What is it?
The SsangYong Musso is an all-new version of the Korean brand’s signature full-size 4×4 pick-up.
Payload capability, value price, SUV space and equipment
The SsangYong Musso has always been the budget option amongst pick-ups but the new model turns it into much more of a value option, significantly closer in quality and equipment to better-known rivals while leaving them behind in payload and towing ability.
In unladen form, the ride is fidgety while the engine is left behind by more efficient rivals, but the range offers a lot for a lot less money, particularly with the standard seven-year warranty.
The four model options ensure there is a Musso to suit all pick-up fans whether wanting a tough business workhorse or a lifestyle statement.
SsangYong is a minnow of a brand, a name that two of the writer’s associates admitted to never having heard of when learning what he was off to drive next. Globally, SsangYong sold just 150,000 vehicles in 2017, the UK accounting for a shade under 4,000 of those – and the UK is the brand’s second-biggest market outside its native Korea.
SsangYong, however, has big plans – a wholesale change of UK management has taken place in the last year and the brand is targeting 10,000 sales here within just three years – firmly believing it can follow the path Kia and Hyundai have forged.
The vehicle expected to kick-start that growth is the SsangYong Musso, the signature of a brand that insists it is only, and will only, be about SUVs and pick-ups.
Those who have previously bought the Musso have done so principally because it was cheap. The new one, SsangYong insists, is still great value, while boasting better payload and hauling weight figures than the mainstream opposition, and the quality and equipment to match them.
So should those who routinely choose a Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi L200, Isuzu D-Max or the rapidly growing in popularity Ford Ranger instead go for this upstart from Korea? SsangYong believes they should, whether they are looking for a robust workhorse or are subscribers to the increasingly trendy sub-culture of the lifestyle pick-up owner.
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Buying and owning the SsangYong Musso
On first sight, the new SsangYong Musso is clearly a major step forward from its predecessor both in terms of style, with a bolder, more purposeful look, and in sheer size.
This is a significantly bigger machine than the outgoing Musso, stretched overall to a length in excess of five metres, and with a load bed increased in all directions – longer at 1.3m, wider at 1.57m and considerably deeper at 57cm. As a result, the new Musso will take a Euro pallet.
If, however, the load bed is still not long enough for you there will be a stretched wheelbase version arriving at the end of 2018 with another 40cm added to the cargo length.
The Musso is evolved directly from the latest version of SsangYong’s Rexton large SUV, and its creators believe the combination of SUV style and practicality, and the traditional, tough body on ladder frame chassis, with wishbone front suspension and coil-spring rear, will prove a winner.
That traditional construction helps the Musso knock the opposition aside in capability. This vehicle has a payload capacity of over a tonne, and at the same time will tow 3.5 tonnes behind it.
Such figures will appeal to those who need a solid workhorse, and in the entry-level EX specification, SsangYong offers it. The EX starts from £19,995 (retail excluding VAT) but including in its specification such niceties as 17-inch alloy wheels and a DAB/Bluetooth audio system.
Not many Musso buyers are expected to go for the EX, however. Three more variants, dubbed Rebel, Saracen and the limited-edition launch model the Rhino (Musso means Rhino in Korean) are designed to cater for all tastes, including those who like pick-up style but never intend to take theirs off-road.
Rebel variants, starting from £22,495, increase the alloys by an inch and add major styling elements including side steps and roof rails. The centre console gains an infotainment system accessed via an eight-inch screen and including Smartphone capability and a rear parking camera. There are ‘leather-look’ seats, the front ones heated and vented, plus a heated proper leather steering wheel.
The normal top model will be the SsangYong Musso Saracen, from £24,995 and with a specification topped by such niceties as proper Nappa leather seats, a nine-inch screen with navigation, and those natty tubular side steps.
Among the first Mussos sold, however, will be the 100-strong Rhino launch edition, at £28,495. The Musso Rhino only comes in red or a metallic black and with an auto gearbox. It gets 20-inch wheels with bespoke tyres and various styling touches such as a black front skid plate, and a load deck bar with LED lights.
The options list is very simple – with just two items on it. The automatic transmission costs £1250 (except on the Rhino), metallic paint £430, both prices plus VAT.
Where the new era does not stretch very far, however, is in safety. The Musso has not as yet been tested by Euro NCAP, but while all models have six airbags, and are tough machines that will likely come off better damage-wise in a collision with a normal car, you won’t find a list of electronic driver assistance systems on this specification.
Inside the SsangYong Musso
Anyone who has driven a previous-generation Musso will most notice the differences when they climb inside. The cockpit design is lifted straight from the Rexton and is a major improvement, particularly as it no longer includes such budget and somewhat nasty styling touches as the enormous circular and silvered panel that used to surround the gear lever. There’s still a bit of scratchy plastic but nothing like there used to be.
It’s probably a good idea to ignore the EX, because among the host of extras that come with the extra £2,500 paid for a Rebel is a proper centre console screen with Apple Carplay, Android Auto and Google compatibility, so one doesn’t really need the built-in satnav of the more expensive Saracen, though the larger screen is nice.
Rebels also exchange the cloth seats of the EX for a ‘leather substitute’ known as TPU. It looks like leather and feels a lot like leather. If you want the proper stuff again you need to go for the Saracen.
Generally, the driver’s environment is sensibly laid out, traditional in design and easy to get used to, while the interior certainly scores on space. Front or back seat passengers (the Rexton only comes in double-cab form) will find plenty of leg and headroom in comfortable seats.
Driving the SsangYong Musso
Powertrain choices for the Musso are easy because there is just one engine available and two transmission options.
The powerplant is the same 2.2-litre diesel supplied with the Rexton, offering 181hp and 400Nm of torque. Compared to rivals, it doesn’t win prizes for efficiency, quoting maximum combined cycle fuel economy of 35.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 225g/km. But it makes up for this in sheer grunt, producing those impressive payload and towing figures.
It’s also remembering that pick-up tax rates are not CO2 determined like they are with cars. All pick-ups currently cost £250 a year in Vehicle Excise Duty, whatever their emissions figures, and Benefit-in-Kind rates are £3,350 a year – so an annual bill of £670 for anyone on a 20% tax rate. And BiK will only apply to those who use their Musso outside of work.
Standard transmission is a six-speed manual, the alternative a six-speed automatic supplied by the massive Aisin group. Both are combined with the standard all-wheel-drive system – 2WD, 4WD high and 4WD low are all available, selected by a switch next to the gear lever.
We tried versions in both manual and auto form, and while sacrificing some economy the auto is a smooth unit that slots in its ratios effortlessly. We were also able to drive the Musso both unladen and with a thoughtfully provided 700kg of concrete blocks on a pallet strapped to the load bed.
First impressions are of the remarkable silence in the cabin while on the move. We are used to diesel engines not making a lot of noise these days, but even though the SsangYong unit is not as high-tech as some Japanese rivals, it is very refined indeed, producing virtually no noise at all. This immediately makes the Musso cabin an enjoyable environment to travel in.
The gloss is tarnished slightly, however, by a fidgety, bouncy ride and steering with a vague feel. This is a traditional pick-up trait, the result of a lightweight rear end and the tall profile – you really do climb up into this machine – and its necessary long suspension travel, and SsangYong doesn’t appear to have progressed as far as some rivals in terms of ride comfort.
However, that bounciness in unladen mode disappears once the Musso is weighted down in the cargo bay, when it becomes better planted on the road and a more enjoyable vehicle to drive. In this form, it feels far more SUV than light commercial which of course is what we are told its creators were aiming for.
SsangYong currently has a fight on its hands to emerge from the image of ‘cheap but not a lot else’ brands, and the Musso is expected to lead that journey. In many respects, it fulfils the brief.
This is a major step forward from its predecessor that comes much closer to directly challenging the big and more familiar names in the pick-up market. It is better built, more sensibly styled, while retaining the practicality and sheer ability the brand has built its reputation on.
All this comes at a price that still significantly undercuts the opposition, particularly when one compares standard equipment. But the new Musso also offers one further, major advantage – SsangYong is putting it on sale with a seven-year, 150,000-mile warranty, which its rivals definitely cannot currently match.
All of which means those on the hunt for a workhorse pick-up, or just because driving around in a pick-up appeals to them, should include in their potentials list that brand with the funny name that many haven’t heard of.
|Make & model||SsangYong Musso||Mitsubishi L200||Nissan Navara|
|Specification||Rebel||Titan double cab||Acenta+ double cab|
|Price (retail ex VAT)||£22,495||£23,530||£24,850|
|Engine||2.2-litre diesel||2.4-litre diesel||2.3-litre diesel|
|Power||181 hp||178 hp||190 hp|
|Torque||400 Nm||430 Nm||450 Nm|
|Payload||1,095 kg||1,045 kg||1,047 kg|
|Top speed||121 mph (manual)||111 mph||114 mph|
|Fuel economy (combined)||35.8 mpg||39.8 mpg||41.8 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||225 g/km||186 g/km||167 g/km|
|Euro NCAP rating||Not tested||4 stars (2015)||4 stars (2015)|