Isuzu has enhanced its SUV offering with an expanded MU-X range. And promised a smaller engine option, later this year.
Although the Japanese diesel engine specialist started the bakkie-based SUV trend in South Africa in the 1990s, it never regained market dominance into the 2000s.
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The Isuzu Frontier predated Toyota’s Fortuner by many years, yet it was crucially discontinued in the South African market, allowing Toyota to introduce its Fortuner without any competition. The rest is history, as Fortuner has evolved into becoming one of the most successful vehicles in South Africa.
Isuzu has attempted to re-establish its presence in the rugged SUV market with MU-X, which was introduced to South Africa in 2018. That range has been expanded from four to five derivatives and features some design enhancements.
Bigger wheels and better seats
The styling updates are mild. There is a darkened grille finish and changes to the headlights, taillamps and fog lights. It is the typical mid-cycle product update that has become an industry standard. Mechanically, the only notable change with Isuzu’s upgraded MU-X product portfolio are upsized wheels.
Entery-level LS versions now roll 18-inch wheels, up from 17-inches. And then there are 20-inch alloy wheels on the most expensive versions. These might look great, but most owners would be better served by opting for the 18-inch wheels, with larger tyres, for better ride comfort and pothole-strike survivability.
Inside the 2023 model year MU-X, leather seats are now standard throughout the range. Isuzu claims they also feature an enhanced padding structure, which should make for comfier long-distance driving. A neat convenience update is a hand-free tailgate, with a step-swipe sensor, which is terrifically helpful when you have both hands burdened with shipping bags or gear.
Isuzu has enhanced the flagship LSE and Onyx derivates with steering wheel mounted shift paddles and auto-dim rear-view mirrors.
MU-X will get a smaller engine
Engines and gearboxes remain unchanged, with Isuzu’s 3-litre turbodiesel powering the five-derivative MU-X range. It boosts 140kW and 450Nm of torque, which is slightly less than Toyota’s 2.8-litre powered Fortuner. The only available gearbox is a six-speed automatic. There is no manual-shift option, for hardcore 4×4 driving.
The expanded Isuzu SUV range starts at R784 300 for the 3.0 LS 4×2 and peaks at R928 100 for the 3.0 Onyx 4×4. Perhaps the most popular option will be the new one, which is a 3.0 LSE 4X4, at R909 500. Isuzu’s main rivals in the segment are Ford’s Everest and Toyota’s Fortuner, which both offer smaller engine options.
If the 3.0 LS 4X2 is beyond your budget, Isuzu will introduce a 1.9-litre engine to the MU-X range in the second half of this year, at a proportionally more affordable price.