Road tripping! It was with great anticipation that we embarked on our latest foray into the wild blue yonder with the new Isuzu MU-X. Okay, that sounds overly dramatic because we really just ventured to the beautiful town of Stanford on the Cape coast and then further inland to the picturesque Swellendam and surrounds.
The MU-X has a go-anywhere attitude.
It was logistically difficult to tie down the use of the Isuzu, as every other digital and print publication had crawled out of the cracks and was vying to get their hands on the MU-X. We were lucky enough to have the test vehicle for a full week which allowed for some great travel and off-road meanders.
It’s never a bridge too far in the Isuzu MU-X.
Stanford and surrounds
Our first stop as at Rivers End Resort in Stanford which offers camping, wild camping and accommodation in the form of a quaint converted bus and a large log cabin in close proximity to the lagoon. Rivers End is a new resort on our radar, and it certainly has the most beautiful setting. The wild camping sites are up on the hillside and the route requires extensive soft sand driving. During one particularly sandy section, the Isuzu MU-X dug itself in, but after a quick switch to 4WD (4×4 high engaged), the Isuzu easily extricated itself from its sandy constraints.
Stanford is a quaint town with lots of interesting shops & eateries.
Capable off-road & towing
On tougher off-road sections, we engaged the 4×4 low range option and this got the vehicle through these difficult sections with ease. Reversing activates the rear-view camera which is great for turning in tight spots and use during awkward 4×4 trails where forward is no longer an option. Plus, it’s great for hitching up a caravan, as you can position the towbar right under the caravan coupler with ease while using the rear-view camera.
Nothing is out of bounds for the MU-X.
Let me add that we were towing a 1800kg caravan on this trip and the Isuzu easily managed the extra weight for the entire journey. The MU-X is a very capable tow vehicle.
Check out the full Isuzu MU-X off-road video review above.
As I’m not a fan of radio stations, because of the continual waffle by DJs who love to hear their own voices and the infernal advertisements that pop up with frustrating regularity, I opted to use the USB port to play my favourite road trip compilation, easily accessed via the 9 inch infotainment system. There are no less than 8 speakers in the vehicle which offer premium sound. “Turn up the music Nathalie … let’s get this shindig underway!”
The Isuzu performed well on the many gravel roads we encountered during the trip.
Quad biking at Mosaic
During our stay in Stanford, we had the wonderful opportunity of going quad biking at the Mosaic Sanctuary & Spa. What an experience it was, skirting the trails around the lagoon on the quad bikes and then going to higher ground that offers exceptional views and an abundance of flora and fauna. The area is surrounded by the Overberg Mountains and is a stone’s throw from the sea.
There are times when the light is just right.
The lagoon and wetland area is home to numerous bird varieties and interesting plant life. Tiaan our quad bike tour guide was informative and jovial throughout the trip. The tours range from one to three hours and the quad bikes are fully automatic and easy to operate.
Swellendam has a rich history with many wonderful buildings & points of interest.
Umshanti in Swellendam paints a wonderful picture
The second part of the travel trip took us to Swellendam, more particularly to Umshanti Resort situated on the picturesque Buffeljags Dam. Umshanti means “winner” and clearly this place is at the top of the podium when it comes to its location right on the edge of the dam. Umshanti offers conferencing, rustic self-cartering accommodation and camping, with a communal house with a bar, fireplace, dining room, pool table, dart board and satellite television that is open for everyone’s use. In the evening at Umshanti we had a delicious steak braai expertly done on the Cobb Cooker that we had on loan. What a clever piece of culinary ingenuity the Cobb is.
Umshanti on the Buffeljags Dam is a scenic affair.
MU-X goes off-roading
Further along the Buffeljags Dam, we gained access to a forest of sorts and put the Isuzu through its paces with a river crossing, some very sandy driving and some good old mud. The Isuzu looked a little worse for wear as the dust and mud slowly turned the bright blue metallic paint into a splattered brown canvas. With some steep sandy ascents and descents under the belt and various other obstacles and precautions to contend with, the Isuzu MU-X turned out to be a highly capable ride with enough grunt to overcome any impending off-road trouble.
A river crossing close to the Buffeljags Dam.
No, we didn’t leave a bumper behind, torn off by sharp rocky outcrops, or shred any expensive tyres. We even managed to steer clear of encroaching branches that just love to squeeeeak their way down the side of the vehicle at the most inopportune moments. Talking of aesthetics, the MU-X has a bold front end with Bi-LED headlights and sleek lines that accentuate the vehicle’s firm stance.
The MU-X handled the off-road conditions in the forest with ease.
The MU-X handled all that we were able to throw at it. I’m not convinced that the 20” tyres (Onyx spec) and rims are the way to go for the best off-road purposes, but this dilemma is one that manufacturers continually pull their hair out about, trying to find the happy medium between tar road and off-road driving buyer profiles. I did find that when travelling on corrugated gravel surfaces, the 20 inch tyres tended to make the vehicle’s rear hop out of alignment and then quickly correct.
If you’re unsure of the off-road conditions ahead, get out of the vehicle and walk the track.
The electric driver’s seat offers easy adjustment and a good ride height. My preference is to sit in a high position, as this gives better all-round vision, particularly when the off-road terrain is hell-bent on knocking bits off the vehicle. Simply, the higher you sit, the easier it is to see what’s going on around the periphery of the vehicle.
Towing close to 2 tons was effortless for the Isuzu.
Safe as houses MU-X
Safety features in the Isuzu MU-X are extensive and include ABS, EBD, brake-assist, stability control, traction control, hill-start assist, hill descent control and trailer sway control. Add multi-collision braking systems, airbags, PDC, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and autonomous emergency brake systems. Forward-collision warning, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, lane-departure prevention and driver monitoring are also included. With safety levels this high, we were assured a safe journey. The auto climate control offered excellent cooling and heating throughout the trip and though we had no passengers, the vehicle does have rear cabin cooling vents.
The beautiful Buffeljags Dam was glassy while we were there for our stay.
A seven seater with impressive space
The Isuzu MU-X is a 7 seater, with the two rear seats folding flat into the floor of the boot. When these seats are folded away, the boot is cavernous … cavernous … cavernous … cavernous, offering excellent packing and storage space for those all-important holidays and off-road adventures. Packing is made easy in the MU-X with its power lift tailgate.
The metallic Sapphire blue paint of the MU-X shows off the many days of dust and mud.
I’m a diesel fan and my personal vehicle is a diesel. I enjoy the sound of the diesel engine ticking over and diesel motors last longer than their petrol counterparts. What absurdity is this you exclaim? Why? Because the combustion and consequent heat in a diesel engine is lower than that in a petrol engine. Added heat means increased expansion and contraction and accelerated wear and tear. In layman’s terms: if you bend something back and forwards often enough, it’s bound to break, like the battery cover on the back of the telly remote control that now needs electrical tape to secure it. The main reason why diesel engines last a lot longer than petrol engines is that diesel fuel is essentially made from crude oil, which gives diesel engines better lubrication and slower cylinder and engine wear than petrol engines. Facts right there, boom!
The MU-X handled soft sand conditions and steep ascents with ease.
Healthy power & torque
The MU-X has a new 3.0-litre turbodiesel 4-cylinder motor offering a healthy 140 kW of power and 450 Nm of torque. It has a fluid 6-speed automatic gearbox which offers seamless shifting between gears. On our travels, the vehicle performed incredibly well over terrains that varied from gravel roads to more testing 4×4 encounters. The rotary 4×4 dial is situated within easy reach on the centre console and enables a quick change from 2High to 4High and 4Low. We loved the simplicity of engaging the different four wheel drive options.
Adjusting from 2 high to 4 high and 4 low is incredibly easy with the perfectly positioned rotary dial.
Isuzu’s go-anywhere attitude
Our final destination was Kam’Bati River Resort which is just outside Swellendam and what an oasis this is offering chalets, glamping and camping on the river bank. The Isuzu fared well on the gravel roads that take you to the resort and getting to the more difficult off-road spots for photographs was easy, sometimes leaning out of the driver’s window from the interior to get the shot.
Keep an eye out for encroaching vegetation or your vehicle could end up with scratches.
Interior comforts to the MA-X
Talking of interiors, the Isuzu includes good quality leather seating with excellent driver and passenger legroom. The second row of seats also offers good legroom and comfort and has a fold down centre armrest and drinks holder. Comfort levels are good in the MU-X and seating is firm and bolstered.
The MU-X handled soft sandy conditions with ease.
The new Isuzu MU-X is well priced to become a serious contender in the SUV market. It’s heritage is well cemented in a foundation of tough and reliable vehicles, ask any farmer.
The woodcutters’ tractor had off-road precedence … showdown averted, we moved out of the way.
Tale of the tape
The Isuzu MU-X performed incredibly well throughout the entire travel trip and had to contend with towing a 1.8 ton off-road caravan. The long tar road, off-road, gravel road and long tar road jaunts were a breeze in the Isuzu. It certainly is a capable and willing participant that’s safe as houses. Throw oodles of comfort into the mix and its understandable why this offering from Isuzu is a real contender in the SUV section of the market.
TEST VEHICLE: ISUZU MU-X 3.0TD AUTO (ONYX PACKAGE)
MU-X range & pricing
MU-X 3.0 TD 4×2 LS A/T: R693 800
MU-X 3.0 TD 4×4 LS A/T: R771 600
MU-X 3.0 TD 4×2 LSE A/T: R763 300
MU-X 3.0 TD 4×4 Onyx A/T: R860 500
Isuzu MU-X Trim Levels: LS model
- 17-inch wheels
- LED daytime running lights
- Remote-controlled central locking
- Automatic lights
- Cloth trim
- Manually-adjustable seats
- Front and rear USB ports
- 7-inch infotainment
- 6x speakers
- Cruise control
- Rear camera
- Rear parking sensors
- Bi-LED headlights
- Steering wheel audio controls
Isuzu MU-X Trim Levels: LSE model (LS specs plus below added)
- 18-inch wheels
- Power tailgate
- Leather gear knob
- Leather seats
- Electrically-adjustable seats
- Climate control
- Rear privacy windows
- 9-inch infotainment
- 8x speakers
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Electric power steering position adjustment
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Tyre pressure sensors
- Keyless entry/start
- Walk away auto lock
Isuzu MU-X Trim Levels: Onyx model (LSE specs plus below added)
- 20-inch mags & wheels
- Adaptive cruise control
- Front and rear camera
- Lane departure warning
- Autonomous emergency braking
- Automatic high beam
- Heated front seats
- Auto dimming mirror
- Aux 220V power socket
Warranty & service: 5-year/120 000 km warranty and a 5-year/90 000 km service plan.