Japanese automaker Isuzu is mostly known for making commercial vehicles and diesel engines, but it also makes some unique passenger vehicles that are large, powerful and have a dominating road presence. The D-Max V-Cross pick-up truck, for example, has earned rave reviews from critics and buyers alike. For large families, Isuzu offers another unique vehicle: the mu-X.
The mu-X is a full-size premium seven-seater SUV, which competes in the Indian market against Toyota Fortuner and Ford Endeavour. It gets a 3.0-litre diesel engine that produces a maximum power output of 130 kW (177 PS) and torque of 380Nm. It is mated to a five-speed sequential shift automatic transmission (it doesn’t have a manual gearbox).
The mu-X has a muscular exterior, and its large size gives it a lot of road presence. Key design elements are the double-slat chrome grille, multi-spoke diamond-cut alloy wheels, and two-tone front and rear bumpers. However, the styling looks slightly dated compared to the modern-looking Fortuner and Endeavour.
Isuzu vehicles are known for their tough build, and the mu-X, the company says, stays true to this reputation with a high tensile steel body with tailor-welded blanks and crumple zones with anti-intrusion bars. Safety features include ESC (Electronic Stability Control), TCS (Traction Control System) and ABS (Anti-lock Brake System) with EBA (Emergency Brake Assist) and EBD (Electronic Brake force Distribution).
The cabin space in the mu-X is huge. It has soft leather seats, adjustable headrests for all seats and comfortable third-row seats. Seven large-sized adults can travel long distances in comfort. The cabin is flexible too. For example, the one-touch split/fold seats in both second and third row ensure there is enough room for all kinds of luggage. There are a number of smart storage compartments all across the cabin.
The first row seating area is unique in the sense that it gets a twin cockpit design – with easily accessible controls for both the driver and the front passenger. The driver seat features six-way power adjustable control for the driver of every size to choose his favourite seating position. The dashboard, however, has the looks and feel of utility rather than luxury.
The second row is like a sofa – it’s the best place to be in inside the mu-X. Seats are very comfortable, you can stretch your legs almost fully, and for entertainment there is a roof-mounted 10-inch DVD monitor for second and third row passengers. The surround sound system is pretty good too. The cabin, in a way, feels like an extension to home.
On the road, the mu-X drives like almost any other large SUV, yet it has some key differentiators. For example, a particular trait of the engine is that it has a flat torque curve, which means performance is not compromised even at low RPMs. The automatic gearbox makes driving easy on city roads.
The mu-X is available in both 4×2 and 4×4 variants. The 4×4 can go from being a highway cruiser to an off-roading beast within seconds – it has the ‘shift-on-the-fly’ 4×4 select dial with low and high range. Its excellent ground clearance, and superior approach, departure and breakover angles give the driver confidence to explore any kind of terrain. For extra stability, the mu-X has a wide track with a long wheelbase, and front steel underbody plates provide protection from loose rocks.
The best thing about the mu-X is perhaps its price! It costs Rs 22.48 lakh for 4×2 AT and Rs 24.35 lakh for 4×4 AT. Now, compared to the Fortuner 2.8-litre 4×2 AT diesel (Rs 27.36 lakh) or the Endeavour 3.2-litre 4×4 AT Titanium (Rs 29.59), the mu-X is excellent value-for-money. Buy it if you don’t care much about brand value, but understand your wheels.