We’ve been impressed lately with the long wheelbase SsangYong Musso XLV that launched in Australia midway through 2019. So much so that we thought we should take another look back at the SWB Musso that has been with us a while longer.
While the refined driveline, spacious cabin and great value for money are the key things that have impressed us with the Musso, the locally developed optional suspension package is the icing on the cake, giving the Korean pick-up more ground clearance, better suspension control and improved off-road ability.
Last month we tested the Musso XLV with the Ironman 4x4-developed suspension kit, as well as a host of other quality factory accessories, but were yet to drive the standard wheelbase model with it. So here we have the short wheelbase Musso in base-spec EX manual trim. At just $30,490 driveaway, it is a great value ute to base a build on.
4x4 of the Year 2020: Musso XLV
This Musso has been fitted with the Ironman 4x4 springs to give it the needed 30 to 35mm of lift, but not the full kit that also would include shock absorbers. Other extras include the black sports bar, tonneau cover, 18-inch alloys with AT tyres, floor mats, and a front underbody protection plate that also comes from Ironman 4x4 and is being evaluated to become a factory-offered accessory.
Even with these accessories on-board, the Musso is still driveaway for around $36K, which is outstanding value. Especially when you consider SsangYong’s seven-year warranty, roadside assist and capped-price servicing package, which is standard on all new models.
As mentioned, the optional suspension package was developed here in Australia with Ironman 4x4. SsangYong offers it as just the coil springs, as on this car, in what it calls the Performance Suspension kit; or springs and shocks as the Constant Load kit, as fitted to the XLV we tested last month.
“Factory fitted OEM suspension needs to be configured to suit the widest audience, the broadness of application and customer expectations,” says Ironman 4x4’s director of Suspension Product, Kristian Ristell, who headed up the development. “This means we can’t target a specific area of performance without affecting another, and for this reason OEM suspension is always a compromise.”
A common criticism of the Musso is the factory ground clearance, which is quoted as 216mm for the SWB or 220mm for the LWB, where it is more noticeable due to the wider ramp-over angle and longer rear overhang. The suspension kits go a long way to rectifying this, with an added 30 to 35mm of height with the Performance kit and 35 to 40mm when fitted with the Constant Load kit.
“This kit is a fully fledged Ironman 4x4 suspension upgrade that is also available from SsangYong dealers for even greater dynamic competence and capability. It caters for more demanding requirements such as off-road driving or heavier load carrying,” says Ristell.
On road review
Jumping in the SWB EX after the XLV you are greeted with a familiar wide cabin; although, the EX misses out on the large touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that the up-spec Mussos get. Still, it’s spacious and comfortable and one of the best laid-out cabins in the one-tonne 4x4 ute segment.
The shifter for the six-speed manual gearbox feels a little loose and vague at first use (although you soon become acclimated to its gates), particularly reverse gear which, like most six-speed boxes is across to the left and up beside first gear, but there is no lockout to prevent accidental selection when going for first cog.
Its operation reverts to second nature out on the road, and the ratios are well-suited to the 2.2-litre diesel engine. The engine is only rated to 400Nm with the manual as opposed to 420Nm with the auto, but due to short overall gearing, the smooth little mill feels more sprightly when matched to the manual over the auto, which itself gave no reason to complain.
The manual is only offered in this entry-level EX specification and not the higher spec models, but you’d have to really like manual gearboxes to choose one over the $2000 Aisin auto option.
The suspension feels well-weighted and doesn’t appear to lose too much by retaining the factory shock absorbers. It is a bit jittery on rough surfaces, but you get that in any unladen ute and it would smooth out with some weight in the tray.
Off road review
While the SWB Musso doesn’t suffer clearance issues as badly as its bigger LWB brother, a quality suspension lift inevitably makes any 4x4 better. The Musso uses a traditional part-time, dual-range 4x4 system with electronic traction control and an auto-locking rear differential. This diff tightens up once slip is detected and is not driver selectable like many lockers.
The raised suspension does provide some added clearance, but the bottom lip of the front bumper still rides low and we touched it down a few times without hitting the underbody protection plate. However, we didn’t feel the rear bumper touching down on this car as we did on the LWB Musso.
The suspension works well over rough roads and rutted tracks, although travel is limited and the Musso soon lifts wheels. This is where that auto locker comes into force; you feel the initial wheelspin and then feel it lock up and drive you onwards. It is surprising where this will get the Musso, and the vehicle makes a great general touring 4x4.
The tray of the Musso appears stubby when you look at it, especially if you’ve spent time with the XLV which has an extra 300mm in tub length. Part of the reason for that is the depth of the tub, which is massive and has plenty of room. We had a 250cc motocross bike in there with the tailgate down, just as you would in most double-cab utes. Having tie-down points down nice and low really helps with this. Plus, there’s also a 12-volt power outlet in the tub.
In terms of capacities the SWB Musso, like its bigger brother, is rated to tow 3500kg but the payload is a lower 790kg.
The Musso is more than just a budget ute – a lot more really – and it drives and performs better than some of the more popular, expensive vehicles in the one-tonne ute market. With a growing range of quality factory accessories, and some from the aftermarket, the Musso becomes an even more attractive option.
SSANGYONG MUSSO EX SPECS:
Engine: 2.2-litre 4-cyl turbo-diesel
Max Power: 133kW at 4000rpm
Max Torque: 400Nm at 1400-2800rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
4x4 System: Dual-range part-time
Kerb Weight: 2080kg
Towball Capacity: 3500kg
Departure angle: 25.0°
Rampover angle: 24.1°
Approach angle: 24.7°
Wading depth: N/A
Ground clearance: 245mm
Fuel Tank Capacity: 75 litres
ADR Fuel Claim: 7.9L/100km
Test Fuel Use: 9.8L/100km
Price: $30,490 (driveaway)
As-tested price: $36,021.47 (driveaway)*
*SSANGYONG MUSSO EX ACCESSORIES FITTED
Carpet mats: $153.12
Sports Bars: $1012.75
Hankook A/T: $250 (each)
Lift kit: $396
Underbody Protection: TBA (approx $620)
18-inch alloy wheels: $1800