2024 Isuzu D-Max review | news.com.au — Australia’s leading news site


Isuzu has made its seven-seat off-roader cheaper, greener and less thirsty, introducing a 1.9-litre turbo-diesel engine to its MU-X range.

On the surface it appears like a smart move, as the Federal Government is poised to introduce new vehicle efficiency standards from next year, penalising thirsty vehicles.

The 1.9-litre uses almost a litre less fuel per 100km (7.4L/100km to 8.3L/100km) than the 3.0-litre model, which means it meets the first of the government’s mandated CO2 targets.

The smaller-engined MU-X is also $2000 cheaper than the 3.0-litre versions.

But sitting high in the Isuzu MU-X’s fuss-free interior, on first drive the compromise is clear.

This lightweight four-cylinder is asked to budge two tonnes of hulking great SUV with only 110kW of power – the same as an entry-level Volkswagen Golf – and it soon runs out of puff. Use your right foot to force the issue and it gets obnoxiously noisy.

A closer look at Isuzu's MU-X

A turbo-diesel’s trump card is torque and Isuzu’s smaller engine – which already sees service in its D-MAX ute – delivers a healthy 350Nm from just 1800rpm.

That makes it lively off the mark and well-suited to towing or zipping through town to get the kids to school.

That last point’s important, as the MU-X is no stranger to school car parks and the urban snarl. Such owners really don’t need 3500kg towing capacity (the 1.9L can only tow 3000kg), the extra grunt of Isuzu’s 140kW/450Nm 3.0-litre or proper off-road capability.

The family budget prefers cheaper purchase prices, lower fuel bills and – as we’re saving the planet for our offspring – a bit less carbon dioxide spewing from the exhaust.

The smaller engine will also appeal to fleet and government buyers, which make up a healthy slice of MU-X sales.

The Isuzu wagon is Australia’s top selling large SUV this year, trumping heavy-hitting rivals including Ford’s Everest and Toyota’s Prado.

Isuzu’s not messed with a good thing. The package of tough good looks, spacious cabin with third-row seating able to accommodate adults, a long six-year/150,000km warranty and impressive safety gear remains. The new engine simply adds more choice to more buyers.

There’s a cheaper entry price for 2024 – an MU-X LS-M 1.9L 2WD is available from about $51,500 drive-away.

A higher-spec LS-M 1.9L 4WD is about $58,000 and the fancy LS-U 1.9L 4WD is about $65,000.

Less pleasing are price rises of between $500 and $2000 for established 3.0-litre versions.

The flagship LS-T 3.0L 4WD is the only model to be offered with drive-away pricing, at $67,990.

Isuzu won’t adequately explain why the top-spec model is available on the road for $1400 less than its recommended retail price, making lesser grades look expensive, the new 1.9L included.

Regardless, it remains a loveable big brute. The 1.9-litre may lack firepower, but it’s a smooth enough unit in towns and at highway speeds.

Show it a corner and it doesn’t disgrace itself; there’s reasonable body control considering its heft, and the coil sprung rear suspension (unlike the D-MAX ute’s leaf springs) means rear passengers don’t feel like they’re on a bouncy castle.

Steering is easy and light – a bit too light – and the six-speed auto gearbox smoothly goes about cog swapping duties. But steering-wheel paddle shifters would be welcome to bring more driver control to the hardworking 1.9-litre.

Equipment for the rest of the range is unchanged for 2024. The MU-X misses out on the smarter cabin, improved infotainment and better calibrated safety systems arriving in the new D-MAX ute next month.

What it does have as standard across the range are adaptive cruise control, traffic-sign recognition, rear cross-traffic alert and, if you spend $6000 more on the 4WD version, excellent off-road ability courtesy of a rear differential lock and smart Rough Terrain mode.

But if you’re planning to take your MU-X adventuring, it makes sense to pay the extra $2000 for the more muscular 3.0-litre engine and improved towing capacity.

The sweet spot for those content with a 1.9-litre is the LS-U 4WD. Its 7.4L/100km fuel economy matches the 2WD version, it looks sharper with 18-inch dark grey alloys, has a more premium cabin finish, dual-zone airconditioning, a power tailgate and a more user-friendly 9-inch infotainment screen.

VERDICT

3 stars

Greater choice is welcome, but the 1.9-litre MU-X’s fuel and purchase price savings aren’t enough to ignore the more capable 3.0-litre version.

2024 ISUZU MU-X 1.9

PRICE: From about $51,500 drive-away

ENGINE: 1.9-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, 110kW/350Nm

THIRST: 7.4L/100km

WARRANTY/SERVICE: Six years/150,000km, $2245 for five services

SAFETY: Eight airbags, advanced auto emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitor,

adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic-sign recognition

LUGGAGE: 311-1119 litres

SPARE: Full-size

TOWING: 3000kg