The SsangYong Musso ute offers some of the luxury of the Volkswagen Amarok while undercutting the Ford Ranger, but it’s poor to drive and thirsty.
The SsangYong Musso is the ute from Korea’s oldest manufacturer, with a lengthy history producing 4x4s. SsangYong might not be a household name here but the brand has built up a following of enthusiasts who value its tough and affordable off-roaders.
Far from being just a tool you leave on site, SsangYong has bigger plans for the facelifted Musso here, which is the most stylish and luxurious pickup it has launched so far. It sits on the same underpinnings and shares an engine with the latest SsangYong Rexton SUV, and has a list of kit including Nappa leather upholstery. High-spec versions are aimed at people who will use the truck for work during the week and for leisure at the weekend.
That’s not to say the Musso is expensive, though: the $34,990 driveaway entry-level ELX sits at the bottom end of the ute market, a long way from the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger. The price of the cheapest double-cab is similar to what you’d pay for some other single-cab utes.
SsangYong tweaked the styling in 2021, giving the Musso a vast new ‘ladder’ grille that gives it much more presence. It’s not what you’d call pretty but it certainly stands out and that will appeal to buyers keen on a brawny truck. All models get alloy wheels and LED daytime running lights, while upper-spec models adds roof rails and graphics.
On the list of improvements, safety is less of a known quantity because the Musso hasn’t yet been crash-tested by Euro NCAP which ANCAP follows.
Under the bonnet, there’s the same 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine producing 133kW and 400Nm (or 420Nm in XLV versions up) connected to either a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox. While acceleration isn’t a primary pickup forte, the Musso manages 0-100km/h quicker than some rivals (11.3 seconds for manual and 11.9 seconds for automatic models), and importantly there’s enough pulling power for a claimed 3500kg braked towing figure.
There’s a choice of a six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes and the Musso gets four-wheel drive as standard. This has a ‘part-time 4×4’ mode, with power sent to just the rear wheels during normal driving to save fuel, then shuffled to the fronts if slip is detected. We found the Musso was very happy to spin its wheels at any opportunity, despite this system. For seriously tricky terrain, there’s a low-ratio mode that lets you use more of the engine’s power and torque at slow speeds.
The Musso isn’t as good to drive as the class leaders. Its steering felt vague, leading you to take multiple stabs at longer corners, while the choppy ride sent shudders into the interior even on seemingly smooth roads. The engine performed better, delivering progressive power without too much fuss. You’ll also have to get used to the Musso’s size; it feels massive, especially down smaller roads.
Sharing much of its interior with the swish Rexton SUV, the latest Musso represents a big step up in quality for SsangYong pickups. Indeed, features on the range-topper like Nappa leather read more like the spec sheet for an executive car. Most versions also get heated and ventilated front seats that are sure to be appreciated by anyone working outdoors in winter. Other standard features include air-conditioning with filters designed to keep fine dust out of the interior and a 12-volt/120-watt socket in the load bed.
Every Musso gets an infotainment system with DAB radio and Bluetooth, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility to an eight-inch touchscreen plus a reversing camera. Upper spec models come with TomTom navigation on a 9.2-inch screen.
Ladder-frame utes have traditionally been agricultural in nature, with lots of engine, tyre and wind noise and bumpy suspension, and while the Musso still can’t match most SUVs, SsangYong’s engineers have managed to minimise the feeling you’re driving a piece of equipment. The bodywork is mounted to the chassis in eight positions and there are new polyester linings inside the wheelarches, along with better sound, dust and waterproofing in the engine bay. There are also more substantial rubber engine mounts to dampen noise and vibration. The doors have also been designed to cover the sills, so once opened you’re less likely to get mud on the back of your legs.
Unlike most other utes, there’s no single, crew or chassis cab versions; the Musso is only sold as a full-size double cab, albeit with two bed lengths.
Further back, as well as the power socket, the load bed has rotating hooks to make it easier to tie down your cargo and stop it sliding around. However, this isn’t quite as easy as the Navara’s clever system of tracks and clamps that move around the load bed. Like most utes in its class, the load bed has been designed to carry around a tonne in weight and fit a Euro pallet.
While there are signs of cost-cutting in the Musso in some areas it’s easy to get past these ‘quirks’ when you remember the Musso is one of the cheapest double-cab utes on sale.