2018 SsangYong Musso Review
Paul Horrell’s 2018 Ssangyong Musso Review with specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
IN A NUTSHELL The Musso launches into Australia’s busy 4WD dual-cab ute market in late 2018. A smart cabin, solid load capacity and low prices give it a fighting chance
2018 SsangYong Musso (British) Specifications
Price N/A Warranty N/A Engine 2.2L diesel Power 135kW at 4000pm Torque 400Nm at 1400-2800rpm Transmission 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto Drive all-wheel drive Body 5095mm (l); 1950mm (w exc mirrors); 2175mm (w inc mirrors); 1840mm (h inc roof rails) Turning circle 11.8m Towing weight 3500kg (braked, auto), 3000kg (braked, manual) 750kg (unbraked) Payload 1000kg Kerb weight 2165kg Seats 5 Fuel tank 75 litres Spare Yes Thirst 8.6l/100km combined cycle
SSANYONG IS coming back this year after a previous false start in Australia. It will be a proper factory-backed effort, not an independent distributor. The return coincides with the Korean factory’s launch of some far better-looking and more competitive vehicles than before. Mind you, the old lot were a significant eyesore.
Meanwhile, the Korean company itself is seeing a significant bout of investment. It’s now part of the vast Mahindra global 200,000-employee empire. New SsangYong SUVs, some with electrified powertrains, will be coming down the pipe at a rapid rate over the next three years.
This Musso ute is closely related to SsangYong’s new Rexton body-on-frame SUV. The frontal styling, suspension, engine and cabin are all shared with the SUV.
But the rear running gear is swapped out from an independent setup to a coil-suspended live axle. Above it is a tray that’s 1300mm long, 1500mm wide at its widest, and 1150mm between the wheel arches.
Next year the Koreans will start building a version with a 400mm wheelbase stretch for an even longer tray, but we don’t know if it’s coming to Oz.
The Korean-market version of the Musso doesn’t have the load weight capacity of rivals, so SsangYong’s UK arm uprated the springs so it could be tested and certified by the UK authorities with a 3.5-tonne trailer, 120kg towbar weight, and carry 1000kg in the tray. That trailer and carrying weight are simultaneous, by the way, resulting in a 6.5-tonne train weight. Those numbers are for the auto transmission – the manual is half a tonne less in the trailer and train weights.
It’s not clear yet which chassis spec the Australian market will get. But it is clear the Musso has a robust potential.
The engine is a 2.2-litre unit, again the same as in the Rexton SUV. the transmission is a widely-used Aisin six-speed auto. (The Rexton has a seven-speeder from Mercedes.) The manual alternative is a six-speed. The AWD system has 2H, 4H and 4L modes, electrically switched.
What’s the interior like?
For a vehicle at the value end of the park, the interior is unexpectedly civilised, well-equipped and roomy. Definitely a strong point.
The Musso’s wide body translates into width inside. Elbow room is plentiful in the front, even if you’re wrapped in cold-weather outdoor gear. Three people can sit abreast in the back too. Rear-seat legroom is also strong for a ute.
The rear seat back folds forward if you want to stick some extra gear in there that’s too vulnerable or precious to be kept out in the tray.
Trim quality is better than the sort of commercial-grade plastics you find elsewhere in the value-ute market. Basic versions have decent-quality cloth trim and a built-in DAB and bluetooth system, and a comprehensive trip computer. There are extra air vents in the back too.
Ascend through the trim levels and you swap out basic air-con for climate control, and come upon leather trim, big-screen infotainment, heated and cooled electric front seats even a heated steering wheel.
Versions with the 8-inch centre display have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, connected over USB. The tray has an outdoor 12V outlet too.
What’s it like on the road?
The engine and autobox make a civilised combination. Sure it’s not as fast or refined as the five-cylinder Ranger or V6 Amarok, but for most purposes it is quiet, and willing enough.
Low-rev torque means you don’t need to rev the engine, and mostly the six-speed auto is smooth. The manual alternative isn’t such a success, as the softly-mounted powertrain rocks about and makes it hard to engage a seamless first-to-second shift. Remember too that this transmission is rated for less load. Wind and tyre noise are also decently suppressed, showing again the advantages of sharing SUV genes.
The steering is light, but not especially precise even for a ute, and the body rolls in corners, especially with a load up. Overall though it’s no chore to drive.
Mind you if you’re planning on using it as a lifestyle vehicle, a substitute for a family SUV, beware the ride quality. Especially on the UK version with the 3.5-tonne springs, the back end hops and bangs about over even pretty minor lumps in the road.
Tested with a pallet of concrete slabs in the bed, it certainly smooths out a fair bit, but if course that brings its own penalty on fuel consumption and acceleration.
I’ve driven the Korean-market version on its softer springs, and its empty-tray ride quality is more on a par with other utes.
As for towing, I’ve done only a very brief bit of manoeuvring, so can’t really comment on how practical the rated weights really are. But the Musso is in itself heavier than a Triton, and has a shorter rear overhang at 1105mm, both of which benefit towing stability.
Off road, the Musso’s approach (22.8 degrees) and departure (23.4 degrees) angles are nothing special. Ground clearance is 215mm between the axles.
The Musso has a two-wheel-drive high ratio, but it has a centre diff so you can leave it in 4H. Then stop and shift the main transmission to neutral and rotate the rotary transfer box switch to 4L, which gives you a good choice of ratios for steep ascents and especially descents.
There’s also hill descent control which brings individually controlled disc brakes into the equation. Also hill-start assist, which pinches the brakes for a couple of seconds on a hill so it shouldn’t roll while you get your foot from the brake to the clutch. I thought that’s what handbrakes were for…
What about safety?
The body and frame are composed of 79 percent high-strength steel, says SsangYong, and it’s a recently designed structure so you’d hope for decent crash strength. Six airbags are fitted, including curtain bags that protect the rear passengers. Autonomous emergency braking is available. Useful features where vision is limited include park-distance control, blind-spot monitoring and a reversing camera.
So, what do we think?
Provided SsangYong in Oz gets the pricing and guarantee right, this could occupy a handy niche. No reason to suggest it won’t: in the UK this truck is about the cheapest on the 4×4 ute market and comes with seven years of warranty. Its utility is on par with rivals, and the cabin’s a nice place to be. The engine’s quiet too, but, unladen, the turbulent ride is a bit of a pain.