Review: Isuzu MU-7 automatic
This is an important model for Isuzu. How important? Well, for starters it has a separate website for its new flagship – the automatic version of the mighty MU-7 SUV. Isuzu is a relatively small Japanese automobile maker we know more for diesel engine prowess. It launched the manual version of this seven-seat, Fortuner-rivalling vehicle around two years ago. Of course, that was a full import and available only with BS 3 emission certification, so we dont seem them much.
But now, Hindustan Motors manufactures the vehicle as CKDs for Isuzu, which has allowed it to be priced lower by a few lakh rupees. More importantly, it now has BS 4 certification, which gives it access to Indian metros and few more cities. And these urban places with their cramped parking spaces and unending traffic warrant an automatic box for a vehicle this size and money.
So, here it is. The MU-7 gets a four-speed torque-convertor type of gearbox. Its a bit old-school – not as smooth as a CVT (like in the CR-V) or as high-tech as a dual-clutch box (like in most German cars) – but is teamed up well with the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel unit that powers the MU-7. It also comes with the option of being slotted in and stick to lower ratios.
How good is this box? Well, the initial action is immediate. There is no lag or unnecessary rev build-up needed to get the big toy moving. Slot the gearshift into D and the MU-7 is off the blocks – maybe not in a hurry but off-the-block anyways. Which is good in most situations, even if you are on an incline – the vehicle wont roll back despite the lack of any uphill assist. The gearbox shifts seamlessly through its four cogs but is accompanied by incredible amounts of turbo noise. And the turbo helps. Despite tipping the scales over two-tonnes, the MU-7 can still post a respectable 12.7 seconds for a run from 0-100kph and could hit an indicated 165kph.
The vehicle is reasonably confident for an XL-sized SUV. The three-metre wheelbase helps when driving at speeds. Quick lane changes isnt a hair-raising experience. Ride is pliant, a bit choppy for the third row, and the basic but well-tuned suspension does well in smothering badly-finished road surfaces without unsettling those inside. The steering is well-weighed but feels a bit lighter as speeds get into three digits. But thats nitpicking. This is a big people-hauling SUV and not a sportscar.
Interiors are surprisingly pleasant. The fake wood finish aside, most of the materials feel sophisticated. The leather is top quality and so is much of the plastic. Some of the latter is soft touch too. The two-DIN music system is a cheap, awkwardly-angled Kenwood unit but comes equipped with everything from Bluetooth connectivity to navigation.
The MU-7 is available in two trims –High (for manual transmission) and Premium (for the automatic version). The AT variant gets a slightly updated Kenwood system, steering multimedia controls and a dual-tone dashboard. An accessory package for the MU-7 AT additionally includes rear parking camera and sensors apart from the regular bits like bumper skirts and some chrome bits. Which isnt important. What is, that the convenience the automatic box manages to bring into the equation. The MU-7 is an old-school SUV that still relies on a ladder-on-frame chassis over a monocoque one and leaf springs at the rear. But Isuzu has tried to up the game with gas shocks and managed to seamlessly marry the engine and auto box. Fuel efficiency hovers around the 9-11kpl mark, which makes this sound practical.
It is around Rs 2.5 lakh more than the manual version, which is a lot, but Isuzu has tried to show value with a nicer cabin and some added creature comforts. It isnt a different animal now, but you cannot ignore the convenience that the automatic offers. The Fortuner, which is its most formidable rival maybe much more expensive but the MU-7 also has competition from the likes of the Ssangyong Rexton and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, who are similar in character.
So, yes it would have been perfect if it would be a bit cheaper or come with stuff like 4WD at this price. But there is little doubt that the MU-7, despite its domestication with the auto box and a tad higher price, is the kind of SUV thats less sport and more utility. Seems thats a turn-on for many.
Specs2999cc, turbo-diesel, 160bhp, 333Nm, 4A, RWD, 1945kg, ground clearance\: 210mm, fuel tank\: 76 litres, turning radius\: 6.2m, 0-100kph\: 12.7seconds, fuel efficiency\: 8.7kpl (city), 11.2kpl (highway), price\: 26 lakh, on-road, Mumbai.
VerdictIt may not come across as a modern-day automatic, but does the job pretty well. Cabin feels better now and ride comfort is commendable. We wouldve appreciated had it been priced a couple of lakh rupees cheaper. Nonetheless, the MU-7 AT makes for an interesting option if the Fortuner doesnt fit your budget.