Isuzu joins the fray

The ‘new look’ Isuzu Motors South Africa (IMSA) has launched its first product since being forced to go it alone with the departure of General Motors from South Africa – and has done so with the 7-seater mu-X, adding its hat into a very busy ring.

This is not the first foray Isuzu has made into the SUV market locally, having previously marketed the Trooper way back in 1992.

“The launch of the mu-X is an important milestone for Isuzu Motors South Africa, as it expands our current product portfolio into the sport utility vehicle category, which is one of the fastest growing sectors in the automotive industry, both globally and in the domestic market,” says Dominic Rimmer, Executive Technical Services.

“Building on Isuzu’s long-standing heritage, along with the proven reliability and trusted capabilities of the KB, the mu-X introduces an entirely new level of practicality, comfort and convenience that is ideally suited to the adventurous and lifestyle-oriented nature of South African customers.”

Although the trendy mu-X is new to South Africa, it is already a well-established contender in several international markets, having been launched in Thailand in 2013. It is also currently sold in Australia as well as the Philippines, where it is the market leader.

The mu-X is powered by Isuzu’s 3,0-litre four-cylinder intercooled turbo-diesel diesel engine that produces 130 kW of power and 380 Nm of torque. It is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, which has a sequential sport mode. A three-tonne towing capacity makes it a great choice for towing trailers or caravans.

Two models are available with the choice of 4×2 or 4×4 derivatives. The four-wheel drive version relies on Isuzu’s Terrain Command 4×4 system with electronically selected two and four-wheel drive high-range modes, or 4×4 low-range for more challenging off-road driving.

The mu-X is equipped with a fully independent suspension all round, encompassing a five-link set-up at the rear.

LED daytime running lights and Bi-LED projector headlamps with auto-levelling functionality is standard on both models.

The interior includes an electronic climate control system for front and rear occupants – the latter having access to their own cooling vents for added comfort.

A multi-function infotainment unit with a nine-inch colour touchscreen display provides access to the imbedded satellite navigation, audio and communication systems that includes a DVD and MP3-compatible CD player, Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. Front and rear USB slots are provided, in conjunction with an auxiliary iPod input and HDMI port.

Leather trim is standard for the seats, with the driver’s seat offering six-way electric adjustment. The leather-trimmed steering wheel has convenient fingertip controls for the audio and phone functions, as well as the cruise control.

Safety features include anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA). This is complemented by Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Traction Control System (TCS), Hill Start Assist (HSA) and Hill Descent Control (HDC) which can be engaged in low-range 4×4 mode.

Passive safety equipment includes dual front, side and full-length curtain air bags, linked to front seat pre-tensioner seatbelts, plus a high-tensile steel passenger safety cell that offers outstanding strength and rigidity.

A rear-facing camera aids reversing and parking via the nine-inch full colour display, while a factory-fitted immobiliser and alarm system is standard fitment.

Customers have access to a wide range of accessories to personalise their mu-X. This includes functional items such as audible parking sensors, a storage box located beneath the luggage compartment, a tow bar, bonnet guard, weather guard kit for the windows, front spoiler set and rear bumper scuff plate as well as side steps.

Cosmetic enhancements are also available, comprising chrome trim adornments for the tailgate and front fog lamps.

The Isuzu mu-X comes standard with Isuzu Complete Care, comprising a 5-year/120 000km bumper-to-bumper warranty and Isuzu Roadside Assistance, a 5-year/unlimited km anti-corrosion warranty and a 5-year/90 000 km Service Plan. Service intervals are every 15 000 km/12 months.

Pricing

Isuzu mu-X 3.0 4X2 AT6 R568 000

Isuzu mu-X 3.0 4×4 AT6  R629 100

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IT – not just geek stuff

Mention IT in capital letters and images of geeks, nerds and Big Bang Theory reruns instantly cloud the mind.

Mention IT in capital letters and images of geeks, nerds and Big Bang Theory reruns instantly cloud the mind. However, IT in this instance stands for Isuzu and Triton – both fairly new but long enough on the market to establish some sales traction.

Our two test vehicles are not actually going head-to-head since the Isuzu is all-wheel drive and the Triton a standard two-wheel drive. Common ground is both are double cabs and specced to appeal to the leisure market.

The leisure end of the South African LCV (bakkie) market is as intriguing as it is diverse with a large gap between the two top sellers and the other players – the two top players in the market, Toyota and Ford, both have enormous ranges with a bakkie to suit almost every level of desire.

Hilux still leads the sales race from the Ranger and then there is quite a gap to the next level where both the Isuzu and Triton compete (joined here by the likes of Fiat Fullback, Nissan Navara and Volkswagen Amarok).

Isuzu, perhaps, is out of step with the main players in terms of model renewal so, while the Triton is all-new, the KB recently had a refresh.

Key changes included a new front fascia design including changes to bonnet, radiator grille and fog lamps, new headlamps with projector and integrated LED day time running lights on LX models, new tailgate styling on extended and double cab models, rear view camera integrated to tailgate handle on LX double cab models, new 18-inch alloy wheels for LX models and a new 16-inch styled wheel for the rest of the range.

Our test vehicle carried the 3,0-litre DTEQ turbo-charged diesel engine with 130 kW and 380 Nm on offer. Combined cycle fuel consumption is 7,9 l/100 km for 4×4 double cab.

A key feature of LX models is a touch screen infotainment system with satellite navigation, internet, Wi-Fi, and smartphone integration. The screen – a 1 080 high-definition TFT unit with a 6,5-inch dimension – also acts as the display when browsing, or using the DVD player.

The Rear Park Assist reverse camera is now integrated into the rear tailgate handle on all LX double cab models.

Passive entry and start system (PESS) is a keyless entry with Start/Stop ignition button is standard on all LX double cab models. Leather is available as standard on the 4×4 auto and manual double cabs and as an option on 4×2 Double Cab derivatives.

For Mitsubishi, the new vehicle is the fifth iteration of the Colt/Triton legacy and arrived in South Africa some while after launching in markets such as Australia, Brazil, Europe and the Middle East.

“From the onset, the brief to designers and engineers was to maintain the essence of the Triton, but also to improve on aspects of ride, handling and comfort to create a truly SUV-like experience from behind the wheel,” says Nic Campbell, general manager at Mitsubishi Motors South Africa.

Engineers improved 185 key areas of the Triton, compared to its predecessor, ranging from deepening and reinforcing the loading bay, revising the shape of the bonnet for aerodynamic efficiency and refining the driving position for improved in-vehicle visibility and comfort.

Other elements such as the distinct J-line between the cabin and the load bay have been reworked for benchmark interior space. This is immediately apparent to all passengers, particularly those seated in the back of the double-cab models.

The design features chrome accents around the front driving lights, grille and flush-mounted door handles, newly designed side steps and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Range-specific features on the new model include an intuitive touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity and USB audio input as well as the keyless push-button Stop/Start system.

The driver is made to feel at home thanks to cruise control, dual-zone auto air-conditioning, a reverse camera, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment and leather upholstery, to name but a few of the standard creature comforts.

The cabin itself has been stretched by 20 mm to 1,745 mm to improve cabin space, while shoulder room – both front and rear – has been improved.

The Triton is fitted with an aluminium block four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine with reinforced steel piston sleeves for durability and an integrated common rail direct injection system.

Power delivery is rated at 133 kW at 3 500 r/min with torque peaking at 430 Nm at 2 500 r/min. Fuel consumption is rated at 7,6 l/100 km in a combined cycle.

On the double-cab versions, Mitsubishi engineers have added the ASTC (Active Stability and Traction Control) system, which modulates both braking and engine power to maintain the chosen driving line in slippery conditions. The range comes standard with anti-lock braking and EBD as well as Hill Start Assist (HSA).

With just 3 kW and 0,3 l/100 km difference between the two vehicles, there is little to separate them there – and equally little in terms of modern luxury fittings or vehicle safety and driver aids.

Although demand for luxury SUV bakkies remains strong in South Africa, the reality is most spend their time negotiating the urban horrors of potholes and deteriorating road surfaces – so the full 4×4 options rarely find themselves doing bush duty (except, of course, for those bought by enthusiasts).

Thus, the main comparison between the Isuzu and the Triton comes in operation as daily commuter vehicles with off-road limited to unpaved surfaces rather than donga-diving.

On the dirt, the Isuzu just shades the Triton – the slightly heavier Isuzu (3 100 kg) feeling a tad more balanced on dirt roads whereas the Triton was just a little too eager to press home its slight power and torque advantage, resulting in it becoming tail happy.

Doing the daily commute, perhaps the additional torque of the Triton gave it advantage by allowing a higher gear to be held for that much longer.

On clearer roads where the two vehicles could stretch their legs, nothing in it at all and both were long haul comfortable with about equal results in terms of wind and road noise – and both of those came in at agreeably low.

In the tighter sections the Triton had a slightly better turn in to corners, but road holding was on a par – perhaps more impressive from the Isuzu as one would have expected the extra mass here would compromise it under hard cornering.

At the end of the day the choice for any buyer has to be whether they want the full facility of 4×4 or just a an upmarket, comfortable and spacious bakkie that can workhorse or trail bike hauler.