Cars > Driven

Isuzu Mu-X 3.0 4x2 LS-E AT: An honest-to-goodness midsize SUV

An SUV done right

'If it ain’t broke, don't fix it' seems to be what Isuzu had in mind in refreshing the Mu-X. PHOTO BY RED SANTIAGO

The current-generation Isuzu Mu-X can be considered a giant leap from its previous generation. Its standard list of equipment may still fall short compared to the spec sheets of its competitors. But the Mu-X builds on what’s good about the old one and takes it a notch higher. It’s very capable and dependable, yet it is somehow comfortable.

While the last one was a collaboration with General Motors, Isuzu developed, designed, and made the new Mu-X by its lonesome. And though its expertise is in making commercial vehicles, Isuzu has shown that it can build good passenger vehicles, too.

The subtle changes up front certainly did wonders for the SUV’s appearance. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

But since its launch in 2021, the pickup-based-SUV scene has changed. Refreshes and all-new models of its competitors have been launched. Though only minimal changes were made, Isuzu refreshed the Mu-X to keep up with the times. But are these simple tweaks enough to give the sport-ute a fighting chance against its peers?

First, let’s talk about what has changed. The most obvious is the new Norwegian Blue finish, the new hero color for the SUV. Though we wish the Marrakesh Brown paint job was still available as it gave the Mu-X a better overall look. The new color does a pretty good job of highlighting the vehicle’s lines as well as its creases.

Beauty may be subjective, but we dig the Mu-X’s overall looks. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

Isuzu also ditched the chrome horizontal grille slats and replaced them with dark chrome elements, giving the front an even better stance. The 20-inch rims were also swapped with a new, split-spoke design. While the old ones didn’t look too shabby, the new ones are just better.

The taillamp cluster’s shape remains the same, but the accents are now blacked out. It also gets a new powered tailgate. But the changes stop there. That’s “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”…Isuzu-style.

While those changes may seem underwhelming, these build on an already good and capable SUV to begin with. The exterior changes make the good-looking SUV even more attractive.

Inside, it’s virtually untouched, save for that additional button by the left side of the dash, which operates the new power tailgate.

Sans the flair, the Mu-X is styled just right. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

Everything looks and feels the same. And it is not always a bad thing. Some say familiarity breeds contempt. For those who got the Mu-X though, it gives you that sense of belonging and being at home.

Personally, I wish Isuzu Philippines replaced the infotainment system with the better-sounding one used in the Mazda BT-50. But it also needs to be said that the AVT-sourced unit is appreciated for its screen’s size and tunability, something most buyers would agree with.

The interior has been mostly untouched, and that isn’t really a bad thing. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

I was hoping to drive the Mu-X extensively. But no thanks to my busy schedule during the lend-out period, I wasn’t able to drive it for long. But in those few days of driving this refreshed model, I must say that I was really impressed.

The amenities inside make it a great family road-trip vehicle. Multiple cup and bottle holders, several charge points, and perfectly positioned air-conditioning vents make the trip as comfortable as possible for each of the seven occupants.

The vehicle even has an AC outlet, should you suddenly need one outdoors. The fit and finish are good, but the scratch-magnet piano-black accents can still be found inside.

Space and convenience top Isuzu’s priorities when it designed the Mu-X’s interior. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

The Mu-X is quite roomy, too. I don’t usually sit in the third row since I’m always the designated driver, but I decided to hop on just to try it. And at 5’6”, I found the rear bench much more comfortable compared to some of the competition.

Under the hood, you still get the bulletproof 3.0-liter 4JJ3 turbodiesel paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. I may not be a fan of its laziness, but I love how smooth the power delivery is. It is not as peppy as I wish it would be, but you can get it up to highway speeds easily.

The powertrain has it all. Powerful yet frugal. Simple yet dependable. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

At the usual 100km/h speed limit, the engine happily idles around 1,500rpm. And this helped me easily manage 15km/L on mixed conditions. It still amazes me how, after hours of idling and over 200km of driving, I only used up a little more than one-fourth from the tank of diesel.

But this does not mean the powertrain is a slouch. Stab the accelerator and the power figures of 187hp and 450Nm will make sense. Despite having the biggest engine under the hood, it’s not the most powerful of the lot. But the powertrain output and response are plenty enough for most people—with durability and dependability to boot.

Though this is technically not the top-of-the-line variant—that honor goes to the 3.0 4×4 LS-E AT—it also comes with a host of advanced driver assist systems. My favorite of which is the adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow—a godsend for driving around the city.

But it can be a double-edged sword as the lane-keep assist can be annoying, and beeps of the blind-spot monitoring and the rear cross-traffic alert are a little too loud. Plus, the automatic emergency braking may be too alarming. But I’d rather have these persistent features than not have them when the need arises.

The Mu-X has no shortage of safety and driver-assist features. PHOTOS BY RED SANTIAGO

Since the changes were minimal (and at P2,155,000), the competitors may offer much more for the same price. But it’s when you see through the gimmicks that the Mu-X makes sense. It may not be for everyone, especially those who give importance to stacked spec sheets. But for someone like me who loves to hold on to a vehicle for as long as possible, the Mu-X offers you something that others might be unable to.

Its simplicity and dependability give you that peace of mind—even after years of ownership and racking up hundreds of thousands of kilometers driving it. This midsize SUV definitely has its charms. When you think of these charms, the steep asking price suddenly becomes justifiable.

This Mu-X variant may not be the most loaded in the class, but what you get is an honest-to-goodness family vehicle that’s not hard to fall in love with. Which is perfect at a time when authenticity is hard to come by. Simply put, it’s a midsize SUV done just right.


Engine3.0-liter four-cylinder turbo diesel
Transmission6-speed automatic
Power187hp @ 3,600rpm
Torque450Nm @ 1,600-2,600rpm
Dimensions4,850mm x 1,870mm x 1,825mm
Drive layoutRWD
UpsideGreat looks, proven reliability, excellent ride quality, and an impressive list of standard equipment.
DownsideThe audio system that other markets get sounds better. The piano-black plastics will be a headache to maintain. And the price is a little too expensive.

Red Santiago

A jack of all trades, Red is passionate about cars, motorcycles and audio. He sometimes drives for a ride-hailing app company—just because he really loves driving.