Holidaying here this year? These two go-anywhere large off-road SUVs have you covered. But does the older Ford Everest still stack up against newer competition from the Isuzu MU-X?
In the wake of coronavirus and the toll it’s taken on our local economy, the government is telling Aussies to holiday here this year.
It’s a well-intentioned sentiment, but it’s actually one that Australians are embracing all on their own. Large off-road SUVs are favoured because they are the every car that can cover all bases. They provide transport for up to seven people, ferry you to work and back in comfort, head off the beaten track, tow the boat, and still make it back in time for the afternoon school run.
That breadth of ability is hot property as families look for the one car that can do it all.
It’s a wide range of abilities that cars such as the new-generation Isuzu MU-X aim to encompass. Adding a raft of updates to a proven, reliable package, the MU-X looks to consolidate an even bigger lead in the sales charts over its rival, the Ford Everest. The Isuzu MU-X is the current best-selling ute-based large SUV to date in 2022.
We’ve assembled two high-spec offerings of each to pit against one another in an all-out battle to find out which one represents the better buy for Australians.
|Key details||2022 Isuzu MU-X LS-T||2022 Ford Everest Sport|
|Price (MSRP)||$65,900 before on-road costs||$64,390 before on-road costs|
|Colour of test car||Mercury Silver||Deep Crystal Blue|
|Options||Metallic paint – $650||Metallic paint – $650
Premium pack with power-fold third row – $300
|Price as tested||$66,550 plus on-road costs||$65,340 plus on-road costs|
|Drive-away price||$72,132 (Melbourne)
$64,640 (current special offer)
|$71,050 drive-away (Melbourne)|
The specifications don’t quite match in concept – the 2022 Isuzu MU-X LS-T is a top-spec variant and the 2022 Ford Everest Sport is a mid-to-high-level tier – but they compete within $1000 of one another on price and match very closely in terms of equipment and luxuries.
Both cars included in this comparison have 4×4 drivelines and utilise automatic transmissions.
It shapes up as a tight competition, so separating these two will come down to the details – let’s not waste time.
In terms of price and specification, the ageing Ford Everest Sport is the more affordable of the two. With the optional 2.0-litre twin-turbo engine (Everest Sport is also available with a 3.2-litre engine) it’s priced from $64,390 before on-road costs.
The Isuzu MU-X LS-T is the flagship variant of its range and costs $65,900 before on-road costs. Unlike the Everest, it’s only available with the one 3.0-litre engine option. Isuzu regularly includes special drive-away deals alongside its products, but for the purposes of this comparison, we’ve based both prices on recommended retail listings.
The Everest Sport is an edition that adds a host of black-accented pieces to the exterior and trim enhancements to the interior. Standard fare includes a set of 20-inch black alloy wheels, Sport lettering on the side and rear, a soft-touch dashboard, blue stitching throughout the leather-appointed upholstery, and a 3100kg-rated tow bar.
|2022 Isuzu MU-X LS-T||2022 Ford Everest Sport|
|Boot volume||311L to third row
1119L to second row
2138L seats folded
|249L to third row
876L to second row
1796L seats folded
In our car, the 2.0-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel power plant lifted from the Ranger Raptor outputs 157kW/500Nm to a permanent four-wheel-drive system. It comes mated solely to a 10-speed automatic transmission developed jointly between Ford and General Motors.
The newer Isuzu MU-X has transformed in many areas in comparison to its predecessor, but one of the most notable is the interior. Sitting pride of place on the dash is a 9.0-inch infotainment screen, while other kit includes leather-accented upholstery, power-adjustable front seats with heating (not heated in the Everest Sport), remote engine start, and a set of 20-inch alloy wheels.
Whereas the Ford dons black trim highlights for its sporty vibe, the Isuzu goes the other way by adopting chrome trim accents on parts like the window surrounds and grille.
Under the bonnet is a 3.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine that sends 140kW/450Nm to a part-time 4×4 system, and this power plant is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
The MU-X has the highest tow rating in the segment of 3500kg, while the Ford can only manage 3100kg.
But back to the interiors for now – the bit where you’ll spend all the time.
Spending time in the Ford’s interior is still enjoyable despite the T6 platform’s age. Though it appears dated in some areas and is particularly blocky around the centre console, there is no doubt the space has kept pace well with the segment, which has seen a variety of newcomers in recent memory.
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An 8.0-inch Sync 3 infotainment system sits within the dash and handles all infotainment, though the system is capable of pairing with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The touch-based software is laid out brilliantly and stocks clear and vibrant graphics, while there’s a great amount of ingrained functionality.
Elsewhere, the space features leather-accent seats trimmed with blue stitching. These seats are super plush and comfortable, allowing you to really sink into the seat for hours on end. This is more or less what you want from a country tourer like the Everest. The seats also contain a good amount of bolstering to hold you in through corners.
They’re set nice and neutral inside the cabin allowing a good amount of space to get comfortable within, which also affords a good view out of the cabin. Annoyingly, the steering wheel is only tilt adjustable, not reach. An extensive glasshouse ensures good vision whether you’re looking out the front or behind the car.
Storage-wise, the Everest has a number of shelves and holders available for all your odds and ends. I particularly like the deep slot in front of the shifter for my wallet, keys and phone, though there are cupholders and a deep centre console bin, plus some decent-sized door pockets for larger bottles.
Materials use is good, with soft-touch surfaces throughout and a nice big steering wheel to grab hold of.
Second-row space and comfort are similarly well covered off. Back seat dwellers are treated to a great amount of leg, head and foot room. A plus for the Everest is the fact the seat slides forward and back for a more versatile space – the MU-X can’t match the trick. Airflow controls are found on the backside of the centre console, and the Everest neatly addresses your power problems with a full-size AC power port and a 12-volt outlet. A great idea that will no doubt get used.
The third row is manageable even for adults, though leg room is compromised. This third row is handily deployed and lowered electrically using a pair of buttons (a $300 option, normally manually folded). There are air vents and cupholders back there too.
The boot cavity is accessed through a power tailgate. With all seats in play there’s 249L of cargo volume, in five-seat mode it fits 876L but expands to 1796L in ultimate-capacity two-seat mode. It’s a shame that in both these big-bodied SUVs the height of the raised tailgate is quite low – mind your head when grabbing items from the boot.
Inside its appointed leather-clad cabin, the MU-X stocks an array of nice new touches that help elevate the model’s credibility beyond being a ute-based wagon. In saying that, there are a few more plastics in places such as the door card tops and dash than the Everest, which takes away from its $65,900 price point.
It has a large 9.0-inch infotainment screen with great colour and clarity, though it’s a shame the system graphics and menus look hum-drum in comparison to Ford’s system. It shows a little more aftermarket than you’d expect from a flagship product. However, it does stock the ability to connect up Apple CarPlay and Android Auto wireless, while it does also have native satellite navigation and digital radio.
In terms of comfort and space, the MU-X allows for a nice and roomy position in the front row with good vision out over the bonnet. While still comfortable, the seats aren’t quite as plush as the Everest and don’t bolster you in as much, which is a minus, at least for this tester. It also has an annoyingly hard plastic centre console that digs into the knees of taller drivers who like sitting close to the wheel. The MU-X has heated electric front seats for both driver and passenger.
A similar amount of storage is found in the front row as the Everest, with spots to store items in front of the shifter, door cards, and a large centre console bin. A neat trick of the MU-X is its dual-open glovebox, which includes a cavity inside the dash for storing away items from prying eyes.
Stepping into the second row there’s good headroom, leg room and space for feet. Passengers have a small cubby to stow small items and airflow controls are found on the roof.
Third-row space is good and you feel marginally more comfortable in terms of legroom than the Ford, but then you remember the MU-X can’t slide its second row back and forth for more third-row space like the Everest.
The boot opens electrically to reveal a 311L cavity in seven-seat guise, or 1119L with five seats up, while the space can be enhanced to a full 2138L space in two-seat mode. That’s substantially larger than the Ford Everest’s boot.
Own these vehicles and you’ll be supplied with varying warranties. The Isuzu MU-X gets a six-year/150,000km warranty, whereas the Ford Everest makes do with five-year/unlimited-kilometre coverage.
The Everest claws back some ground with cheaper servicing costs. It’ll set you back $2315 over five years in maintenance for the 4×4 MU-X LS-T, whereas a service promotion for private buyers means it costs just $1556 to service the 4×4 Everest Sport.
Both are safety-rated five stars by ANCAP. The Everest carries a range of safety technologies including autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, speed sign recognition, a driver attention monitor, and front and rear parking sensors. The Everest Sport does miss out on a couple key technologies – blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert – that are available only in the Titanium trim level.
The MU-X equips a full suite of advanced safety tech and speed sign recognition cameras. Compared to its predecessor, the new MU-X gains important active safety technology like autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, and lane-keep assistance.
The Ford was scored five stars back in 2015, and compared to the newer-tested MU-X, it’s not certain it would retain the full-marks rating today.
Putting these two to a well-rounded test, we spent a couple days driving around Victoria’s High Country both on tarmac and off.
Despite its age, the enduring Ford Everest still comes across as a polished product among its contemporary rivals. Ford has put continual effort into making sure it stays well-suited to the Australian road conditions, and it shows.
This is all exactly what you want for touring ability, which the Everest handles with aplomb.
Likewise, the powertrain under the bonnet is very well suited to the open road. Power comes courtesy of the 157kW/500Nm 2.0-litre turbo diesel lifted from the Ranger Raptor. This engine can only be had with a 10-speed transmission. Praise must be given to the way it’s able to pick up a ratio out of anywhere, and we think the engine/gearbox pairing to be a fair matching.
Shifts are smooth for the most part, though it will sometimes shunt the driveline on kick-down accelerations.
The Everest hides one of the segment’s most powerful engines under its bonnet and deploys the 157kW/500Nm outputs well. Overtakes are dispatched without much thought, and the level of grunt is well suited to touring and around town alike.
|At a glance||2022 Isuzu MU-X LS-T||2022 Ford Everest Sport|
|Warranty||Six years, 150,000km||Five years, unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 15,000km||12 months or 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||$2315 (5 years)||$1556 (5 years)|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||8.3L/100km||7.0L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||8.8L/100km||9.0L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||80L||80L|
It handles the around-town schlep without too much frustration. That said, it is a long 4.9m in length and you do have to be wary when manoeuvring into car park spaces.
Luckily the electric-assist steering is a nice, light weight that makes twirling the wheel simple.
It also helps for manoeuvrability off-road where you can easily turn the wheel for precise wheel placements when over rough terrain. A number of terrain modes prime the car for various surfaces. The Everest has good traction over gravel and rougher rocks, and is supremely capable at clawing itself up steep hills provided it’s not too wet. Like the MU-X, it is fitted with highway tyres as standard.
The transmission is very smooth on and off throttle to aid progressive movements from a halt.
On test, the Everest recorded a 9.0L/100km combined fuel consumption against its 7.0L/100km claim. This is fairly average for the Ford Everest/Ranger where it records a few litres above claim, in our experience.
Much of the new-generation MU-X is shared with its D-Max brother and Mazda BT-50 cousin. Headlining among all is the shared 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine whose 140kW and 450Nm outputs are sent to a part-time four-wheel drivetrain through a six-speed automatic transmission.
The set-up feels entirely adequate for around-town usage, with enough torque on tap to keep you out of trouble, and an intelligent gearbox that downshifts when you need it to.
Remember, too, while slightly different to the old 3.0-litre engine, Isuzu motors have regularly found fans within the 4×4 community for their reliability and durability.
Overtakes are dispatched quickly enough, and it’ll easily get up to freeway speeds without fuss.
Sadly, it’s not the most refined power plant out there with some noises permeating the cabin when you get on the throttle. This might be acceptable for the dual-cab ute on which it’s based, but for an SUV it’s just a bit too brash for everyday use.
Likewise, its ride control is a bit jittery for an SUV. It might be fine for the D-Max alternative where you expect a level of load-carrying ability over its leaf-sprung rear, but the coil-sprung MU-X should do better over the blacktop than it manages.
It is a shorter body than the Everest and feels as such around town. That said, it doesn’t have the same expansive glasshouse as the Ford, with the rearmost windows a bit more enclosed than you’ll find in the Everest’s body.
Off-road, the MU-X handled the big hills we threw at it without complaint. In the case where we ran into trouble, the big wagon body was easily reversed back using the high-definition reverse camera. The traction-control system keeps things in check when travelling on tight and twisty adjoining gravel roads, though it’s noticeably firmer over rocks and mounds than the Everest.
There’s a great amount of ground clearance over the front and rear overhangs so that you don’t have to worry too hard about ramp-overs and gullies.
Against Isuzu’s 8.3L/100km combined fuel consumption claim, our testing recorded an 8.8L/100km rating. Both cars have 80L fuel tanks.
SUVs have become the default family car, and it’s not hard to see why. The amount of ability these two wagons pack into their big bodies is astonishing, and for the price you pay there is a fantastic amount of ingrained value.
We’ve spent time in both the Isuzu MU-X and Ford Everest across a variety of domains. As we’ve found, these two are very capable both on- and off-road, and stack a huge amount of comfort and equipment to keep you happy for years of motoring.
However, it’s the Ford Everest – which recently won the 2022 Drive Car of the Year Best Large Off-Road SUV category – that is the victor in this instance.
Ford’s level of continual development of the Everest means it suits Australian roads better than the MU-X, and its level of all-round polish is appreciated in a car that will spend a majority of its time on-road.
Doors & Seats
Power & Torque
The cabin also manages to impress in terms of features and presentation, despite its ageing T6 platform. It will be nice to see an all-new interior in the new-generation Everest coming late this year, but for the time being this car still stacks up against its competition.
With that said, whether at-home adventurers opt for the Isuzu MU-X or Ford Everest, they’re bound to enjoy their purchase.