Purely co-incidentally, but perfectly apt, The Beatles’ ‘Long and Winding Road’ popped up on my playlist as I left the highway and headed for Tzaneen via Magoebaskloof – a driver’s delight of curves, corners and cutbacks all flanked by some glorious scenery.

A perfect opportunity to put some additional thoughts to the opinions forming about the value-pack Isuzu mux-X 1,9 4x2 AT that was whisking me towards my final destination.

The first part of the journey, the N1 North, is largely a featureless ribbon stretching into the distance, broken only by tollbooths, speeding taxis and thundering trucks but still, a perfect place to assess the driving environment and whole mu-X package.

On a brief drive at the launch, I was impressed by the quietness inside the cab and this re-affirmed itself as the kilometres rolled by, allowing full appreciation of the sounds emanating from my playlist.

Budget Constraints

The 1,9-litre addition to the 7-seater SUV range is aimed at increasingly constrained budgets and the interior does have large areas of plastic. While it would be ideal to have soft-touch material everywhere, compromises have to be made in order to achieve a desired price point.

This is a battle local automakers have on a constant basis with their overseas principals and it is a juggling act of what you can get to fall within the desired price range and what has to left out – so plastic is in, but then so are a number of other niceties, not the least of which is leather seating.

Driving the 1.9 LS mu-X is Isuzu’s 1 899 cc four-cylinder intercooled turbo-diesel engine delivering a power output of 110 kW at 3 600 r/min 350 Nm available from 1 800 r/min to 2 600 r/min, driving through a six-speed automatic transmission, (with a rear differential lock is fitted as standard).

The 1,9-litre engine garnered attention earlier this year when a D-Max bakkie was driven from Johannesburg to Cape Town on a single tank of fuel – and I was watching the fuel gauge and on-board computer quite closely.

Realistic and Acceptable

Certainly not driving in ‘economy run’ mode the highway numbers sat around the 7,0 l/100 km mark – this with cruise control activated and the GPS showing a true speed of 120 km/h. Allowing for the slow down and speed up at toll booths and odd bits of traffic, it is a realistic and acceptable figure.

By the time I had done Magoebaskloof twice as well as using the vehicle to follow the NTT Tzaneen Rally, the overall average for the weekend had grown to 9,2 l/100 km but could have achieved all of that one a single tank of diesel.

Upmarket design

The 1.9 LS mu-X features the latest styling updates applied to the rest of the range for 2023. This includes privacy glass for the rear windows, a new Norwegian Blue colour option and dark Magnetite finishes for the radiator grille, front and rear bumpers, front fog lamp bezels, roof rails and side steps.

The daytime running lights are LED, as are the Bi-LED headlamps, fog lamps and combination taillights. The character of the mu-X is given additional appeal with the fitment of 18-inch alloy wheels, with a matching full-size alloy spare wheel.

Inside, the cabin is spacious and comfortable and the driver gets eight-way power adjustment so the seating position can be massaged into the absolute perfect place – the passenger gets four-way power adjustment, so very little in the way of compromise there.

Parking Sensors

It is quite a large vehicle and comes standard with front and rear parking sensors and a rear view camera – a necessity for squeezing into undersized parking spaces.

There is also no compromise in safety or convenience and the package of standard safety features includes Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control, anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist System (BAS), Brake Override Accelerator (BOA), Hill Start Assist (HAS), Hill Descent Control (HDC), Trailer Sway Control and Cruise Control.

Driver and front passenger crash bags, front seat side bags, curtain bags and a driver’s knee bag protect occupants. Vehicle security is taken care of with remote central locking, a factory-fitted anti-theft alarm system, transponder immobiliser and selectable door unlocking.

A seven-inch touchscreen system with integrated Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Wi-Fi, and front and rear USB charging ports provides smartphone connectivity and charging options while on the move.

In short, all the things you really need.

Some might call the 1,9-litre engine lazy, I prefer to think of it as ‘chilled’ and it lopes away from rest steadily building speed until cruise mode is attained where it will stay there quite comfortably as it eats up kilometres – occasionally smoothly dropping a cog to maintain momentum on the inclines.

It is, as said, a large and quite tall vehicle, so the twisties of Magoebaskloof provided a great test it passed quite comfortably, handling the curves and corners with poise, stability and no bad manners – at the recommended speeds.

Pushing much too into a tight corner will induce front-end push – neatly controlled by the onboard driver assistance systems. But then, it is not intended to blur the passing scenery.

The mu-X 1,9-litre is not cheap, but Isuzu has managed to place a well-specced family tourer into a price bracket where ownership may previously have been out of reach.

Colin Windell – proudly CHANGECARS