Review and road test of the SsangYong Musso (2016 - 2018)
MUST IT BE A MUSSO?
By Jonathan Crouch
The Musso pick-up model that SsangYong sold between 2016 and early 2018 aimed to redefine the value proposition for customers in the pick-up segment and provide them with rugged but car-like transport. Better to drive and more affordable than most of its competitors, yet better equipped, this Musso features a five-seater Double Cab design that's as practical as you'd want. If you're buying a used pick-up from this era in this sector, you probably won't have been considering one. Perhaps you should.
4dr Pick-up 4x4 (2.2 diesel [SE, EX - 4WD])
If you know anything about SsangYong pick-up models - or perhaps you own one - you may recognise this 2016 to 2018-era Musso for what it is - a revised version of the vehicle that the Korean brand sold here badged as the 'Korando Sports' between 2012 and 2016. SsangYong changed the name in 2016 because it wanted to differentiate this utility truck from its Korando SUV passenger car.
The other more important thing that changed with this model's introduction in 2016 was the diesel engine beneath the bonnet, previously a 2.0-litre unit, but as part of the name change alterations, updated to 2.2-litres in size so that more pulling power could be provided, something SsangYong somehow managed at the same time as delivering a significant improvement in CO2 emissions. It was certainly a world away from the ancient old 2.9-litre Mercedes-derived diesel that was fitted to the previous SsangYong Musso pick-up we saw in this country, the ugly-looking Ken Greenly-designed model that was produced between 2002 and 2005.
The brand promoted this Musso model in much the same fashion as it marketed its 'Korando Sports' predecessor. It was, buyers were told, not only a commercial carrier but could also function as a passenger car with pick-up versatility, thanks to the kind of supple multi-link rear suspension that most other pick-ups from this era couldn't offer. Yet there's all the rugged workmanlike ability you'd really want from a model in this class, thanks to a 1-tonne payload and a 3-tonne towing capacity. This Musso sold until mid-2018, when it was replaced by a Rexton-based model of the same name.
What You Get
It was clear at the launch of this model in 2016 that SsangYong design had come a long way since the last generation Musso pick-up was quietly deleted from the company's product line-up back in 2005. The awkwardly, ungainly styling of that old Ken Greenly-penned model shared nothing with the more confident, sophisticated shape on offer here. It was a subtle development of what was served up by the Korando Sports pick-up that sold between 2012 and 2016, the vehicle this more modern Musso directly replaced.
If you happen to be familiar with that Korando Sports model, the most obvious aesthetic improvement you'll notice here lies with the front foglamps, embellished with jewel-like LEDs. And inside? Well SsangYong needed to do a little work here. The driving experience of the old Korando Sports pick-up may have been quite car-like but the interior ambience of that model really wasn't. Hence what was delivered here, a more pleasingly-finished cabin with plenty of smart silver trimming, especially around the more stylish four-spoke leather-trimmed steering wheel. Take a seat in the rear and you'll find that this Musso holds an important advantage over some of its most direct rivals. Not only is there plenty of room for head, shoulders, knees and feet but, rather uniquely, you can recline the rear seat back by up to 29-degrees.
SsangYong's car-like claims for this Musso model might to some be suggestive of some compromise in commercial practicality. That's not the case when it comes to size. A large, flat rear deck provides a 2.04m2 load area complete with a standard load deck liner and anchor points so that you can easily tie things down. And can those items be really heavy? They couldn't be with the original 'Korando Sports' version of this design, but that model was later uprated to be able to take the one-tonne payload that customers in this segment tend to be looking for. As you'd expect, that capability was carried forward into the Musso range. Get a model whose original owner specified the optional tow bar and you'll be able to tow a braked trailer of up to 3-tonnes too.
What to Look For
The Musso has proved to be reliable, the old problems SsangYong had with some of its earlier engines banished with this model's more up to date 2.2-litre e-XDi diesel engine. As with any pick-up, steer clear of examples that have obviously led a very hard life, unless they really are very cheap. Check underneath for signs of over-tough off road use. Most examples you'll come across may well still have some of the original new model's 'Limitless' manufacturer warranty still to run, five year cover that wasn't limited by the usual mileage ceiling.
(approx based on a 2016 Musso pick-up) SsangYong parts aren't too expensive, given that it's a low volume importer. You'll need to set aside around £145 for something like an alternator, but most other parts are pretty cheap. An air filter will typically be around £11, though you could pay up to around £22 for a pricier brand. A fuel filter will be between £2 and £7 and an oil filter between £6 and £8. Brake pads are between £14 and £21, though you could pay up to around £30 to £35 for a pricier brand. Brake discs sit in the £75 to £85 bracket. Brake shoes are around £30. A drive belt sits in the £18 to £30 bracket. A thermostat is between £8 and £20, though you could pay up to around £35 for a pricier brand. Tyres will be around £35 each and a water pump is around £30.
On the Road
Whether you want a hard working truck for business use or dynamic family transport that'll take in a few off road adventures, the Musso pick-up aims to oblige. It'll lug along a 1 tonne payload and can tow a braked trailer of up to 3 tonnes but what's arguably more noteworthy is the suspension set-up on offer. Most pick-ups use a rudimentary leaf-sprung rear suspension system but this SsangYong has multi-link rear suspension with set-up coil springs so that it drives far more like a car. Of course off road, it's nothing like a car thanks to a tough ladder-frame chassis and a part time selectable 4WD system that's been reliably proven over some of the most demanding terrain in the world.
Under the bonnet, a major difference between this Musso and its Korando Sports predecessor is the Euro6 diesel engine. Here, a 2.2-litre powerplant replaced the previous 2.0-litre unit and it delivered significant improvements in torque - up to 400Nm - which facilitated an improved towing capability. Somehow too, SsangYong delivered all of this while significantly improving both fuel economy and CO2 emissions. A manual model returns 40mpg on the combined cycle and 186g/km of CO2, while if you go for the automatic variant, the figures are 37mpg and 202g/km.
There's a lot to think about when it comes to picking out a pick-up. You're buying one in the first place because you want practical, go-anywhere ruggedness. Yet if at least some of the time, it's got to serve as your only means of transport, then you also need car-like qualities - real refinement, supple suspension and a comfortable cabin. Ideally, you'd want all of this along with a high specification and a price that looks like a misprint. You'd be asking a lot. Yet here, SsangYong struggled to provide exactly that - and got remarkably close to delivering it. There are, it's true, some more sophisticated, higher profile used pick-up choices you could make in this sector from this era and some of them have classier cabins and can carry or tow slightly more. All though, are painfully pricey in comparison to this Musso and in many cases, are much cruder to drive on-road.
That last point we think is significant. This model is not only as honest, reliable and highly capable as every pick-up should be, but crucially, thanks to its car-like coil-sprung rear suspension, is also better suited to a life on-tarmac than many of its contemporaries. On top of that, you get the kind of comprehensive after-sales support every pick-up should have - and even a bit of a sense of style too. All from a brand you've maybe never heard of but might like to start to get to know. In summary, the word 'Musso' may mean 'rhinoceros' in Korean but what we've found here is a pick-up that can offer more than just tough robustness. True, the resulting package certainly isn't an obvious choice in this segment. In many ways though, it's a rather clever one.
SsangYong Musso (2016 - 2018) review by Jonathan Crouch