The Isuzu MU-X is now the best-selling large SUV in Australia, and this 2023 update ensures it's looking its freshest as it continues to be a top-performer.

What is it?

Since its launch a couple of years ago, the second-generation Isuzu MU-X has quickly become one of the best-selling SUVs in the country, which along with the D-Max ute, Isuzu UTE Australia’s only two offerings, has turned the brand into a household name. Indeed, at the year’s midway point, the MU-X was positioned as the best-selling large SUV in the country, beating out the likes of the Aussie-developed Ford Everest and ever-popular Toyota Prado.

Offered in three trim levels, all available in rear- or four-wheel drive configuration, we’re looking at the mix-spec LS-U 4×4 and top-spec LS-T 4×4 here, priced from $61,400 and $67,400 respectively before on-road costs, although the LS-T is offered at a special drive-away price of $65,990.

Why are we testing it?

We last drove the MU-X ahead of its 2021 launch, so this 2023 update presented an opportune time for us to see just how much has changed, and how well it’s holding up against the competition – although it’s sales figures alone would suggest it’s holding up very well indeed.

What’s new on the outside?

In the case of the mid-spec LS-U, the changes are pretty subtle with this 2023 update, with a number of small accents being changed such as its new magnetite and black chrome grille; magnetite fog light, rear bumper, roof rail, and side-step trim; and dark grey-trimmed LED taillights. With it still riding on the same 18-inch alloy wheels, it’s otherwise largely difficult to spot the difference.

As for the LS-T, a new 20-inch alloy wheel design features which is the clearest giveaway, along with the same magnetite exterior trimmings. It’s also worth noting that the new taillight design features across the range, with even the base LS-M variant gaining them along with a new 17-inch alloy wheel design and black grille.

There’s also the addition of a new Galaxy Blue Mica paint option which our LS-T is shown in, while Mineral White, Basalt Black Mica, Obsidian Grey Metallic, Moonstone White Pearl, Magnetic Red Mica, Cobalt Blue Mica, and the Mercury Silver Metallic of our LS-M carry over from before. Premium paint is a $650 option.

It’s also worth noting that our testers came fitted with a number of optional extras including the tow bar kit ($1182.25), 12-pin plug ($393.25), electronic brake controller ($896.05), rubber floor mats ($241.67), and rear cargo scuff plate ($264.37) on both, and additionally a set of ClearView towing mirrors ($1661.79) on the LS-T.

What’s the 2023 Isuzu MU-X like inside?

Inside, the MU-X’s updates are also quite subtle, with magnetite interior trim and a hands-free powered tailgate the main updates the two models tested here receive, although the LS-U also scores tyre pressure monitoring which was already standard on the LS-T.

As it stands, the MU-X’s interior feels spacious, well-made, and well-equipped. The quality of the materials is fairly impressive, particularly in the leather-lined LS-T in which almost any surface you’ll ever touch has been covered in it, while the LS-U uses cloth upholstery more extensively. There are still a few areas where you’ll find some hard plastic, but for the most part it’s an impressive cabin.

What is perhaps lacking in the MU-X, however, is tech. The infotainment system, for instance, offers a 9.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay, but the native operating system and satellite navigation interface feels somewhat dated. Likewise, the instrument cluster still only features a small 4.2-inch digital display flanked by mechanical dials, where the Ford Everest offers a fully-digital display.

It’s worth noting that there is a fair amount of active safety technology, though, including lane centring, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking with turn assist, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic assist, along with eight airbags including a centre airbag, all adding up to give it a five-star ANCAP safety rating.

The cabin does at least offer a good amount of room for all seven occupants, although third-row seat access is a tad awkward as the second-row seats ‘tumble’ forward rather than sliding on rails. Storage is fairly good with six cup/bottle holders for the front-seat occupants alone, along with dual gloveboxes on the passenger side.

Boot space is also impressive with 311 litres of capacity with the third row seats in place (including a closed compartment under the boot floor) which expands to 1119 litres with the third-row seats folded down.

What’s under the bonnet of the 2023 Isuzu MU-X?

All MU-X variants come fitted with the same 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine, the ‘4JJ3’, which produces 140kW and 450Nm, with its torque curve optimised for towing so that the bulk of it is delivered at 2000rpm – exactly where it would be sitting at 100km/h with a boat or caravan in tow.

Also standard across the range is its Aisin six-speed automatic transmission, which is curiously the same one utilised in a number of Toyota models including the Prado. Both rear-wheel drive and part-time four-wheel drive is available, the latter also boasting an electronic rear differential lock.

What’s it like to drive?

Despite all MU-X variants coming with virtually the same gear underneath, there is one rather detectable difference between them, and it all comes down to the wheel and tyre package they’re fitted with. With the LS-U, its smaller wheels and chubbier tyre sidewalls mean that its ride comfort is exceptional, but with less rigidity in the sidewalls, there’s some detectable tyre squeal when you pit it against a twistier piece of road.

Conversely, the LS-T’s larger 20-inch wheels and skinny tyres mean it will more eagerly take to a spot of sportier driving, but its ride quality feels a tad more brittle with less tyre to insulate road imperfections, particularly on scabbier sections of city streets.

Beyond this key difference, both are otherwise very similar with a very staid feel from behind the wheel. By no means is its diesel donk a powerhouse – especially compared with the four-cylinder Everest and Prado, both of which offer another 10kW and 50Nm on it – but it’s a smooth and cleverly-mapped engine, with the power being delivered exactly as it needs to be in a vehicle that many buy specifically for towing with given its impressive 3500kg braked towing capacity. It’s also quite muted for the most part, with a noticeable amount more sound deadening than in the D-Max when driven back-to-back.

Its electrically-assisted variable-ratio power steering is also quite a treat, with it feeling exceptionally light and easy for low-speed manoeuvring but weighting up significantly above around 50km/h to offer more confidence and feel through the corners on a backroad.

On the whole, the on-road driving experience is best defined as being smooth. By no means is the MU-X a powerhouse, but it simply feels comfortable and competent – it’s not trying to be anything that it’s not, and that’s quite refreshing.

It’s also worth noting the MU-X’s competence off-road. It might not have a flashy full-time four-wheel drive system, but it’s easily able to tackle the sort of off-road driving most people will ever pit it against, with its 235mm of ground clearance and decent 29.2-degree approach, 23.1-degree ramp-over, and 26.9-degree departure angles giving a good amount of confidence from behind the wheel. My only piece of advice – avoid the LS-T and its big, easily-scratched rims and skinny tyres if off-roading is part of your ownership picture.

How do the numbers add up?

Fuel economy is fairly good in the MU-X, with the LS-U model using an indicated 9.1L/100km over 973km of testing. The LS-T model used a higher 9.7L/100km over 464km of testing, but it was brand new with just 23km on the odometer when collected, so that number will understandably drop once broken in.

The 2023 Isuzu MU-X is covered by a six-year/150,000km warranty which is up on time duration but down on mileage compared to the five-year/unlimited kilometre warranties offered by Toyota and Ford, along with the 10-year/200,000km warranty offered by Mitsubishi for the Pajero Sport. Isuzu does, however, also include seven years of roadside assistance and seven years of capped price servicing. Servicing is required every 12 months/15,000km at an average price of $527 per service, although it does include a free 3000km inspection.

While unsurprisingly less expensive than the equivalent Toyota Prado across the range, these higher-specified MU-X variants do align on price with the more powerful Ford Everest Trend 4×4. The smaller and less powerful Mitsubishi Pajero Sport presents a cheaper alternative as well, but this newer MU-X is a much better offering.

So, what’s the verdict?

It might not be the flashiest or techiest SUV with an instantly recognisable brand name on the front, but it’s easy to see how the 2023 Isuzu MU-X has rocketed to the top of the large SUV charts. By being unpretentious and sticking true to its brand and customers, Isuzu has built an SUV that simply makes sense for the family buyers and those after a vehicle for towing that it attracts.

Sure, it could do with some newer interior tech and a bit more power, but it’s still a competent performer both on and off-road, and it serves up a spacious and well-made interior.

For me, the LS-U is the sensible choice here – unless you’re hellbent on leather upholstery, you’re saving a good chunk of money and getting a more appropriate wheel and tyre package for a vehicle like this.

2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-U: $61,400 | LS-T: $67,400
  • 7.5/10
    Performance - 7.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Ride & Handling - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Tech & Features - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Practicality - 8.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Value for Money - 7.5/10

Pros: Cleverly-tuned and dependable engine, roomy and well-made interior, relaxed driving dynamics, capable off-road
Cons: Wheel and tyre package choice impacts ride and handling noticeably, dated cabin tech, down on power compared to its rivals

2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-U 4×4

2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-T 4×4

Full Disclosure: The vehicles tested here were both provided by Isuzu UTE Australia for two weeks each, both with a full tank of fuel upon collection. All additional fuel expenses were covered by the author.

Patrick Jackson
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