Driven: 2018 SsangYong Musso

There are plenty of pick-ups that try to offer SUV-like comforts, but SsangYong has arrived at its new Musso from a different direction. Based on the new Rexton, this Musso is essentially a Rexton with a loadbed.

Unlike the outgoing Musso, SsangYong has made some effort to hide this transition in the styling. So, you get sculpted lines down the sides that blend in much more with the overall style than before. The upper edge of the load bed also flows better with the cab’s window line and it all looks far more harmonious than the cut ‘n’ shut appearance of the old model.

With most pick-ups, we wouldn’t dwell that much on the styling, but it’s an area that has generated some resistance to the older Musso, so it’s important this new version gets it right. Round the front, it could be mistaken for any of several rivals if you cover up the badge, so buyers previously put off by the SsangYong badge may well be more amenable now.

More thought is evident in the styling with all four doors that cover the lower sill section when closed. This means dirt cannot build up in there and cover your trousers as you get in and out, which is a consideration when more pick-ups are being bought to use in a wider variety of roles than just working environments.

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But what of the workhorse side of this Musso? Like its predecessor, it’s built with a body on frame construction to make it as strong as key rivals such as the Ford Ranger and Isuzu D-Max. This also endows the SsangYong with excellent off-road ability, helped by the four-wheel drive transmission. This normally runs in rear-drive but can be swapped to all-wheel drive high or low ratios with the turn of a dial positioned just behind the gear lever. In either of these two modes, the Musso is very capable.

It’s also handy when it comes to carrying larg items in the loadbed, which is big enough to cope with a Euro pallet. The maximum weight for the pick-up tray is one tonne, which is less than an Isuzu D-Max but sufficient for most needs. To take weightier items, you’ll need a trailer and the Musso can haul 3.5-tonne with a braked trailer if you opt for the SsangYong with an automatic gearbox. Stick with the six-speed manual and you’re limited to a 3.2-tonne limit.

Pulling all of that is a 2.2-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder engine producing 181PS and 400Nm of torque when attached to the manual ’box or 420Nm for the auto transmission. SsangYong reckons more buyers will choose the auto and we can see why as it’s a smooth-shifting gearbox that suits the easy-going nature of this pick-up. You can put the auto into a manual override mode, which is ideal for descending steep off-road tracks, but otherwise we’d leave it to its own devices.

In normal driving, the auto ’box changes up a cog long before the engine gets a chance to become vocal. Only when pushed very hard did the turbodiesel become loud during our time with it and it’s easily one of the most refined in this sector. Acceleration is not as brisk as a Ford Ranger’s, but the dividend in refinement is one we’d be happy to take on longer journeys. As for the ride and handling, it was a little too soft and wallowy in the pre-production model we tried, but SsangYong says UK-specific pick-ups will have a firmer suspension set-up.

Ssang Yong Musso 3 (1)

The new Musso can only muster 32.8mpg according SsangYong's figures with the automatic gearbox, improving slightly to 35.8mpg with the manual transmission, but both trail the class best. It’s the same story for CO2 emissions, which work out at 211- or 226g/km depending on whether you go manual or auto.

A hard-headed business decision will need to take account of the Musso’s keen pricing, which is expected to start from around £17,000 excluding VAT and rise to around £30,000 for the fully loaded top spec model like the one here. This comes with leather upholstery, as well as heated and ventilated front seats. You also get an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen as standard in all but the base model.

As the Musso is derived from the Rexton, the interior is almost identical, which is welcome. The driving position is good and affords a fine all-round view, the dash is easy to read at a glance and the centre console groups the ventilation controls in a straightforward way with buttons big enough to use even when wearing gloves. Some of the plastics don’t look and feel as high grade as those in a Volkswagen Amarok, but they should be simple to wipe down and keep clean.

Move into the rear quarters of this crew cab SsangYong and it grabs a lead over its rivals. Using the Rexton as its base means there’s more room back here for heads, legs and knees, and three adults fit comfortably thanks to the flat floor with no transmission tunnel intrusion. It adds up to a much stronger case for choosing the Musso than its predecessor. Factor in a five-year, unlimited mileage warranty, and the SsangYong’s higher running costs being offset by its expected lower prices, and it has to be a contender for those who value comfort as well as practicality.

Essential stats

Prices start from: £16,000 est exc VAT, claimed economy: 32.8mpg, CO2 emissions: 211g/km, payload: 1000kg, towing capacity: 3.2-3.5 tonnes (braked), length: 5095mm, width: 1950mm, height: 1840mm, engine: 2157cc four-cylinder in-line turbodiesel, power output: 181PS.

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