Over the last few years, Korean manufacturer Ssangyong has completely revamped its range with a run of crossovers and SUVs that make a very good case for themselves against the class opposition. The latest is the Ssangyong Musso pickup.
The Musso is based on the separate chassis and most of the body of the Rexton SUV. Except, where you find the Rexton’s boot, the Musso has a load bed. That bed is neatly integrated into the rest of the truck’s styling, with a crease running from the headlights all the way back along the bed to the rear lights. It’s a good-looking, imposing thing.
It’s not much longer than the Rexton, either, but the trade-off there is a shorter bed. However, the Musso has a payload of 1,050kg and a max towing weight – with an automatic gearbox – of 3,500kg. The top-spec Saracen model tested here weighs in at 2,165kg so, if you add that lot together, you end up with a maximum gross train weight of 6,715kg. That makes it the only pick-up on the UK market that can carry its maximum weight in the load bed and on the towbar without breaching the 7 ton limit for this sort of vehicle. Though it’s always worth remembering that, if it’s registered to a company, any combination that weighs more than 3.5 tons needs to be fitted with a tachograph.
But enough of that. What’s the Musso actually like? Well, it’s a very pleasant place to spend time. The Saracen model tested here comes well equipped, has extremely comfortable heated and cooled seats, and the materials are generally well up the standards of other high-end pickups. There’s a massive amount of space front and back, too, with heated rear seats that aren’t mounted bolt-upright. The squab floats above the floor, so there’s useful stowage space underneath.
Note, though, that the Musso does without driver safety aids like lane-keep assist and blind spot warning.
The 2.2-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine serves up plenty of power and torque. In this case it is coupled to a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic gearbox – a six-speed manual is standard. Engine, road and wind noise is notably well-supressed.
I only drove the Musso briefly on a sealed surface, and the driving experience is a match for any of its rivals. The coil-spring rear suspension gets a little jittery, but much less so than leaf-sprung pickups. Throw a bit stuff in the bed and it’ll settle down nicely.
Most of my drive was off-road. On the road, the Musso is rear-wheel-drive only, but you switch to 4WD when the going gets tough. There’s low range, as well. Annoyingly, you have to be stationary in neutral to switch between the modes.
The Musso’s off-road credentials are compromised by its low ground clearance. Even so, it had no trouble dealing with the tough ‘black’ off-road route at Millbrook. The little bit of slop in the steering is actually helpful off-road and beyond it the wheel is light and accurate. Fantastic visibility, short overhangs and bluff sides make it easy to place between the ruts and the engine and gearbox are unstressed. Hill descent control comes as standard.
As a family lifestyle vehicle, the Musso makes a compelling case for itself by being better equipped, more relaxing to drive and much more spacious than its c.£30,000 rivals. As a working truck, the short load bed limits its appeal, but its low train weight should make it the default choice for anyone who tows a lot.
And if you have any qualms about buying a truck built by a relatively unknown brand, take a look at the 7-year, 150,000-mile warranty. We all know what a 7-year warranty did for Kia…
Model tested: Ssangyong Musso 2.2 E-XDi Saracen 4WD Auto Type: Double-cab pickup Price: £32,631 Engine: 2.2-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel Power: 181hp Torque: 295lb/ft Transmission: 6-speed automatic (6-spd manual standard) 4-wheel-drive Performance: 0-62mph in est. 11secs, top speed 115mph Economy: 32.8mpg combined, Co2 emissions 226g/km Length: 5,095mm Width: 1,950mm Height: 1,840mm Weight: 2,165kg Load capacity: 1,050kg Towing weight: 3,500kg Rivals: Ford Ranger, Isuzu D-Max, Mitsubishi L200, Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux, Volkswagen Amarok
By Graham King