Text – Aravind Ramesh; Pictures – Arun Varadarajan

2014 Isuzu MU-7 Test Drive Review
2014 Isuzu MU-7 – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

2014 Isuzu MU-7 Review

Car Tested: 2014 Isuzu MU-7 (High)

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 24.52 – 26.81 lakhs

The MU-7 scores heavily on space, comfort and performance, it has huge dimensions.

For a majority of Indians, Isuzu is still an unknown commodity. A few might still remember the brand for their association with Hindustan Motors as an engine supplier while some others might relate them to commercial vehicles. But the fact is, Isuzu launched their first passenger car in India without much fanfare almost an year back. Taking advantage of the current craze for Sports Utility Vehicles in the country, Isuzu’s debut in India was with the MU-7. While the company is busy setting up a Rs. 3000 crore manufacturing facility in south Andhra Pradesh, it’s erstwhile partner Hindustan Motors currently assembles the MU-7 at its Chennai plant for sale in India. We take the locally-assembled MU-7 out for a quick spin to find out how it stacks up in the highly-competitive premium SUV segment.

Motor Quest: The MU-7 is based on the D-Max pickup truck and was launched in 2004. It is also known as the Alterra and Duogongnengche with the current model being in the second generation. The MU-X replaces the MU-7 in the Isuzu lineup.

2014 Isuzu MU-7 Road Test2014 Isuzu MU-7 Review

The front of the Isuzu MU-7 sports a toothy grille while the rear has quite a lot of chrome for that premium feel

Exteriors – The first thing that strikes when you look at the MU-7 is its size. To put it in one word, it’s humongous. Barring a couple, the rest of the pics just don’t bring out the actual size of the vehicle, it is much bigger than what these images suggest. When viewed head-on, the toothy grille with ample chrome garnishing and the sharp-edged bumper imparts a bold and aggressive look to the MU-7, a trait that most SUV owners crave for. While the hood itself is high enough, the vertical headlight clusters and matching foglamp enclosures below further accentuates the tall feeling. More than any other angle, the sheer length of the vehicle is intimidating when you move over to the profile that is characterized by an extra long wheelbase. In fact, the whopping 3050 mm wheelbase and the long rear overhang combined with the gaping wheel wells make the MU-7 look a tad disproportionate.

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The MU-7 is a huge car and certain angles reveal the mamoth size of this SUV

The window-line that curves down towards the rear is out of sync with the boxy shape elsewhere doesn’t help matters either. But, the Isuzu MU-7 looks best when viewed from its rear angles. The tall triangular tail lights add a premium touch while the overall rear design itself is pleasing to the eyes, helped in no small part by the black plastic cladding and liberal chrome detailing interspersed in between. For once, the hood scoop in the MU-7 is functional and acts as an air intake for the intercooler. The flared wheel arches, beefy footboards and massive 245/70/R16 MRF tyres mounted on nicely-designed alloys are the other noticeable elements outside. The MU-7 might not be aesthetically pleasing from all angles, but this Isuzu has got all that an SUV needs. It’s got the size, it’s got the presence and it just wont get lost in a sea of vehicles.

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The dashboard doesn’t feel rich enough for the Rs. 25 lakh price you pay for this SUV

Interiors – Climb onto the MU-7 and the spacious interior strikes a chord immediately. This is a cabin that is long enough to offer three rows of seats with ample legroom in each of them, wide enough to accommodate three well-built adults in the second row without rubbing their shoulders and tall enough to fit in six-foot plus adults without having to make them crouch. Only after you get over the space that’s offered in plenty do you actually notice the interior appointments that are very conservative. Be it the steering wheel, the instrument cluster or the center console, none of them is designed to attract. They are well-built and practically laid out but it’s just that the entire cabin lacks the flair and panache that similarly-priced models from competition offer. The instrument cluster is plain jane and the simple white-on-grey dials are easy to read on the go.

2014 Isuzu MU-7 User ExperienceIsuzu MU-7 India Review

The MU-7 has a lot of space on the inside in all three rows of seats, even tall passengers are comfortable here

The center console is dominated by a Kenwood touchscreen multimedia system which also doubles up as a rear view camera monitor. Fake wood panels are generously used in the center console, around the air-conditioning vents and on the door pads. Quality of interiors is surprisingly good, with the air vents, fake wood panels and the control stalks behind the steering wheel exuding a solid feel. Overall, this is a cabin that might not impress at first glance but one that could withstand years of abuse. Passengers seated in the middle and last rows would find the scooped-out air-conditioning vents and the roof-mounted DVD player particularly appealing. All three rows offer ample legroom and the sliding middle bench with split function means that the space inside can be customized based on individual requirements.

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Roof mounted AC vents work well to chill the cabin, boot has good space even with third row seats up

The seats offer adequate comfort in the first two rows but the third row is a pain for adults. The seat itself is placed quite low and you are seated in a knees-up position, which isn’t comfortable for anything more than a few kilometers. A big disappointment in the MU-7 is its barren feature list. Projector headlamps, ABS with EBD, two airbags, leather upholstery and an optional GPS are offered apart from the basic kit that includes air-conditioning, power mirrors and remote locking. Absence of climate control at this price is shocking as does the lack of additional safety features. Even steering-mounted controls, a constant fixture even in small cars costing a fraction of the MU-7, is conspicuous by its absence. Customers paying more than 2.5 million rupees deserve more than this, period.

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The 3.0-litre engine isn’t the most refined but has linear performance on offer

Performance – Propelling this almost 2-tonne SUV forward is a 3.0-litre, direct-injection, turbocharged diesel engine. This 4-cylinder mill gives the MU-7 a power output of 161 BHP at 3600 RPM and a torque rating of 360 Nm between 1800-2800 RPM. Turn on the ignition and the MU-7 comes to life with a shaky start. Refinement is not a strong point of the MU-7 and it shows even when idling. All it takes is a gentle nudge on the throttle pedal to get the MU-7 going. There is no turbo lag to speak of and the power delivery from this engine is surprisingly linear. What act as downers though are the slightly heavy clutch and the rubbery gearshift that’s not as smooth as we expected.

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Turbo lag in the MU-7 is almost absent which is a big plus point in city conditions

To its credit though, the MU-7 pulls cleanly from as low as 1000 RPM all the way up to 4000 RPM after which the pulling power tapers out. At those higher revs though, the groan from under the hood becomes very vocal. The powerful engine and high kerb weight means that the MU-7 returned an average fuel-efficiency figure of 10.3 km/l during our road test. Of course, this involved some spirited driving confined to city limits. Expect the number to go up by at least 1 km/l in normal everyday conditions. Combine that with the fuel tank’s capacity of 76-litres and the MU-7 should have a good range for those outstation trips.

2014 Isuzu MU-7 Test Drive
Plenty of ground clearance helps this Isuzu tackle bad roads with ease, no 4WD yet

Driving Dynamics – Under the skin, the Isuzu MU-7 is basically a truck with double wishbones up front and a leaf spring-based setup at the rear. Despite that, the MU-7 rides well and cleverly masks the imperfections that our roads throw at it. Speed-breakers and broken roads are dispatched with ease but drive fast over bigger potholes and the ride becomes bouncy, especially at the rear. Handling is decent for a vehicle of this size and weight and the MU-7 doesn’t get unnerving at every input given to the steering wheel. Body roll is well-controlled, handling is predictable and high speed stability is good courtesy the long wheelbase. As long as you remember that this isn’t a low-slung sports sedan and treat it with the respect that it deserves, the huge chassis of the MU-7 will keep you safe and sound. Having said that, we have to admit that braking is not a strong point of the MU-7.

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The MU-7 has a fantastic ride quality at low speeds but gets bouncy at higher speeds

Though the presence of ABS and EBD ensured that it maintained its composure while slamming the brakes, it took longer than expected to shed speed. The drum brakes at the rear could be the culprits here. At the moment, Isuzu isn’t providing a four-wheel drive option for the MU-7. But, just like every one of its competitors, the MU-7 would end up spending a lion’s share of its life cruising on highways. And on those remaining days when it has to go off-road, the MU-7’s ground clearance and good articulation angles would see it emerge unscathed. Do remember that the long wheelbase and rear overhang restricts the progress off-road.

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Isuzu has only offered basic safety features on the MU-7 with no side airbags or ESP

Safety – Despite its Rs. 25 lakh plus price tag, safety is not what you will buy an MU-7 for. Agreed, the rigid truck-based body and the tough build are critical advantages and so are the ABS, EBD and twin airbags. But, that’s pretty much it. Features like ESP, hill-hold function, side and curtain airbags would have made the MU-7 a safer place to be in which, unfortunately, isn’t the case.

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The Isuzu MU-7 is a reliable workhorse which is big, both on the outside and inside

Verdict – The Isuzu MU-7 has its own set of strengths. There are not many SUVs that are bigger than this and the incredibly spacious interiors are its biggest asset. Add to that a powerful engine, decent looks and a robust build and the MU-7 makes an appealing buy for those looking for a no-nonsense vehicle that is reliable, can seat seven and cover long distances without breaking into a sweat. Unfortunately, for those who prioritize aesthetics, safety and gadgetry over other virtues, the MU-7 wouldn’t make the cut. With just a handful of operational dealers across India, Isuzu’s limited reach doesn’t help either.

The Isuzu MU-7 isn’t an all-rounder SUV as it does lack aesthetic appeal. While it’s big with loads of space on offer, the competition in this segment is tough giving the MU-7 limited appeal in India.

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A very basic instrument cluster on an SUV which sits in a very competitive space

What’s Cool

* Spacious interiors
* Powerful engine
* Road presence

What’s Not So Cool

* Lack of features
* Sparse sales and service network
* Rubbery gear shift

Alternatives: Toyota Fortuner, Hyundai Santa Fe, Ford Endeavour

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The Isuzu MU-7 appeals heavily on the size, comfort, space and performance front

2014 Isuzu MU-7 Specifications

* Engine: 2999cc, VGS, Inter-cooled turbo-diesel
* Power: 161 BHP @ 3600 RPM
* Torque: 360 Nm @ 1800-2800 RPM
* Transmission: 5-speed manual
* 0-100 km/hr: 14 seconds (est.)
* Top Speed: 175 km/hr
* Fuel Consumption: 10 km/l (City), 12 km/l (Highway)
* Fuel Type: Diesel
* Suspension: Independent double wishbone (Front), Rigid suspension with gas-sealed shocks (Rear)
* Tyres: 245/70/R16
* Brakes: Disc (Front), Drum (Rear), ABS with EBD
* Safety: Dual Airbags, ABS

2014 Isuzu MU-7 Dimensions

* Overall length x width x height: 4955 mm X 1800 mm X 1805 mm
* Wheelbase: 3050 mm
* Track Front/ Rear: 1520 / 1525 mm
* Turning Radius: 6.2 metres
* Ground Clearance: 210 mm
* Kerb Weight: 1900 kgs
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 76-litres