Car reviews - SsangYong - Musso
Fantastic value, strong and smooth diesel powertrain, feels smaller on-road than it is, interior spec, settled ride
Room for improvement
Steering a tad vague and light, short tray length may cause problems for tradies, improved styling still a bit goofy in profile, LSD no match for fully locking rear diff
SsangYong’s Musso pick-up provides tantalising value-for-money
6 Dec 2018
After two years in the Australian automotive wilderness, South Korean manufacturer SsangYong is back with a new range of models including the Musso pick-up, the latest contender in the increasingly ute-obsessed Aussie market.
With a swathe of offerings to contend with, the Musso will have to find a point of difference to make a splash in one of the most hotly contested segments in the country.
At first glance the Musso has two – it is the only pick-up on sale from a Korean brand, and its top-spec 4x4 dual-cab model is priced from under $40,000 driveaway – well shy of halo models from the likes of Toyota, Ford and Nissan.
Is SsangYong offering its customers superb value with the new Musso? Or does its pricing accurately reflect the quality of the latest pick-up contender?
At launch, SsangYong is offering the Musso in 4x4, dual-cab-only guise, with three specification levels – the entry-level EX, mid-spec ELX and range-topping Ultimate.
Pricing for the Musso range is sharp, kicking off at $30,490 driveaway for the EX manual, up to $32,490 for the auto, $35,990 for the ELX and $39,990 for the Ultimate, which are both offered with a six-speed auto only.
With such sharp pricing, we were expecting to find a fairly rudimentary cabin when steeping inside the Musso for the first time, but like a number of other elements, we were pleasantly surprised.
We only sampled the top-spec Ultimate, which features an impressive amount of specification for a sub-$40,000 light-commercial vehicle. The cabin doesn’t look as classy as the related Rexton large SUV, with more hard, black plastic, but it is still laid out in a stylish and functional way.
The air-conditioning cluster and infotainment buttons feel a bit cheap, but a splash of leather across the dashboard helps keep the feel of a top-spec offering.
The Musso Ultimate scores generous standard features such as heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, sunroof, digital instrument cluster display, 7.0-inch infotainment screen, a surround-view monitor, leather upholstery and steering wheel, and active safety features including autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, blind spot detection, lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert.
One letdown for the interior is the Musso’s 7.0-inch infotainment system, which offers good size and clarity, but is not particularly intuitive or useful. The omission of sat-nav is understandable at the price point, but still would have made a handy inclusion. Instead, users have to rely on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is standard on the ELX and Ultimate.
Interior dimensions for front passengers are comfortable, but rear passengers might find legroom only just OK.
One quirk of the Musso is the way it has been rolled out – most utes come first, then their seven-seat SUV siblings follow. But the Musso is the opposite – it is built on a Rexton chassis, not the other way around.
As a result, the tub is the Musso is noticeably shorter than its rivals, which might prove a turn-off for tradies or those who otherwise need a longer tray. However a long-wheelbase version of the Musso is coming that will feature a 1.6-metre-long tray and leaf-spring suspension that will allow for a greater payload. SsangYong expects the long wheelbase will attract a price premium over the current version.
All versions of the Musso employ a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed Aisin automatic transmission, except for the entry-level EX which uses a six-speed manual.
The engine develops 133kW/400Nm, and like other pick-ups uses a part-time four-wheel-drive set-up with low-range gearing.
The Musso’s engine impresses with a sharp throttle response helping make the car feel nimble. Engine noise levels are good by pick-up standards, and while the Musso is no racecar, its acceleration levels are perfectly suitable for its application.
Torque comes on smoothly and steadily, and at no point does the engine feel thrashed or overworked.
The six-speed Aisin automatic is seen as the less preferable transmission when compared to the Rexton’s seven-speed Mercedes-Benz-sourced transmission, but there were no complaints with the Aisin despite losing 20Nm of torque to the Benz unit.
At highway speeds the tachometer sits just above 1500rpm, making long-distance cruising a breeze. At times the low engine rpms almost tricked us into thinking we were going slower than we actually were, forcing us to check the speedometer to make sure we weren’t creeping over the speed limit.
In our time with the Musso we recorded a fuel economy figure of between 9.9 and 11.0 litres per 100km, up on the official 8.6L/100km figure.
The thing that impressed us the most was the Musso’s on-road manners, which we expected to be unrefined at best.
The Musso is due to get an Australian-specific ride and handling tune in coming months, and as such is currently calibrated for smoother international roads.
Even still, the ride comfort in the Musso is commendable. We experienced some jittery moments on rough surfaces which is expected for a pick-up with no load in the back, but generally, it offers a settled ride quality, no doubt thanks in part to its coil-sprung rear end.
We can only imagine that with a local suspension tune the ride quality of the Musso will only get better.
While the Musso measures 5095mm long and weighs in at 2192kg, it felt smaller and lighter on the road than most of its pick-up competitors. Driving through twisty roads, the Musso sticks to the tarmac well with minimal bodyroll.
Steering is a bit vague and light, however the Ultimate comes with speed-assisted steering as standard which helps it feel more pointed at higher speeds.
We had a brief excursion testing the Musso’s off-road prowess through some modest dirt tracks, and while its low-range gearing and hill descent control work well, the limited-slip differential on the rear axle would be better off swapped for a fully locking diff. However at under $40,000 driveaway, we understand why it wasn’t included.
Our first impressions of the Musso are of a car that is incredible value for customers – not only does the entire range come in at under $40,000, all models also score a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty to go with seven years of scheduled servicing and roadside assist.
For business owners looking for maximum bang-for-your-buck or tradies who are sick of forking out over $50,000 for a dual-cab 4x4 ute, the Musso should definitely be on the shopping list.
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