The latest SsangYong Musso has carved out a niche for itself in Australia’s massive 4×4 dual-cab ute market, among a core of buyers who feel privy to a well-kept secret.
Rather than offering the last word in cheap utilitarian toughness like the Mahindra Pik-Up, the Musso purports to outgun many rivals when it comes to refinement and comfort.
This is especially true of the range-topping XLV Ultimate with Luxury package as tested here, in all its slightly mis-proportioned glory.
It’s worth noting that the troubled brand plans an update for March this year, but it’s fairly minor and focuses on adding a few nice interior mod-sons rather than any mechanical enhancements. Therefore this review remains timely.
The wider Musso range kicks off at $34,990 drive-away for the ELX dual-cab, stepping up to $41,290 for the more luxuriously specified Ultimate.
To specify your Musso like ours, you need to tick the boxes on the $1500 XLV Pack (300mm longer tub, 110mm more wheelbase, 20Nm more torque), and $3000 for the Luxury Pack (dual-zone climate control, sunroof, Nappa leather trim, and heated rear seats).
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Nexen N Priz RH7 road tyres
- Dusk-sensing HID headlights
- LED daytime running lights
- A drop-in bedliner
- Proximity key access
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Climate control
- Nappa leather trim
- Powered, heated & ventilated front seats
- 8.0-inch touchscreen
- Apple CarPlay & Android Auto (wired)
- 360-degree camera
The Musso is unrated by ANCAP. The only SsangYong with an active safety rating is the unrelated Korando medium SUV, which is a 2019 five-star car.
It comes largely well equipped with safety features, though I’m not too keen on the Musso’s rear-centre lap belt which feels 20 years out of date.
- Six airbags including curtains for both rows
- Rear child-seat anchors and top tethers
- Autonomous emergency braking (vehicles only)
- Lane departure warning (no steering assist)
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Forward departure alert
- Cruise control
The fact such a small and perpetually skint manufacturer can make such a premium ute cabin, that puts a current Ranger’s in the shade as far as materials go, is a minor miracle.
The Musso’s leather feels plush, its switches damped and weighty (mostly), its perforated dash trims look primo, and it has a sunroof unlike any other ute bar the Navara. It’s all built as solidly as a Hyundai or Kia.
The Musso’s steering wheel moves for rake and reach, and I dig the simplicity of its instruments: two analogue gauges for speed and revs flanking a TFT with various digital speedo designs, technical animations, and trip data.
The wheel is nicely trimmed, but the spoke switches and buttons feel outlier-cheap.
Ahead of the padded console lid are two toothed cupholders, a 4×4 mode dial, a mechanical handbrake release, and a padded gear shifter.
There are buttons and dials for ventilation controls and audio functions, all damped and knurled a little like a premium SUV’s might be. It’s quite surprising, really.
There are two zones of climate control and ventilated front seats which, along with the sunroof, makes this a winner on sunny road trips. Cars sold in Australia with heated seats but not ventilated seats are out of place.
The centre screen’s menus and breadth of functions are limited in context, and the skin, fonts and buttons are all clearly aping Volvo – though if you’re going to mimic someone it may as well be the premium Swede.
It does offer wired phone mirroring and has a clear camera view, so it ticks the basic boxes.
The back seats are not as capacious as some rivals, though my 194cm frame could still fit behind my own seating position at a pinch.
Those back seats are also heated in the outboard bases. You get rear grab handles, cupholders and vents, but no plugs or connectivity. The seat backrest tumbles downwards in one piece.
There are no steps or bars, but there’s a drop-in tubliner and our car came with a canvas tonneau cover. These Mussos look tough with a canopy, by the way.
SsangYong’s in-house 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel makes 133kW and 420Nm, and an equal class-best 3500kg towing capacity.
It runs a six-speed automatic transmission from Aisin, and a conventional part-time 4×4 system with rear-wheel drive, switch-on-the-fly 4H for soft surfaces, and low-range.
Its fuel economy rating is a middling 9.0L/100km when unladen, on the combined cycle.
|Grade||Ultimate XLV Luxury|
|Engine||2.2-litre 4-cyl diesel|
|Power||133kW @ 4000rpm|
|Torque||420Nm @ 1600-2600rpm|
|Drive system||Part-time 4×4, low-range|
|Fuel economy ave||9.0L/100km|
What a surprising engine: smooth, very quiet, and punchy, especially in ‘sports’ mode. Little throttle or turbo lag is evident, and gear ratios are well-spaced for the most part with just some occasional hunting on highways at constant speed, on modest inclines or when laden.
All up it betters the similarly cheap GWM for rolling response and rips off the line better – that said, it’s only 2WD on sealed roads and if it’s a wet day the gap between the pair is sure to narrow.
The acoustic windscreen and noise-deadening insulation helps tremendously, with the Musso being the quietest ute over our corrugated gravel – and patchy bitumen test roads – this side of a big American pickup truck.
With a decent engine, great tow rating, and beyond-average refinement, it should hold appeal to caravan towers who are willing to take a punt on something outside the box, actually.
The steering transmits more road imperfections to your hands than I’d like, ditto the suspension tune, with the front dampers in particular not filtering out the rapid-fire corrugations so common to regional Australia as well as some more locally-tuned rivals.
Its rear coils improve road-holding and settle the unladen tub at the expense here of payload (they’re not two-stage, it seems), but in truth it’s not a revolutionary step-change.
With 650kg in the tub it definitely sat lower, but retained some modicum of compliance over sharp hits and felt stable even when nudging payload. There’s also plenty of scope for towing above GVM, as the GCM listed below shows.
Note, you can get the Musso XLV longer-tub like this with leaf springs and a 1025kg payload, albeit only in lower ELX workhorse trim grade.
Off-road the major impediments are the road-biased Nexen tyres, the limited 215mm of clearance, and a big rear overhang.
Selecting 2H, 4H and 4L is done on a knurled dial alongside the transmission selector. Ratio engagement is also quite quick with no major delays or difficulties. The 4×4 system is typical and run-of-the-mill, then.
Across uneven terrain the Musso’s suspension did seem to lack travel and was prone to lifting a wheel, however it clambered up our loggy hill, rutted trail and offset moguls – not quite as easily as the big-sellers by seat of the pants and by ear, but for middle-tier use cases it did fine.
The Musso is armed with Eaton’s Mlocker – an auto-locking rear diff triggered by wheel speed differential. I tend to find off-roaders prefer a fully-locking switchable style, where they can control it themselves. Regardless it’s good to have as a backup.
Want to know more about its of-road performance? Read here for our in-depth review.
|Grade||Ultimate XLV Luxury|
|Front suspension||Double wishbone|
|Rear suspension||Multi-link, coil|
|Rear diff locker||Auto-locking|
The Musso is backed by a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
SsangYong Australia offers capped-price servicing for seven visits:
- 12 months or 15,000km: $375
- 24 months or 30,000km: $375
- 36 months or 45,000km: $375
- 48 months or 60,000km: $375
- 60 months or 75,000km: $375
- 72 months or 90,000km: $375
- 84 months or 105,000km: $375
SsangYong also says on its site that you’ll need to pay some extra costs over this period for things like new fuel filter, and fluids for the brakes, transmission and transfer case every few years, which dents the value equation somewhat.
Look, there’s no escaping the unusual design and lack of badge cred here. But there’s also no escaping the sheer amount of metal and kit you get for the money, when lined up against almost all competitors.
The Musso’s upsides are its refinement, interior quality, engine performance, warranty, and price. Downsides include its ride comfort quirks, lack of safety rating, modest payload, and the parent company’s enduring financial troubles.
It remains surprisingly good, but weigh up the pros and cons and as always, do your homework.
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