After a three-year Australian sales hiatus, SsangYong is back, and the South Korean brand is not going for a soft relaunch approach either. Four models are cutting straight to the core of Australian buyer habits, including three SUVs with off-road capability and a one-tonne ute – the Musso.
There are a few varieties of SsangYong’s pick up to choose from including the entry level EX, which kicks off from a bargain $30,000, but we jumped straight to the pointy end and the stretched Ultimate XLV dual cab with almost all the extras.
While some dual-cab line-ups are just getting started for $40k, the Musso offers a ton of kit and features, but how will it get on in Australia’s incredibly pragmatic and discerning landscape?
WHAT IS IT?
Exactly. For many people, that’s the first question when they see the Musso.
Neither its attractive face, nor the SsangYong brand are well known in Australia and that’s an obstacle the company is fighting hard to overcome. Initially though, we found the anonymity may actually play in the Musso’s favour.
When presented to festivalgoers at the 2019 Deni Ute Muster, the Musso received a surprisingly warm welcome and that may, in part, be thanks to its enigmatic persona.
No matter which variant you choose, the Musso is powered by a 2.2-litre diesel engine, the XLV gets a huge tray and tons of cabin space, a truly compelling price and all SsangYongs have a class-leading seven-year warranty and safety systems.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
The Musso joins an exclusive and small club of dual-cabs that can brag a coil-spring rear suspension set up, which is supposed to have notable comfort benefits. However, like the Nissan Navara and Mercedes X-Class, we struggled to feel a significant advantage.
Freeway cruising was by no means uncomfortable but its slightly fidgety attitude on the road was similar to many other unloaded utes we have tested.
Nor is the 133kW diesel engine particularly powerful compared with anything else in the market. But the Musso’s manner on the road is a brilliant demonstration of adequacy. A three-hour stint at the wheel was completely comfortable thanks to the commercial vehicle driving position, decent cabin insulation and surprisingly good noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels.
We also particularly liked the attention paid to ergonomics including the carefully sculpted steering wheel wrapped in leather. Steering feel is light and a little numb and we would love to sample the speed sensitive technology that comes only with the top-end Ultimate Plus.
With a decent 420Nm torque output, the Musso has decent acceleration and towing ability but its torque band is relatively narrow, meaning the grunt falls off quickly if the engine revs out of the sweet spot.
You can switch the six-speed automatic transmission into a ‘manual’ mode to try and hold gears in the optimum rev range, but it’s fiddly. Fortunately, the auto program does a good job of getting the best out of the diesel engine without too much human intervention.
Acceleration out on the road is not exactly incendiary with overtaking moves requiring some planning and space. That issue would only be compounded with load or towing. Once again, the Musso is an exercise in everything adequate.
Officially, the Musso will pull up to 3.5 tonnes when equipped with a braked trailer but we imagine that would be at the very limit of the engine’s capability and feasibly load. If you’re after true one-tonne status, the entry-level leaf-sprung Mussos offer more than 1000kg payload capability with the coil rear end versions dropping to 880kg.
For the serious off-roader though, there is some equally serious kit. Not only is the Musso a switchable four-wheel drive with high and low ranges. The rear differential is locking, ground clearance is 215mm, approach angle is 25-degrees while the departure angle is 20-degrees.
This big dual-cab is most at home on unsealed surfaces where the ride continues to be as comfortable as the paved road and there’s lots of reassuring feedback even on slippery surfaces and with only the rear wheels dealing with drive.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO LIVE WITH?
It’s only in recent years that the words luxury, comfort and dual-cab have been thrown together in the same sentence, but today’s modern ute is under increasing pressure to cater to an audience with car-like comfort demands.
And the Musso will surprise many that are expecting the no-frills cabin of some older South Korean representatives.
The cabin in this Ultimate XLV is not quite palatial, but it is well appointed with heaps of standard equipment that makes day-to-day use simple and relaxing. There aren’t many workhorse utes that offer heated seats in a grade below range-topping, but this one has both heating and cooled seat that are effective in both temperature extremes.
There’s also Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, which is essential given the disappointing absence of native navigation in any grade of Musso.
SsangYong hasn’t quite graduated to fully digital instrument clusters but there is a 7.0-inch screen framed between the more traditional analogue gauges. It adds a more modernised feel and displays a ton of information that is easy to scroll through, including a large digital speedometer readout and customisable graphics.
You’ll have to step up to the Ultimate Plus for real leather seats with electric adjustment, HID headlights, a full 360-degree camera. Still not enough kit? A sunroof and classy 20-inch alloy wheels are the only available options.
On the outside, the SsangYong is just as large as it is on the inside and measures almost the same in length as a Ram 1500 American-made truck we took along for the same trip. That translates to a whole heap of storage space in the cabin and the tray – the longest in the class, says its maker.
The XLV part of this Musso’s name relates to its 310mm stretched load tray out back, which can accommodate 1262 litres of things. If its overall length is little too much, the standard Musso might be the more manageable option.
The Musso also scores points for excellent driver assistance and safety systems that even the most mainstream brands are only just starting to feature in their models. It offers tyre pressure monitoring, front and rear radar parking assistance with reversing camera, lane changing assistance, rear-cross traffic alert, and blind-spot detection.
Even at the entry level, the Musso has autonomous emergency braking.
While the low-stressed diesel might not be a firecracker, it does deliver good fuel consumption and during our trip away with the Musso, it returned a reported economy figure of less than 10.0 litres per 100km – not bad for a 2.2-tonne 4x4 on a combination of roads.
Even considering its sizable exterior dimensions, the Musso is no harder to live with than any other dual cab. In fact, its excellent cabin visibility, manoeuvring tech and wide opening doors make it significantly simpler than a majority of rivals. Our only bugbear related to ease of loading lies in a curious trailing edge of the rear doors which protrudes past the window and caught us in the ribs on more than one occasion.
But speaking of a jab to the ribs, the attendees at this year’s Deni Ute Muster weren’t as savage to our Asian invader and actually commended the Musso for a number of features.
Firstly, its looks. Some reported there was a resemblance to the Holden Colorado, which is certainly true and should be taken as a compliment. The singlet-wearing crowd also liked the huge tray and no-nonsense cabin - as did we.
And when they learned the price, virtually everyone was pleasantly surprised. And therein lies the essence of the challenge for SsangYong. When you have a captive audience, it’s easy to explain the many good points about this well-rounded ute, but attracting that attention in the first place is a long battle.
IS IT WORTH THE MONEY?
When you consider that Toyota’s cheapest version of the dual-cab Hilux is exactly the same price as the most premium Musso, you get an idea of just how much is on offer for your cash.
And there isn’t a lot of sacrifice involved in sidestepping brands that are perceived as more premium either.
Instead of trying to stand out from an already crowded dual-cab market with best-in-class claims and ostentatious features, the Musso is going for a Trojan Horse approach. If you can shirk any brand loyalty you might have or animosity for a relative newcomer, the Musso is well worth a drive.
The only question we can’t answer regards the long-term ownership experience – perhaps the greatest concern for anyone thinking of taking a risk with a brand they haven’t previously lived with.
SsangYong is certainly putting a big vote of confidence in itself with its 777 deal, which bundles warranty, roadside assistance and capped-price servicing into a seven-year plan. If it can back that up with customer service that’s as attractive as the vehicles it is rolling out for its Aussie resurrection, this South Korean hopeful is on to a very good thing.
PROS: Lots of standard equipment; unrivalled ute warranty; sharp price; excellent driver-assistance features
CONS: No navigation in any grade; fidgety on-road cruising; jury’s out on customer service
Second Opinion: 4x4 Australia off-road review (with accessories package)
Mixing in-depth vehicle reviews with off-the-beaten-track adventures and gear tests, 4X4 is all about enjoying Australia’s great outdoors.
A locally-developed suspension package and a raft of quality accessories make Ssangyong’s Musso XLV a more attractive package.
By: Matt Raudonikis | Photos: Nathan Jacobs
There were a few raised eyebrows when we arrived for the 4x4 Of The Year testing in a Ssangyong Musso, but if there was one car that surprised our judges over the week of on- and off-road testing it was the big red ute. Each of the judges commented on the refinement of the drivetrain, the space in both the cabin and massive cargo tray, and tipped it as a great value-for-money package.
If there was one consistent negative comment about the Musso it was the ride height with most suggesting it could do with a suspension kit. Perhaps the rear bumper being dislodged from touching terra firma when we returned from the week of testing was a dead giveaway.
“Oh, we should have given you one with the off-road suspension,” said Ssangyong’s Kristian Bartley when we informed him of the now ill-fitting bumper and the comments on ground clearance or lack thereof.
Well duh! We forgot about that Ssangyong had previously commissioned local 4x4 specialists Ironman 4X4 to develop a suspension package for its vehicles to better suit Australian conditions and users. Ironman spent some time developing the package and then toing and froing with the OEM to get the setup tuned to its standards and now it is available as a factory-approved option.
The Ironman suspension for the Musso comprised springs and shocks that raise the ride height by 35mm at the front and 40mm at the back, and better control the stability over bumps. The constant load kit is available for both SWB Musso and LWB Musso XLV utes and is a $990 option.
The Musso XLV supplied to us with the upgraded suspension was also loaded with a heap of other factory accessories that add almost $12,000 (see price list) to the drive-away price, but even at $53,386.47 drive away, this is a lot of ute for the money. Even better with the discounts currently available that could land it for less than $50K for ABN holders.
Driving the Musso is a more pleasant experience than in many other double-cab 4x4 utes. The refinement of the powertrain that was so influential in the ute’s 4X4OTY performance shines through as soon as you get behind the wheel. The 2.2-litre diesel engine is smooth and relatively quiet while the six-speed auto gets on with the job without fuss or fanfare.
The cabin is not only quiet but it’s also big! Wider than just about all of the mainstream utes, it gives the feeling of a bigger vehicle. It’s spacious and airy, never feeling cramped or confined, while all the controls and buttons are easy to read and operate.
The Ironman suspension lift is only modest by off-road standards so there’s no need to climb up in to the cabin. More importantly, the upgraded suspension tames any bounce and wallowing that was noticeable in the stock vehicle over uneven terrain to deliver a far more controlled and pleasurable drive. The constant-load springs of the improved suspension should ensure that this control is mirrored when there is cargo in the massive tray.
That improved control afforded by the new suspension is also there when you leave the blacktop and hit the tracks as the Musso now tackles bumps and potholes with less kickback through the vehicle or upsetting of the chassis.
More significant is the added ride height, as we rolled over erosion humps without scraping the belly on this Musso where the standard one would have required special care to get over unscathed. At 3210mm this is still a long wheelbase vehicle and you need to be wary of the belly over ledges and drop-offs.
There’s no escaping that massive rear overhang though and even with the taller ride height, we still touched down on the tail a few times. Thankfully we kept the rear bumper intact this time around, the optional tow bar providing a bit of protection there.
The 420Nm diesel engine chugs along nicely in low-range crawling delivering its torque from as low as 1400rpm. The Musso has to make do with its electronic traction control for those instances where it lifts a wheel or there’s simply no grip as there are no other traction aids such as a user-lockable rear differential. Ssangyong does specify the rear diff as being an auto-locking limited slip unit and that works well for it on gravel, but we found it a bit slow to react when the going gets rougher.
The Hankook Dynapro AT tyres fitted to this Musso helped with traction and stability on the gravel roads as well.
The long wheelbase XLV version of the Musso might not be the ute for you if heavy-duty off-road driving is what you’re chasing, but it is capable enough for most users over most terrain that they are likely to encounter. It is made that extra bit capable with the upgraded suspension.
With its wide cabin, massive cargo tub, 3500kg towing and 800kg payload (coil spring XLV) the Musso delivers large on usability be it for family, trade or touring use. This practicality is amplified with the quality accessories fitted to this vehicle and not just the suspension.
The approved canopy comes from Carryboy and we reckon fitting it really helps the aesthetic of the Musso, putting its somewhat ungainly large appearance in to better proportions. Better still, a lockable canopy protects your belongings against the elements and adds some security to the cargo tub. A great feature of the Carryboy canopy is that all the locks, including the tailgate and side windows, are synched to the central locking so it’s a one-button press to unlock the openings for easy access.
Further adding to the quality brand accessories, the canopy is topped by a Titan Tray rack from Rola which is complemented by cross bars on the vehicle roof. When you add the Rola rack to the Carryboy Canopy and Ironman suspension it becomes obvious that Ssangyong has teamed with leading brands for its factory-approved accessories.
When you take in the value of Ssangyong’s 7-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, 7-year roadside assistance and capped price servicing, and add it to the Musso’s relatively low price-point, quality feel, refined drive and excellent capacities and practicality, it really stacks up as a leader in the value-for-money stakes. The quality gear offered by the factory and fitted to this particular vehicle just adds to that value package.
SSANGYONG MUSSO XLV ULTIMATE SPECS:
Engine: 2.2-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel
Max Power: 133kW at 4000rpm
Max Torque: 420Nm at 1400-2800rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed automatic
4x4 System: Dual range part-time
Kerb Weight: 2160kg
Towing Capacity: 3500kg
Departure angle: 21.5°
Rampover angle: 21.3°
Approach angle: 27.1°
Wading depth: N/A
Ground clearance: N/A
Fuel Tank Capacity: 75 litres
ADR Fuel Claim: 8.2L/100km
Test Fuel Use: 10.2L/100km
Price: $41,990 (driveaway)
As-Tested: $53,386.47 (driveaway)
MUSSO XLV ACCESSORIES (RRP)
Tow Bar: $1350
Electronic Brake Controller: $290
Carpet Mats: $153.12
Bonnet Protector: $118.75
Slimline Weather Shields: $137.19
Constant Load Suspension Kit: $990
Nudge Bar: $870.42
Premium Side-Steps: $900
Roof Racks: $394.97
Rola Titan Tray 1500x1200 Plus Side Rails: $1028