Tested: Value-packed tough SUV
Isuzu has a habit of doing drive-away deals on its seven-seat MU-X, in particular its range-topping and runaway best-selling LS-T.
The official recommended retail price is $56,200, but you can be on the road for $52,900 with extended six-year warranty and roadside assist, plus two years' free scheduled servicing. Capped price services aren't expensive, costing $2090 over five years, or just $1290 with the above deal.
You're buying a solid workhorse with near-indestructible truck engine, strong off-road ability, cushy ride, 3000kg towing capacity and seating for seven.
External styling cues include 18-inch alloys, fog lights, side steps and roof rails, while inside there are leather seats (electric for driver), climate control, 8-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth audio streaming, satnav and, for lucky kids in the back, a roof mounted 10-inch DVD monitor.
Infotainment and safety features are behind rivals, but the chunky Isuzu still looks solid value.
It's a whopper inside. The third row of seats can accommodate six-foot tall adults in passable comfort, but clambering in could be easier. Isuzu's listened to customer feedback and tried to improve the plushness inside, so there are some soft touch cabin surfaces and a dual-tone dashboard. Work has been done to reduce interior noise.
The seats are comfortable but but some of the trim, switchgear and dash finishes feel a tad flimsy. You can squeeze in some shopping bags or sports kit with seven seats up. Fold the rears and there's a vast 878-litres boot space.
The MU-X is lean on modern safety gear. Six airbags, a rear camera and rear sensors are included, but features like blind spot monitor and autonomous emergency braking - common on $20,000 cars - are missing. These gaps mean the MU-X wouldn't retain its five-star crash rating if tested today.
The bulletproof 3.0-litre turbo-diesel hums along in an unstressed manner, making it a serene and laid-back cruiser. It feels more agricultural when pushed though, with tardy throttle response and a roaring diesel note.
Steering is vague and there's body roll in corners, but it brilliantly absorbs the bumps on harsh roads or off-road terrain.
It shines as a reliable tow vehicle - rated to 3000kg - and despite no locking rear differential, is a talented unit over sand, dirt and mud with bags of engine torque to call upon. Even giant bumps and tree roots are happily bounced over in comfort.
Holden Trailblazer LTZ, $53,990 drive-away
The Holden boasts more power and torque than rivals, rides well on-road and is no mug off-road. Decent safety kit and excellent infotainment, but looks and feels a bit dull.
Ford Everest Ambiente 4WD, $58,970 drive-away
The Everest is expensive, the cabin is basic and safety kit is lacking. Decent on-road manners and is talented off-road with electronic locking rear differential.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed, $56,990 drive-away
Recently updated and loaded with kit, this range topper is incredible value and a bit fancy inside. Safety gear includes adaptive cruise control and auto emergency braking. Decent engine and off-road clout, but cabin space isn't generous.
The MU-X is fuss-free, solid, dependable and strong on value. It's Australia's best-selling ute-based SUV for a reason, but is crying out for more modern infotainment and safety.
Isuzu MU-X LS-T 4X4 vitals
Price: $52,990 drive-away
Engine: 3.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 130kW/430Nm
Safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags, reverse camera, rear sensors, hill descent control, emergency brake assist