Isuzu Ute launches MU-X SUV in New Zealand

Isuzu Ute launches MU-X SUV in New Zealand

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Isuzu Ute New Zealand (IUNZ) has launched one variant of it’s MU-X 7-seater SUV onto the New Zealand market, its a high grade specification model with leather upholstery, front and rear cabin climate air-conditioning, an on-board DVD player for rear passengers, Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming, rear-view camera, and satellite navigation.

More importantly according to IUNZ, the new MU-X SUV has 14 cup-holders throughout the cabin, as well as the ability to flip and fold down the second and third row of passenger seats to create an enormous cargo area.

The MU-X SUV is built in a brand new Isuzu Ute production facility in Thailand which has a capacity of more than 400,000 vehicles a year. At the moment it builds right hand drive MU-X models for local consumption as well as two export markets being Australia and New Zealand, but the company is eyeing up left-hand-drive export markets such as the Middle East and Asia/Oceania.

Under the bonnet the MU-X SUV is powered by a 3-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine that is similar to the unit found in the D-Max utility, allied to a five-speed automatic transmission. No manual version is available.

When questioned by media as to why the MU-X SUV didn’t have a six-speed automatic transmission, representatives from the factory said that the five-speed transmission used had been optimised to suit the characteristics of the truck-derived engine which offers plenty of low down torque for towing and off-roading.

The truck-derived engine uses the same block and crank as the Isuzu N series light commercial truck but it has a different head and timing gear according to the factory representatives who attended the recent media launch programme in Auckland.

According to the factory figures, average fuel consumption of 8.4L/100km should be expected, we managed to get 8.6L/100km on a run from Auckland to Hamilton, and we are told by Isuzu Ute staff that a return trip from Auckland to Whangarei resulted in an average consumption figure of 7.5L/100km, which seems remarkable for a vehicle weighing more than two tonnes.

IUNZ general manager Murray Greenhalgh says the MU-X SUV is a true off-roader with a ladder chassis and part-time on-demand four-wheel-drive with a transfer case and high and low range gears.

Under the body theres an independent double-wishbone front suspension, with coil springs, gas shock absorbers and stabiliser bar, while the rear suspension has a five-link configuration with coil springs, stabiliser bar and gas shock absorbers.

A front steel plate skid/splash shield and steel plate guards the sump and transfer case, the front lower control arms don’t hand too low and the air intake is hidden in the fender says Isuzu Ute. In the engine bay the ECU isn’t exposed and the alternator sits high so that it cannot be damaged by water when the vehicle fords a stream.

It has a 230mm ground-clearance, a 30.1 degree approach angle, a 25.1 degree rear departure angle and can crawl along a 47 degree slope.

The MU-X SUV has a high towing capacity of 3000kg, which Greenhalgh says is more than enough to tow a 7.5 metre boat, horse float, or heavy trailer.

Greenhalgh says that the traditional ladder-chassis equipped four-wheel-drive wagon is now a niche market within the greater SUV category, it accounts for 5% of the category overall.

IUNZ reckon buyers will include small business owners and people within the agricultural and contracting sectors who need a multipurpose vehicle that can do double duty as a family vehicle and a workhorse as required.

The MU-X comes with a three-year 100,000km warranty and road side assistance.

List price is $65,990 including GST and Greenhalgh says the only extra is registration and a tow bar, he reckons the MU-X SUV and its high level of specification will satisfy the most demanding buyer for this type of SUV.

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