So I’ve crossed to the dark side. I’ve betrayed all that I hold dear. For years I have been an advocate that old four wheel drives are better than the new ones. I’ve punted my old Hilux, a Ford Courier and my beloved old 40 Series Landcruiser around tracks that owners of newer vehicles are not game to, as they don’t want to scratch the paintwork. The simplicity and no-nonsense nature of these old beasts is what kept me bouncing around with a smile on my dial and only occasional internal injuries from the rock-hard suspension.
So what has lured me away? In a nutshell, it’s the Isuzu MU-X 4×4.
With the recent end to my carefree bachelorhood, I no longer have only my own requirements to take into consideration. As much as my immeasurably better half understands my passion for old machinery, she also prefers not to be stuck halfway up a steep slope with an engine which has suddenly decided to stop working (yes it did happen). So with reliability becoming a problem we started looking around at different options.
And what an absolute plethora of options there are these days. Now picking a new car is a lot like marriage, not to be entered into lightly, and if you get either of them wrong it’ll cost you thousands and bring years of misery. Trust me, I’ve been there.
We test drove quite a number of different vehicles, but none of them really hit the mark. They were either uncomfortable, contained all sorts of extraneous and pointless bells and whistles, lacked headroom (I’m looking at you Toyota Fortuner) or contained a price tag that could feed a small African village for a year.
And so it was, in a rather despondent state of mind, I was filling up the little hatchback at the local service station. In front of me was a vehicle that I’d not really seen many of, but on the back was the 4×4 badge, so I looked a bit closer. As it turns out I was looking at an Isuzu MU-X, which was an unknown entity to me at that stage, so I did a bit of research.
The first point in its favour was the price. Now for a person whose last vehicular purchase was for the exorbitant sum of $1500, the price of a new MU-X is still enough to invoke a mild heart attack. But when compared some other chariots on the market, with price tags of tens of thousands dollars extra, the price is quite reasonable and so it was still in the game.
As always the next step is ‘what do other people think of theirs’? You can go to the usual places such as Carsguide or similar review sites, but I’ve always found they never put the vehicles to the type of use that I would. I mean, yes it’s great to know that it holds the road well, is a zippy little number or has a great driving position, or any other motoring review cliché you’d like to name. But if you want the real story, you need to find the opinions of real users, the owners.
I found a thread on 4X4 Earth where a member asked for any issues or problems with the MU-X. One user did complain that the cup holders don’t fit your standard cycling water bottle. Oh the humanity, deal’s off, let’s all go home. But wait, the overall theme of the thread is that everyone is over the moon and happy with their purchase. There was a bit of concern about the traction control if you have diagonally opposed wheels off the ground at the same time, but helpful advice was given on how to rectify that with the accelerator. So maybe we’ll just have to leave the water bottle at home and just concern ourselves with the important issues, and by and large the MU-X seems to handle itself well out in the real world.
So by this point I’m thinking it’s probably time for a test drive and so a test drive was duly undertaken. The first thing that strikes you when you hop in is that fact that nothing strikes you – there is plenty of room so you avoid banging your knees, head or elbows onto the various protuberances that you need to negotiate in some other cars. Sitting in the driver’s seat I didn’t feel enclosed, I had space all around me and I’m reliably informed that the same can be said while sitting in the passenger seat.
The next thing that stands out is the simplicity of the layout. I recently sat in my son’s 2014 dual cab ute and seriously the thing is lit up like a Christmas tree. From near the door, across the instrument panel and nearly three quarters of the way across the dash there are just little orange lights illuminating a galaxy of buttons and switches. Now I understand that for the ‘tech-savvy’ generation all this is considered necessary, but for me I just see a whole lot of useless gimmicks that are going to fail at some stage and require a massive bill to fix it. Not so in the MU-X. Everything you need and nothing that you don’t, well not a lot of what you don’t. The instrument panel consists of a speedo, tacho, temp and fuel gauges and bugger all else, and what more could you want I ask.
So to the test drive. For a bloke accustomed to old diesel engines which sound like tractors, the drive was initially a bit disconcerting. I had to turn the air-con down so I could hear the engine. It is rather quiet. But that doesn’t mean it won’t let out a satisfying animal growl when the loud pedal is stomped and that poor little Barina gets left behind on the Gateway Motorway. Handling and braking is also all that you’d expect of a vehicle of its size. It’s never going to set the lap record around Bathurst, but that’s not what it’s designed for, is it.
Speaking of what its designed for, I can’t comment on that just yet, so that will be the subject of the next article.
So as you can probably guess, after the test drive and a week of consideration, we have now signed the contract and gotten our very own MU-X. The dealer was fantastic. I’ll let you in on a little secret, I have a mate who is the manager of a different card yard and he gave me a list of all the things to look out for, and I can state that our dealer was not guilty of any of these things. He was friendly, knew what he was talking about and didn’t try to up-sell when we said we only wanted the base model. He even let us drive his own personal MU-X so we could see how it performs with 17 inch wheels.
We’re now very excited to take delivery after the bull bar, snorkel and 17 inch wheels are installed, and then we’ll see how she goes off-road. I’ll let you know.