Everybody is aware of Ford, Volkswagen, Nissan, Toyota and a host of other mainstream players in the 4x4 pick-up market. Ssangyong, however, is a new name you may not have heard of.
Based in South Korea and with Indian engineering group Mahindra & Mahindra as its majority (73%) shareholder, the manufacturer has been gradually making its presence felt in the UK over the past few years with a range of competitively priced and well put-together cars and light commercials.
Its latest offering is the 1.0t-capacity four-door, five-seater double-cab Musso with selectable four-wheel drive. With the aim of promoting toughness, ‘Musso’ is Korean for rhinoceros, and the Musso badge sports a stylised rhino’s head complete with horns.
Customers can pick from the entry-level SE or the more upmarket EX, both of which are fitted with a 178hp 2.2-litre Euro6 diesel married to a six-speed manual gearbox. The EX is also available with a six-speed automatic box sourced from Japanese auto components giant Aisin, which can be switched to manual mode if required, and that is the model we drove. Single- and two-door stretch cab Mussos are not available.
Nor is a 4x2 variant. The Musso replaces the Korando Sports double-cab pick-up 4x4 1.0-tonner, which had a 155hp 2.0-litre diesel and 300kg less towing capacity. A van version of the Korando remains available in both 4x2 and 4x4 guises, and SsangYong additionally markets a commercial variant of the Rexton SUV.
Access to the cargo bed is by means of a lockable drop-down tailgate, which locks horizontally when you release it and cannot descend any further. Four tie-down points are provided, as is a plastic liner.
Our demonstrator sported a glazed Carryboy hardtop, colour-keyed to match the finish of the rest of the vehicle and with a lockable rear hatch. Both the hardtop and the cab were fitted with roof rails.
Top towing capacity is 3.5 tonnes and the Ssangyong Musso can be fitted with a tachograph.
Cab and equipment
You get a lot of kit for your cash. The roll call includes leather-trimmed, heated front seats, with the driver’s perch electrically adjustable so far as reach and height are concerned. You alter the height of the leather-trimmed steering wheel manually, and the wheel features remote controls for the RDS radio if you do not want to prod the seven-inch touch-screen. Bluetooth and iPod compatibility form part of the package.
Climate control is included in the deal. So are driver and front passenger airbags, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, front fog lights, an alarm, electric windows in all four doors, and electrically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors. Hit a button on the fascia and the latter fold inwards. Like the hardtop, the mirror casings and door handles are colour coordinated with the rest of the truck.
In-cab storage facilities include narrow bins in each of the front doors, a lidded box and a couple of trays in the console between the front seats – one of the trays incorporates a cup-holder – and a deep cubbyhole at the bottom of the dashboard.
Look up and you will see a holder for sunglasses just above the top of the windscreen. Look behind and you will find nets in the front seat backs and a cubbyhole in the back of the aforementioned console with a net to keep items in place.
While all three rear passengers are protected by height-adjustable headrests, only the outboard passengers are held in place by lap-and-diagonal belts. The centre passenger has to be content with a lap strap and their legroom is severely restricted.
If no middle passenger is being carried then the centre section of their seat back can be folded down and turned into an armrest complete with a pair of cupholders. Okay, the quality of the materials used throughout the cabin and the general standard of finish does not match the level achieved by Volkswagen in the latest Amarok, for example, but then again, you are not paying Volkswagen prices…
Electronic safety devices include ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution and electronic stability programme with Active Rollover Protection. Disc brakes are fitted to all four wheels.Our demonstrator vehicle was finished in optional metallic paint, and side rubbing strips were fitted to help prevent minor damage.
The Ssangyong Musso’s 2.2-litre turbodiesel achieves its maximum power output at 4,000rpm. Top torque of 400Nm bites across a 1,400–2,800rpm plateau and the manufacturer has managed to meet Euro6 without having to have recourse to AdBlue. It has done so it says by fitting a bigger exhaust gas recirculation (EGR)system and carefully tuning the ignition.
Four-wheel drive is easy to select. All you do is turn a dial from 2H to 4H, then to 4L if you want to deploy a lower set of gears. You can switch off the ESP when you venture off-road if you so wish.
Next to the gearshift you will find a winter/summer rocker switch. Flick it to the former setting on a snowy or icy surface and you will pull away – hopefully, smoothly – in second rather than first gear.
Chassis and steering
MacPherson struts sit at the heart of the front suspension while a five-link package with progressive coil springs and a live axle help support the rear of the vehicle. Our Musso EX’s 18-inch black alloy wheels – we were wary of going off-road on them for fear of the battering they might receive – were shod with Hankook Optimo K406 255/60 R18 tyres. A full-size spare wheel is provided and you will find the jack behind the rear passenger seats.
Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering delivers a 11.2m kerb-to-kerb turning circle.
For a large pick-up the Musso handles well, sweeping through bends without too many dramas and proving surprisingly easy to manoeuvre into tight parking spaces. The clear image provided by the rear-view camera helps as do the rear parking sensors.
Nor is the truck short on performance despite its 3.0t-plus gross weight. The automatic gearbox delivers the power that is on tap smoothly too, slipping from one set of cogs to the next and back again with the minimum of fuss. All the doors lock automatically as you
move away from rest and the truck gathers speed.
Switching to M for manual is easy enough – all you need to do is tap the gearshift to the left and use the button on the side to change gear – but on paved roads, why would you want to? Best leave it in automatic – the kick-down function is quite mild, but still useful when you are overtaking – and let the gearbox get on with it.
In-cab noise levels are well suppressed, but the Musso’s unladen ride is not its strong suit. You have to heave rather a lot of weight into the back before the rear suspension calms down.
Off-road our Musso doggedly squelched across several sodden fields, up a muddy embankment, over another field, crossed a brook and then wended its way down a heavily pot-holed farm track. Ground clearance is 195mm.
None of it was especially demanding – we didn’t need to resort to 4L – but is typical of the use to which the truck is likely to be put. The Musso doesn’t have the off-road (or on-road) technical sophistication of some of its rivals, but once again, you get what you pay for.
Buying and running
Three cheers for the comprehensive five-year/unlimited-mileage warranty, which embraces everything from the steering joints to the audio system. Wearable items such as brake friction materials are covered for 12 months/12,000 miles, while the battery and paintwork are covered for three years.
At 12 months/12,500 miles the service interval could perhaps stand to be a little longer, and the Musso is not especially frugal. We were achieving closer to 32–33mpg than the 37mpg official combined figure quoted in Ssangyong’s paperwork. That said, the speed of response of the auto gearbox encouraged us to floor the accelerator pedal at every opportunity, and the more you do that, the more diesel you will burn.