Overbearing nannies ruin a decent Isuzu mu-X package


Every now and again a car comes along that’s a bit of an enigma. This one’s issue is a pity, but it is also easily solved. We’ll leave that to the end to ponder, because the Isuzu mu-X delivers quite well on its promise of reliability, durability, and capability in every other discipline.

Aimed at growing families and based on the latest D-Max bakkie, Isuzu’s family SUV’s bold styling is set out by an aggressive and appealing face. It also has a larger and quieter cabin allegedly flaunting luxurious materials… and ‘next generation’ driver assistance and safety.


Big, bold mu-X has D-Max roots

Looking at it, we enjoy this large, solid car’s Japanese feel. A China doll grill yields to strong character lined flanks punctuated by smart 20-inch alloys and presented in our test unit’s splendid ocean metallic blue. The doors click open and thud firmly closed with a quality feel.

Keyless entry yields to easy access. Just grab the handle on the A pillar, pull up and hop over the running board. Mu-X’s larger, plush thick pile carpeted cabin welcomes you with a cavernous and roomy feel.

Front row seats are comfy and broadly adjustable. Built from the ground up as a seven seater, and like most of them, mu-X has third row in case you need to carry extra smaller people short distances. The rearmost pews stow into the floor to make a mammoth boot accessed by a height adjustable tailgate.


Solid cabin has all the bells & whistles

The ambient lit dual zone climate controlled cabin features responsive steering wheel and touch controlled 9-inch infotainment with CarPlay, Auto, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and eight-speaker audio. There’s an off-centre low resolution rear-view camera too. It’s a bit too plasticky in there for this price point with shoddy fit and finish in places. Build quality could be better.

Moving under the bonnet, this creamy latest 140 kW 450 Nm 3 litre incarnation of its eternal and pioneering four-pot turbodiesel is mated to the best Isuzu 6 gear auto gearbox we’ve driven. Quiet, smooth, and effortless, mu-X is easy to drive.

It pulls strong from low down the rev range with no undue gear shifting as the transmission tends toward its higher cogs. As it should. Shift paddles allow you to override the auto patterns if you so desire, although the fuzzy logic ‘box soon learns how you prefer to drive too.


Mu-X underpinnings, chassis a fine base

Mu-X also rides on a new suspension design front and rear. Specifically developed to suit South African conditions, new springs and roll bars reduce body roll. Road holding is good for a vehicle this size, both on and off the road. Mu-X also matches its rivals’ 3.5-ton braked trailer capacity.

Add sharp brakes, traction control and a 5-star ANCAP safety rating including a world first centre airbag between the driver and the front passenger. The mu-X also has top backup throughout South Africa. It’s well priced too, twenty grand this side of the top Fortuner and 70K off the four-pot Everest.

Sadly however, despite all that, we cannot say that this Isuzu SUV drives without fuss or bother. And therein sits the elephant in the room. This flagship mu-X has horribly intrusive lane keeping assistance. Now please note that we welcome any such device in any car. We don’t even mind if it defaults on when you drive off. But this one is near impossible to turn off and downright dangerous when you don’t need it.


Safety overkill adds unnecessary mu-X danger

Driving the mu-X with a little verve becomes horrible experience when it suddenly brakes mid corner. The car tosses sideways and lurches violently. It’s even worse on the freeway. Mu-X completely overreacts if it dares wander too close to the centre or yellow line. Quite literally yanks the wheel out your hand and screams you down.

As noted, we have no problem at all with any of that. It’s welcome and necessary safety kit. So long as we can switch it all off, if and when we want to. Therein lies the problem. To extinguish these mu-X nannies, you must delve so deep into the interface screens to find that toggle, that you tend to forget you’re actually driving. You lose sight of the road ahead.

Now, you cannot use a cell phone while driving a car by law. Worse still, delve into your smartphone to access a deeply hidden app, while at the wheel. Struggling to switch this car’s nannies off, if you’re ever so lucky to find that hidden screen, is far more dangerous than making a criminal call while driving. Unless you stop. And that’s potentially even more perilous…


Just give us a simple button to switch it off!

All we ask for is a simple button or switch to turn off those systems quickly, simply, and safely. If and when we don’t want them. This flagship mu-X implies that a driver wanting to switch that all off, is an idiot. We take umbrage to that. Just like we do to other cars including Golf GTI and P Series. They also tend to make an enthusiastic driver feel an idiot.

As noted, this should be relatively simple to solve. We look forward to the day that we can drive a top of the line Isuzu mu-X that allows us to turn all that off quickly and easily at the simple touch of a button, should we dare not want it. The sooner the better, too.

Until then, we’ve marked this car heavily down. So much so that we don’t even want to drive it again. Until they fix that issue. – Michele & Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Isuzu mu-X 3.0TD Onyx 4x4
Engine: 140 kW 450 Nm 3-litre turbodiesel H4
Drive: 6-speed automatic 4x4
Max Braked Trailer 3,500 kg
0-60 km/h:        4.06 sec
0-100 km/h:       9.96 sec
0-120 km/h:       14.04 sec
0-160 km/h:       29.00 sec
400m:             16.9 sec @ 132 km/h
80-120 km/h:      7.38 sec
120-160 km/h:     14.96 sec
VMax:             190 km/h
Fuel:             7.6 l/100 km
CO2:              200 g/km
Range:            1,050 km
Warranty/Service: 5y 120K/5y 90K km
LIST PRICE:       R895K
RATED:            5
Dunlop Grandtrek
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