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2020 4X4 Of The Year contender: Ssangyong Musso XLV Ultimate review

By Fraser Stronach | Photos: Nathan Jacobs, 14 Feb 2020 4x4OTY

2020 4X4 Of The Year Ssangyong Musso XLV Ultimate review

Ssangyong returns to 4X4OTY arena, this time with a ute.

SSANGYONG has now appeared on the 4X4OTY shortlist two years in a row, if nothing else a new record. Last year it was the Rexton wagon; this year it’s the Musso ute.

This however is not a fluke but comes off the back of SsangYong setting up a factory owned and backed distributor in Australia in 2018 after a number of years of being absent from the Australian market, and a fair degree of turmoil before that.

Among a number of new models, the Musso is a new-from-the-ground-up design that appeared globally in 2018. What we have is the Musso XLV, one of two quite distinct Musso variants that has a longer wheelbase and a much longer tub than the short-tub model, which is just known as the Musso.

The XLV comes in three equipment grades. The base ELX has leaf springs at the rear and the option of a manual gearbox, the Ultimate has the option of leaf or coil springs, while the Ultimate Plus is coil only. Ultimate and Ultimate Plus only come as automatics. The vehicle tested here is a coil-spring Ultimate.

Touring

The Musso is powered by the same impressive 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel used in the Rexton, and it claims 133kW of power and 420Nm of torque. While these numbers might sound unremarkable you can’t help but be impressed by the engine’s low noise levels and general running refinement. In fact, after driving the Musso, both the Triton’s and the Navara Warrior’s similar-sized turbo-diesel fours felt somewhat gruff and unrefined.

Performance-wise, the Musso gets along effortlessly enough with good torque available from low engine speeds without ever being notably eager when pressed hard, as you’d expect of 133kW hauling a 2200kg ute. For its part the six-speed automatic is smooth shifting but tends to hang on to the taller gears, perhaps in the interests of fuel economy. The gearbox has a ‘manual’ mode, via a toggle switch on the side of the shifter, which works well enough when you get used to it.

If the overwhelming impression of the Musso’s engine is one of refinement above and beyond the asking price, so too does the chassis have a quality feel in terms of the ride and road-noise suppression. Even the unladed ride is good.

Meanwhile, the steering response and general handling offers little to complain about unless it’s pushed at higher speeds on bumpier roads.

Trail Driving

The Musso is a big ute – bigger even than a Ford Ranger – with a huge amount of rear overhang and only a modest amount of ground clearance, so tight, gnarly trails aren’t its forte. There’s not much wheel travel either and the approach angle could also be better. Still, the Musso went where all the others went on test, although it did come out the other end battle-scarred with both front and rear bumpers copping some minor damage.

The Musso’s part-time 4x4 system is electromechanically operated via a rotary dial and goes into and out of low range with less fuss than many other dial-operated systems, but it could do with a deeper low range. The six-speed automatic generally works well in low range too although needs ‘manual’ control via the shifter toggle to get the best from it.

Set-Piece Hill Climb

The Musso was always going to have to work hard to get up the set-piece hill climb and so it turned out. The ramp-over clearance and long rear overhang both proved a problem, while the somewhat clunky electronic traction control struggled to rein in the amount of wheelspin being generated because of the limited wheel travel. Still, it got up even on its highway tyres but only with our set-piece hill-climb expert – editor Raudonikis – working hard at wheel and throttle.

Cabin, Equipment and Safety

The Musso has a huge cabin that’s as wide as an Amarok and as long as a Ranger, the two benchmarks amongst the popular dual cabs in those two respective measures. And it’s nicely finished and generally well presented, leather-look seats and all, providing a quality feel that goes well above the modest asking price.

There’s tilt-only steering wheel adjustment but neither the driving position nor driver’s seat drew complaints while the rear seat is a genuine three-adult prospect. Kit includes smart key entry, push-button stop/start, heated and air-conditioned front seats, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, auto headlights and wipers, daytime running lights and tyre-pressure monitoring. There’s no embedded satnav however and only manual climate control.

The impressive list of high-end safety kit starts with automatic emergency braking and runs to lane-departure warning, blindspot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. At the time of writing the Musso hadn’t undergone an ANCAP assessment.

Practicalities

The Musso’s 1.6-metre tray (with a 12-volt outlet) is both wider and longer than the trays on all the popular dual cabs and has the distinction of being able to carry a full-size pallet between the wheel arches. This rear-coil-spring Musso has a decent 880kg payload but it should be noted that the leaf-spring model adds 240kg to the payload, GVM and GCM. Both variants are rated to tow 3500kg.

There are no recovery hooks however – only a front screw-in towing eye – while the engine air intake under the bonnet lip is not ideally placed for deep water crossings.

Summary

A quality feel from bumper to bumper, a big cabin and tray, lots of kit and a small price tag has the Musso standing out from the dual-cab crowd, but it’s no off-road weapon.

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
GVM: 2980kg
Payload: 880kg
Towing Capacity: 3500kg
GCM: 6130kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 75 litres
ADR Fuel Claim: 8.2L/100km
Test Fuel Use: 11.5L/100km
Effective Range: 602km
Base Price: $39,990 (driveaway)
As-Tested: $39,990 (driveaway)*
*Towbar not included

Picking the best 4x4 at 4x4 of the Year

4X4 of the Year Verdict - 5th Place

Odd-looking dual-cab it may be with its plus-size tray, but the Musso is the most impressive vehicle here in terms of performing above and beyond expectations. Ron Moon, the most critical and hard-to-please of all our judges said of the Musso: “So surprisingly good I could easily live with this large dual-cab”.

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