For quite some time, the prestige and pride in owning a car has always been in a badge that proudly displays the displacement of the engine inside. We’ve seen muscle cars with the big 5.0 or diesel engines with 3.0 Turbo or even the potent petrol 2.0T.
Yet pride aside, is all that literage really worth it? In truth, with the heavy traffic and new traffic schemes seemingly popping up on a weekly basis, opportunities to let these ponies prance are getting few and far in between. Most of that time that size starts to become a bane with the sheer amount of fuel it consumes.
Isuzu is quite familiar with the bigger is better phenomenon and for the past few years has always taken pride in their 3.0-liter turbo diesel models. Yet this year, they’ve decided to shed the spotlight on their new 1.9-liter Blue Power Euro-4 engine in a surprising reversal.
The reason is that, despite their indisputable torque and effortlessness, large diesels can be quite the guzzlers, noisy, rough and produce more emissions. For many Isuzu buyers, a large amount of them being family oriented, all that power is moot in the daily grind of the city.
To cater to these crowds that simply crave for a smooth, sophisticated, and civilized means of transport, Isuzu now offers the mu-X with the new 1.9-liter Blue Power and a 6-speed automatic. The new 1898cc RZ4E-TC engine in effect replaces most of the 2.5-liter 4JK1-TCX variants as the entry grade engine for the mu-X line, slotting under the 3.0-liter 4JJ1-TCX. At first glance, it’s positioning may seem odd, but the new engine actually produces 14 PS and 20 Nm more than the 2.5-liter, totaling up to 150 PS and 350 Nm. This allows Isuzu to offer a smoother-revving (in theory, due to less inertia from the pistons), a more efficient, and more sophisticated mid-range model.
Placed side by side with the 2.5 LS-A and the 3.0 LS-A, it’s clearly better specced than the 2.5 and little to distinguish it from the 3.0-liter model. It rolls on the larger wheels of the top-of-the-line model with the same amount of chrome garnishes and accents.
Inside Isuzu has mildly tweaked the interior with more piano black inserts and barleycorn (Isugrained trim) garnishes on the dash and door panels for a more upscale feel. New LED lights on the door panels provide better ambient lighting, especially at night. This model also comes with the drop-down LCD screen to keep the rear passengers entertained with onboard media.
Another addition is Isuzu’s new Brake Override System. This new safety feature is designed to provide peace of mind, particularly in panic situations. During events when a child suddenly crosses in front of the car, stomping on the pedals to stop is our typical first instinct. The BOS, ensures that, even if the accelerator were accidentally depressed at the same time as the brake, it will cut off engine power and apply the brake. To ensure consistent safety, it cannot be deactivated.
Naturally, the biggest improvement is in the drive. By now many naysayers may think the new 1.9-liter Blue Power engine is too small for such a large vehicle, but in truth, it feels like an even better match than the 3.0-liter, particularly for use in the city
With its wireless key, the mu-X can now be entered with the key still in your pocket and the engine started up with just a button. Don’t worry as ACC and ON are still available. Just don’t press on the brake when pressing the start button to toggle through those modes.
The moment it’s turned on, the most noticeable aspect is its quieter and smoother operation, particularly when idling. Because of the smaller engine size, there’s less noise and vibration penetrating the cabin, almost making the mu-X feel like it’s powered by a petrol engine.
Paired with a 6-speed automatic, the 1.9 Blue Power mu-X pulls away from a stop smoothly. The shorter gears allow it to shift up and down more frequently, and more accurately react to the changing conditions in heavy traffic without taxing the engine too much. Left in auto mode, the transmission chooses the higher and more efficient gear by default, keeping revs between 1,000 and 1,500 rpm. Yet if more speed is needed, simply step just a notch harder on the throttle and it will shift down almost imperceptibly — no need to mash the throttle to get it to shift down like the older automatics.
The transmission’s sequential manual mode is best used to steep inclines and descents to extract more power for those slopes. Other than that, we found ourselves quite satisfied with the transmission’s auto mode.
Perhaps the kinks in the 1.9-liter’s armor are only evident when on highways. The mu-X is quite comfortable cruising between 80-100 km/h, though maintaining a faster 120 km/h or higher pace will require a heavier foot. It’s also best to wait for larger gaps when overtaking.
Besides all that, those planning to keep their 1.9 Blue Power mu-X’s as city slickers won’t be disappointed. It has more than enough power to take on tasks like from home to work, picking the kids up from school, or even the weekly grocery run.
As an added bonus, its smooth and quiet operation also makes it more conducive to long conversations in traffic or simply enjoying tunes while on the go.