In a city where a sudden downpour leads to flooded streets and a country where seven seats are often barely enough, SUVs became a common sight on local roads. The high ground clearance, the rigid construction and 2-3-2 seating arrangement made the pickup-platform passenger vehicle (PPV) class very popular.
With that in mind, auto manufacturers are proudly pitting their respective challengers for the competitive PPV SUV segment. Joining the competition is the Isuzu mu-X, which made its Philippine debut last year. For the uninitiated, the mu-X replaces the Alterra, serving as Isuzu’s new flagship SUV.
Design-wise, you might say that the mu-X shares similarities with the Chevrolet Trailblazer. Well, you got that on point because these two vehicles were jointly developed. Differentiating the two are the fascia, the rear end, engines and other tiny details.
The mu-X has a bold fascia which resembles the design of its brother: the D-Max. It has sharp-looking headlights, a large bumper and a grooved hood. This mid variant mu-X also comes with fog lamps and a chrome-plated grill.
Towards the side, you can’t help but notice the mu-X’s Trailblazer-like design as seen on its character lines and wide wheel arches. However, I think that Isuzu should have fitted the mu-X with larger set of wheels, because the 16-inch alloys look a little off in proportion to the vehicle's size.
The rear of the mu-X further emphasizes its huge body. It comes with sweptback taillights, a chrome plate garnish bar, a muscular bumper and a wraparound rear window.
Dimensions-wise, the 2015 mu-X measures 4825mm long, 1860mm wide and 1825mm tall with a wheelbase of 2845mm. Overall, Isuzu's new flagship SUV looks taut and masculine. Aesthetically, I prefer the exterior styling of the mu-X rather than the Alterra because it's more pronounced and conveys rigidity.
The interior of the mu-X is simple and neat. The black-on-black interior compliments mu-X's straightforward interior theme. In general, the cabin layout of the mu-X is similar to the Trailblazer. It has fabric seats, aircon dials, a touchscreen head unit display with Bluetooth, USB input and Navigation.
In addition, the mu-X comes with ceiling-mounted rear air-conditioning to cool down the cabin for second and third row passengers. Seating is arranged like most other seven seater SUVs: two in the front, three in the middle, and two in the back. In terms of interior size, the mu-X is perhaps the roomiest SUV in its class. It has decent leg- and head-room, which can easily accomodate tall and plus-size passengers. In fact, second row occupants can even cross their legs.
Under the hood, the mu-X is powered by a 2.5-liter 4JK1-TC diesel engine, half a liter smaller than the Alterra's power unit. Despite the smaller displacement, the 2.5-liter engine is refined and doesn't lack in power because it is improved with variable geometry turbo and common rail direct injection tech. Compared to the previous 3.0L Alterra, mu-X's engine delivers 136 PS (10 PS less) and 320 Nm of torque (20 NM more).
In the city, the 2015 mu-X posed no problem in absorbing the uneven road surface and potholes. The independent double wishbone in the front and the five-link coil spring rear suspension work nicely to give a comfortable ride. The 2015 mu-X also has good handling and steering feel despite its size and weight. Compared to the Trailblazer, the mu-X rides smoother and feels lighter.
The steering feel of the mu-X is lighter which makes it easier to maneuver in tight turns and narrow roads. However, odds are against the mu-X when we talk about engine power. To put things in perspective, the Trailblazer delivers more power (163 PS) and torque pull (380 Nm). The mu-X also has a soft clutch which is beneficial if you're in traffic. However, the clutch has a high bite point. When it comes to fuel economy, the 2014 mu-X registered 9.7 km/l (moderate to heavy traffic).
On the highway, the 2015 mu-X never failed to deliver the goods as it cruised smoothly along SLEX. Overtaking is done swiftly and easily; thanks to its reliable engine response and light steering. Furthermore, the steering and engine response of this mu-X could take on rural roads with ease. Tight turns, narrow roadways and uphill roads can all be handled by the 2015 mu-X, just don't expect it to handle like a sedan at speed. Another thing worth mentioning is the mu-X's engine noise, which has been reduced. Also of note is the presence of ABS; a significant upgrade over the standard LS we drove earlier. In terms of fuel economy, the mu-X yielded 17.1 km/l at an average speed of 75 km/h.
Overall, the 2015 Isuzu mu-X embodies practicality and functionality. Through its spacious cabin, decent fuel economy and improved engine, it's not surprising that the 2015 mu-X became a hit in the local PPV segment.