SsangYong Musso review
The SsangYong Musso pick-up is strong in many areas beyond just value, but is let down by a poor ride
Although SsangYong may be in the midst of a rebrand to KG Mobility under its new KG Group ownership, the Musso is still branded as a SsangYong and thanks to its simple, cut-price approach, the Korean pick-up truck is not without appeal.
About the SsangYong Musso
The Musso name was originally used on an SUV model but SsangYong turned it into a pick-up truck in the late 2000s, with the first Musso pick-up spawning from the Korando Sports. The second-generation Musso pick-up arrived in 2018 and received a mid-life facelift in 2022. It’s based on the hardware as the SsangYong Rexton SUV, featuring body-on-chassis construction, which is commonplace in the sector as it gives good off-road ability and high load-carrying capacity.
The Musso is targeted directly at key rivals such as the top-selling Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux and Isuzu D-Max, all of which aim to offer high levels of utility with the comfort and features of a regular passenger car.
The Musso is available with a single engine option, a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel unit that is also shared with the Rexton, and it delivers 203bhp and up to 441Nm of torque. It can be specified with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, and all versions are fitted with a part-time four-wheel-drive system that sends drive to the front wheels only when it is needed. High and low range 4WD modes are also selectable by the driver.
The Musso is available in four trims, with the entry-level EX aimed primarily at the commercial user with standard cloth seats and fewer interior comforts. The Rebel, Saracen and top-specification Saracen+ models are better suited to private buyers, with larger alloy wheels and better cabin materials, such as leather seats and higher-grade infotainment systems. Where many of its rivals offer the added flexibility of a single-cab variant, the only bodystyle available on the Musso is the double-cab - although this does come with a choice of short and long-wheelbase, with the LWB only available with an automatic transmission and Saracen+ trim.
For what is usually considered a high-value brand, the SsangYong Musso is impressively capable in many areas. It even outclasses its key rivals in areas such as the quality of the cabin and the infotainment system, towing ability and levels of standard equipment. What let the Musso down however was the unladen ride, which was harsh and bouncy. SsangYong addressed this with the facelift, although the overall driving dynamics aren’t as good as many of its rivals.
When the Musso was launched with its mid-life facelift in 2022, it represented excellent value against its rivals with prices starting from under £24,000 (+ VAT). This has risen to over £25,000 (+ VAT) - reducing the cost advantage the Musso had in the segment.
With the Nissan Navara, Mercedes X-Class and Mitsubishi L200 falling by the wayside in recent years, the SsangYong Musso is certainly good enough to pick up customers in a UK pick-up market with reduced options.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
Anyone looking to purchase a pick-up truck will expect relatively high fuel bills even when powered by a diesel engine, and the Musso is typical of the breed. Despite it being one of the lightest in its class, an official combined figure of 34mpg for the manual (32mpg for the automatic) puts it behind key rivals, and translates to consumption in the high-20s during everyday use. Pre-facelift models with the older 2.0-litre diesel engine will see a drop off into the mid-20s for mpg.
Similarly, an official CO2 figure of 255g/km is high by general standards. This figure increases to 308g/km when the automatic gearbox option is ticked. Still, pick-up trucks qualify for light commercial vehicle road tax, so all trucks in the class cost £320 in annual tax.
The Musso is fitted with a large 75-litre fuel tank which helps to mitigate the low economy, and gives the potential for a range of just under 500 miles from a full tank. As with most pick-up trucks, aerodynamics play a key part in reducing fuel economy, and the Musso has a large frontal area, tall body and tyres designed for grip rather than low rolling resistance, all of which reduce fuel efficiency. A further contributor to the Musso’s economy performance is that it’s not fitted with an engine stop/start system, either as standard or as an option. This is in contrast to its key rivals and puts it at a further disadvantage for everyday running costs.
Previous SsangYong models have performed relatively poorly in terms of depreciation, but more recent offerings are showing improvements. While the brand itself does not have a strong reputation in terms of retained value, the low selling price, high specification and a decent warranty period of five years/100,000 miles - go some way to redressing this.
Load Space and Practicality
The Musso is available in just one double-cab bodystyle, frequently the most popular choice amongst pick-up buyers, as it adds the flexibility of taking rear-seat passengers. Five seats are available for passengers, with four full-size and a slightly narrower centre seat on the rear bench.
From the driver’s seat, the Musso offers a typically panoramic view of the road ahead thanks to the high ride height and driving position, while the electric seat controls and steering column rake and reach adjustment make it easy for drivers of all sizes to get comfortable. Even rear vision is relatively good considering the limited size of the rear window, but this is bolstered by the addition of a reversing camera on Rebel models and above.
Among the key rivals in the pick-up sector, the Musso is one of the shortest; the Toyota Hilux is 230mm longer and the Ford Ranger is a whopping 275mm longer, which is reflected in the length of the load bay. However, the Musso is wider than both of these competitors which helps both the flat-bed area and passenger accommodation. The Musso also has impressive ground clearance which is particularly useful for owners who regularly go off-road.
Space is a crucial factor for working vehicles like pick-ups, and the Musso delivers on all counts. For the driver and passenger, head and legroom are more than adequate with a double-cab configuration that gives rear seat passengers easier entry and crucial extra space. Five adults can be accommodated, while four adults will have space to spare. There are also a number of useful storage areas within the cabin, in particular a generous cubby underneath the central armrest.
The flat-bed also shows good practical thinking has been applied to the design of the Musso, as it features rotating hooks to secure cargo and a 12v power outlet to allow auxiliary equipment to be plugged in. Its size allows a standard Euro pallet to be carried, with a 1,105kg payload maximum for manual and 1,095kg for automatic models. The stretched version bumps this up to 1,205kg. Despite the extra practicality, the LWB only weighs 40kg more than the regular automatic Musso.
For anyone that plans to use a pick-up for towing, the Musso deserves serious consideration thanks to its impressive performance. It is one of the few pick-up trucks that can tow 3,500kg and carry over 1,000kg payload at the same time, and is backed up by the security of selectable four-wheel-drive. In addition, higher-specification models with the reversing camera benefit from an excellent rear view that is ideal during hitching and low-speed manoeuvres.
Reliability and Safety
Historically pick-ups have performed less well compared to conventional cars due to their separate chassis design, but this has improved in recent years with addition of modern safety systems. All versions of the Musso are fitted with six airbags, ESP and Active Rollover Protection, although at present features such as autonomous emergency braking are not available. Euro NCAP has yet to test the Musso, so an official safety rating is unavailable, but the lack of some safety features compared to rivals mean that a five-star result will be difficult to achieve.
As SsangYong is a relatively small player in the UK market it has not featured in the Driver Power survey, so in reliability terms it is relatively unknown. However, the Musso uses a proven Mercedes power unit and the perceived quality of the interior is above the usual standard of a pick-up, which suggests it will at least match the class standard.
There is reassurance in the fact that the Musso comes with one of the longer than average warranty, and includes elements that are frequently excluded by others. Earlier Mussos came with a longer warranty of seven-year/150,000 mile policy, with battery and paintwork cover for three years and some consumables such as brakes and clutch cover for the first year or 12,500 miles. The warranty also provides cover for wheel bearings, suspension joints, steering components and the infotainment system, elements which are commonly excluded.
All SsangYong models follow a relatively strict 12 months/12,000 mile service interval compared to the variable service intervals available on some competitor vehicles. SsangYong currently quotes a price of around £28 for a service plan for the Musso and Rexton.
Driving and Performance
The pre-facelift Musso came with a rather clattery 178bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine and was replaced by a newer 2.2-litre diesel unit with 203bhp and 400Nm of torque (441Nm for the models equipped with an automatic gearbox). It works well with the six-speed automatic gearbox or the six-speed manual - both unchanged for the facelift, and sounds a lot smoother than before - even more refined than the Ford Ranger.
While the Musso isn’t fast, it has more than sufficient performance for a vehicle of this type. Torque is also offered up nice and low in the rev range, which is helpful for off-roading. Less impressive is the steering of the Musso, which has a very light action and doesn’t provide much in the way of feedback through the wheel, making it somewhat difficult to place on the road and steer accurately through corners.
We used to bemoan the lack of ride quality in the Musso, but the facelift addressed this issue as well - especially with the rear bed loaded up.
The Musso’s top speed is 116mph with the manual transmission, which is competitive, and while an official 0-62mph time isn’t quoted, an estimated time of 12 seconds is good for a vehicle of this size.
Cab and Interior
The Musso and its stablemates have benefited greatly from a more modern approach to exterior design, and where once SsangYong models frequently looked ungainly or ill-proportioned, they now can compete on level terms with more established manufacturers.
Within the constraints of a typical pick-up silhouette, the Musso has a distinctive nose that became much more aggressive during the mid-life redesign - gaining a much larger grille area. Various creases in the bodywork help give the Musso a premium look. All versions come with alloy wheels as standard, with 17-inch wheels in EX and Rebel trim. 18-inch wheels can be had in Saracen and Saracen+ and SsangYong has decided to drop the 20-inch versions that were on the old top-specification Rhino.
The Musso’s interior, which borrows heavily from the Rexton, feels more like a car with aspirations of premium quality - rather than a utilitarian workhorse. The dashboard design is largely copied across and provides the Musso with a cabin that is a cut above the class standard, thanks to soft-touch plastics and an attractive design. The instruments are clear and smartly styled, the centre console is simple but finished with attractive buttons and switches, and the quality of the leather trim where fitted is of a good standard.
Saracen and Saracen+ models are fitted with Nappa leather seats that are heated and cooled, electrically operated and backed-up by a heated leather steering wheel - features that are more common on premium SUVs than pick-ups. The rear seats on those trim levels are also heated.
All versions of the Musso feature a DAB radio with Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, but move up to the Saracen trim and you’ll find a 12.3-inch touch screen. A rear-view camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are all standard on Rebel and above.