors that open nice and wide and comfortable cloth seats. There is plenty of room for two adults or three kids and there are also plenty of amenities too, including a fan speed controller, rear air vents, map pockets, two USB-A ports, door pockets with bottle holders and a centre arm rest with cup holders. Child seats are covered by two ISOFIX points and three top-tethers.
Getting into the third row is very easy: just pull on the handle on the top of the second row and the seat folds down and away, giving you easy access. Once back there, you’ll find ample space for two kids and adults will fit reasonably well too. Third row occupants also get air vents and airbag coverage, as well as cupholders. In the third row, we think there’s more space than both the Everest and Pajero Sport.
Open the tailgate and 311-litres of cargo space will be revealed behind the rear seats with the third row in place, with 1,119L of boot space with the third row folded and a huge 2,138L of space with the second row folded too. In comparison the Ford Everest has 259L/898L/1,823L respectively, making the MU-X comfortably more cavernous.
Service & Warranty: 8.5/10
New Isuzu products are equipped with a six-year/150,000km warranty, which is superior to the five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty you get with the Ford Everest. The Isuzu also comes with seven years of roadside assistance, which is slightly less than the eight years you receive from Ford if serviced through a Ford dealer. The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport comes with a 10-year/unlimited kilometre warranty which bests both the Ford and Isuzu, though it is worth noting that to gain all 10 years of warranty, you must service through a Mitsubishi dealer. The Mitsubishi also comes with 12 months of roadside assistance that is extended by 12 months at every service through Mitsubishi for up to four years.
The cost to service the 2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-M over the span of five years/75,000km is $2,435, or an average of $487 annually. That’s a little more than the $2,190 cost for the Ford, but much less than the $2,895 for the Mitsubishi.
2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-M 4×4 DiscoverAuto Rating: 8.0/10
The 2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-M 4×4 is a car that can do the school run just as comfortably as it can do an off road trail. Its purpose is to be the best of both worlds. It excels as an urban warrior and out in the bush. Yes, it’s rather spartan on paper with manual air conditioning, cloth seats and a small touchscreen, but overall the LS-M is built for those wanting to modify their MU-X or those who are on a stricter budget. And you know what? That’s totally fine as the LS-M is just as capable as upper-spec models.
Would we choose the LS-M grade of the 2023 Isuzu MU-X range? Well, it really depends on your needs. We see the value in spending the extra $6,500 for the mid-spec LS-U – or the top-spec LS-T and its permanent $65,990 drive away special. But regardless of model chosen, the MU-X is a dependable, good quality and nice to drive family SUV that will do decades of duty for your family.