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Ssangyong Musso 2018 review
Practical pick-up truck looks good inside and out and has a refined engine and pleasingly direct steering, but its ride is in need of refinement
This is the new Ssangyong Musso, a pick-up truck from a brand that, unless you’re an avid caravan enthusiast, likely sits towards the periphery of your automotive awareness.
And that’s not just this tester being a smart alec, either; the Korean manufacturer freely admits that a large part of its UK customer base consists of buyers after a tow car that can pull their home on wheels.
It’s this hard-working, dependable character of Ssangyong’s vehicles, coupled with genuine off-road ability, that has led the brand to dub itself the ‘Korean Land Rover’. The new Musso, whose name translates from its manufacturer’s mother tongue as ‘rhinocerous’, is set to build on this fledgling reputation.
Just like the rhino, Ssangyong says, the Musso is tough, durable and powerful. That rhinos are also a pretty rare sight in the UK conveniently wasn’t included in the marketing spiel, but it was made clear that the new pick-up is expected to help the brand reach its 2018 goal of 10,000 units sold in the UK - up from just 4000 in 2017.
Sitting on the same body-on-frame architecture as the latest Rexton large SUV, the Musso can tow trailers weighing up to 3.5 tonnes, while its load bed is rated for up to one tonne. Power comes from a 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine that develops 179bhp at 4000rpm and 295lb ft from 1400-2800rpm.
This is sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, while selectable four-wheel drive and a low-range ‘box are also present. Suspension, meanwhile, is of double wishbones at the front and coil springs at the rear.
Ssangyongs of old were often questionable not just in terms of their on-road manners, but also the quality of their interiors and their design (the Rodius was particularly wretched to look at). The new Musso switches that up and makes a very good first impression.
It"s externally attractive in an alternative and quirky sort of way, while its interior is a genuinely appealing place to spend time. That’s not just against your typical pick-up offering, either; it gives some proper SUVs something to think about.
There’s loads of space in front and back, comfortable and supportive leather seats and no shortage of standard equipment. The tested Saracen model gets a responsive 9.2in touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, Bluetooth, a DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as heated and ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel and 20in alloys.
It’s a hushed environment, too. Pick-ups, by nature, are often fairly agrarian and unrefined to drive, but the Musso does an impressive job of masking its workhorse roots. Its 2.2-litre diesel engine is impressively smooth and hushed when accelerating - the Mercedes-Benz X-Class is practically deafening by comparison - and settles down to a distant drone at a cruise. It pulls strongly off the line, too, although progress from a standstill up to open-road speeds is leisurely at best. Ssangyong doesn’t provide an official 0-60mph time, but around 12sec would be a fair estimate.
The Musso"s steering is up there with the likes of the Toyota Hilux in terms of its ability to feel more like a regular SUV than a traditional pick-up. While so many vehicles of this type have a tendency to feature overly vague, slow racks that seem to have more in common with those you’d find in a ship than a car, the Musso’s is light and pleasingly direct. It’s not bristling with feel, but nothing really is these days.
So far so good, then. However, there is a caveat. There always is with these things. And it’s made all the more disappointing by the fact that the Musso does everything else so well. Put simply, the ride is just not up to scratch.
Now, all pick-ups are prone to a degree of pitter-pattering when driven unloaded, but the level of pitter-pattering in the Musso is on another level. On anything other than a particularly smooth section of motorway, it feels unsettled and uncomposed to the point where you’d almost be put off one entirely. Our addition of a 700kg stack of bricks in the back did settle things down at the rear, but there was still a large amount of shudder at the front and through the steering column.
That"s a massive shame, because were it not for the Musso’s crude ride quality, Ssangyong would have a seriously impressive and recommendable pick-up on its hands.
The Musso has an engine up there with the best in class for refinement, features a steering set-up far superior to practically everything other than the Toyota Hilux"s, looks good inside and out and can tow up to 3.5 tonnes. The Saracen model costs from £26,245 excluding VAT and comes with a seven-year warranty, too, so it’s also competitively priced.
As it currently stands, though, we wouldn"t fork out for one – not until the ride has been sorted. But that’s not to say it’s not worthy of a test drive (it absolutely is), only that a good deal of discretion is advised before signing on the dotted line.
Ssangyong Musso Saracen 4x4 auto specification
Where Wiltshire, UK Price £26,245 ex. VAT On sale now Engine 4cyls, 2.2-litre, turbo diesel Power 179bhp at 4000rpm Torque 295lb ft at 1400-2800rpm Gearbox 6-spd automatic Kerb weight 2165kg Top speed 115mph 0-62mph 12sec (est) Fuel economy 32.9mpg (combined) CO2 226g/km Rivals Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi L200, Isuzu D-Max
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