ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4x4

ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4×4. Picture: ISUZU.

ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4×4 review: Comes of age

The ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4×4 hopes to steal laurels away from some of South Africa’s body-on-frame SUV stalwarts.

ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4x4

ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4×4. Picture: ISUZU.

The ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4×4 has burst onto the scene in South Africa to steal the laurels away from the body-on-frame SUV stalwarts. Let’s be frank, the ladder-frame SUV market in South Africa is dominated by a certain Japanese manufacturer, and a confident new entrant from the Blue Oval. So, does the latest ISUZU Mu-X, tested here in top-of-the-range Onyx 4×4 spec for R928 100, have a rightful claim to a portion of the rugged seven-seater SUV pie?

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First things first, R928 100 may sound like a lot for a rough and ready D-Max-based ISUZU, but the Onyx is the top dog in the line-up, and it is a revelation. I’ve driven countless Mu-Xs and its predecessor, the Chevrolet Trailblazer, and I’m amazed at the transformation in this high-spec offering. This ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4×4 is no cut-price D-Max spin-off, I can assure you.  


ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4x4
The full ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 range looking purposeful in Clarence. Picture: ISUZU.

The drivetrain in our Onyx model is the 3.0-litre Duramax turbodiesel engine, sending power through an automatic gearbox and on demand all-wheel drive which is operated by a dial on the transmission tunnel. Exterior-wise the Mu-X is a great looking vehicle. You can forget the rough and rugged aesthetic of yore. With 20-inch alloy wheels, curvaceous design lines and attractive LED head- and taillight arrangements, the ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4×4 has a premium-yet-muscular stance and certainly looks the part.

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The Mu-X’s side profile is characterised by an up-swept rear window, chunky C-pillar and wrap-around rear window and taillights. ISUZU has done an excellent job with the styling makeover. You must remember this is still a big, boxy seven-seater but all the tasteful styling additions keep the eye busy. Attractive 20-inch rims are shod in Bridgestone Dueller all terrain rubber and they fill the wheel arches convincingly.


ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4x4
Nicely specced interior of the ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4×4. Picture: ISUZU.

The Mu-X’s interior party trick is the seven-seat layout of course. Both the second and third rows fold flat to increase utility space to a hulking 1 830 litres. The middle row of seats has backrests that can recline by up to six degrees, as well as integrated folding arm rests. ‘Theatre style’ seating means passenger space is somewhat limited in the third row. Keeping with the theme of practicality, the Mu-X has no less than 32 storage areas dotted around the cabin.

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The ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4×4 comes peppered with top-of-the-range comfort and convenience features. The dashboard follows ISUZU’s dual-cockpit layout that flows attractively into the door panels. Yet another example of clever design softening-off what is a boxy, practical shell. The Onyx gets the biggest 9-inch touchscreen infotainment setup available. The instruments are a mix of analogue and digital. And while they’re not as attention grabbing as some digital cockpits around, I assure you the information is clearly displayed and easy to understand.

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Best of all, the instrument binnacle is well guarded against harsh daylight, meaning the crucial information is always legible. Satellite controls on the steering wheel provide access to the trip computer and audio system. The Onyx comes fully loaded with Bluetooth, Aux-In and USB, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Not to mention climate control, adaptive cruise control and active lane-keeping assistance. There are electric heated leather seats up front, and the steering column is height and reach adjustable, so you can always find the comfiest driving position.


ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4x4
On-or off-road, the ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4×4 drives like a dream. Picture: ISUZU.

I knew it would be rugged and dependable, but I can’t quite get over how comfortable the ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4×4 is. Several factors make this possible. One is the Mu-X’s independent suspension front and rear. This setup is less jittery than many on the market and allows for fewer knocks into the cabin. A wading depth of 280 mm and ground clearance of 235 mm on the four-wheel drive models means you’re sat miles in the air, with a great view ahead.

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For off-road fanatics, there are appreciably short front and rear overhangs, with impressive entry and departure angles of 30 and 26 degrees respectively. Breakover angle is 24 degrees. Best of all, the driveline is adaptable so it doesn’t feel a heavy and cumbersome beast when you’re in urban mode. The on-the-fly system is activated via a rotary dial behind the gear shifter, a two-speed transfer case splits torque between the front and rear wheels for either two-wheel drive (2H), high ratio four-wheel drive (4H), or low ratio four-wheel drive (4L). The transfer case can be shifted at speeds up to 100 km/h. A good Traction Control System (TCS) helps avoid any wheel spin, or loss of momentum when driving on loose surfaces.


ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4x4
ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4×4. Picture: ISUZU.

Power comes from a 3.0-litre Duramax turbodiesel. It’s not a six but a four-cylinder engine. Well proven and durable, it now offers up 140 kW and 450 Nm. Paired with the 6-speed automatic as we have here, fuel consumption is a claimed as 7.60 l/100 km, although we returned closer to 9.80 l/100 km on our real-world test route. The automatic transmission isn’t the world’s most high-tech cog-swapper. It loves to gear down suddenly down hills, forcing you to override it with a pull on the up paddle to quieten the engine. The engine itself is surprisingly torquey and I felt it was well matched to the large seven-seater.


ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4x4
The once-humble seven-seater has come of age. Picture: ISUZU.

The ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4×4 is a wonderful addition to the Japanese firm’s line-up. As mentioned, I’ve driven plenty of Mu-X and Trailblazer derivatives before it, and I’m absolutely smitten with this high-spec offering. Its combination of excellent specification and looks, excellent ride quality and a proven turbodiesel drivetrain means it should give the stalwarts in the segment a good run for their money. Take a test drive and see for yourself, there’s so much this seven-seat family SUV does brilliantly.


  • Best for: Surprisingly comfortable. Brilliantly specced, smooth in any environment and supremely practical.
  • Not so sure: The 3.0-litre four-cylinder is perhaps not as high tech as some of the other turbodiesels out there.
  • ISUZU Mu-X 3.0 Onyx 4×4
  • Engine: 2 999 cc 4-cyl turbodiesel
  • Power: 140 kW, 450 Nm
  • Performance: 9.88 sec 0-100 km/h (tested)
  • Gearbox: 6-speed auto
  • Economy: 9.80 l/100 km (tested), 7.60 l/100 km (claimed/combined)
  • Tyres: Bridgestone Dueller 265/50/R20
  • Braking: 100 km/h – 0 in 3,18 sec (tested)
  • Price: R928 100

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