The UK is now Ssangyong’s second-biggest export market and the budget brand remains intent on peppering our roads with its motors.
A recent reshuffle at the top of the company has refocused attention on specific markets rather than the previous scattergun approach.
Farmers are seen by Ssangyong as a prime target and the company is banking on the new Musso pickup accounting for 50% of annual sales.
The Musso has recently undergone the sort of surgery usually reserved for supermodels and footballers’ wives and, in doing so, has shed the tag of smallest pickup thanks to the strong influence from its bigger brother, the Rexton.
See also: Pickup test: 6 farm trucks compared
Ssangyong says the new Musso is actually closer to an SUV than a pickup and this was also our first impression. The truck appears more hunkered down than the Mitsubishi L200 ,and the top-spec Rhino model looks built to pound the tarmac rather than fly across field stubbles.
There’s nothing to wow the crowds here, as the Musso uses the same engine as the outgoing truck – a 2.2-litre block built by Ssangyong is the only option.
- Uncluttered interior and loads of toys
- High driving position
- Low-range box
- Huge seven years/150,000-mile warranty
- Tasteless chrome wheels
- Distant and unremarkable steering
- Short load bed
- Harsh ride when empty
It shares this with the Rexton, which weighs in at a portly 2,960kg. The much lighter 2,165kg Musso feels rather sprightly in comparison and only strains when the rev needle nudges above 3,500rpm.
Noise levels in the cab have been vastly improved and there is no need for raised voices when barking orders to the troops in the rear seats.
One disappointment is the steering, which feels distant and more detached the faster you go.
The Musso moves away from the Mercedes shifter employed in the Rexton in favour of an automatic Aisin unit. This does a decent job of disguising changes, although there is a bit of a jolt under full acceleration.
The automatic box is £1,250 extra over the standard six-speed manual, but it’s the option we would go for.
Although there isn’t a great deal of difference from the Rexton’s interior, subtle changes include the absence of the fancy dash with its slightly naff futuristic speed readouts.
In its place are old-school dials, some electronic fuel and temperature gauges and easy-to-fathom engine stats.
The clutter-free edges around the touchscreen indicate that everything is done by tapping the glass, which makes it simple to navigate.
The screen is bright and the reversing camera fills the full 9.2in – it’s as clear as units fitted on cars with much higher price tags.
The interior is a big step up from the old model, which was cramped and had enough buttons to keep a whole play group of toddlers occupied.
However, it isn’t all roses and we disliked the faux leather cladding along the dash, which will turn most agricultural buyers off. That said, the base model is much more worker friendly.
Ssangyong Musso Rebel
- Engine Ssangyong 2.2-litre XDI
- Cylinders Four inline
- Transmission Aisin six-speed automatic
- 4WD Part-time with low-range box
- Top speed 115mph
- Power 181hp@4,000rpm
- Torque 400Nm@1,400-2,800rpm
- Kerb weight 2,165kg
- Turning circle (kerb to kerb) 11.82m
- Payload 1,085kg
- Towing capacity 3,500kg
- Warranty Seven-years/150,000 miles
- On sale 1 August 2018
- Price as tested £23,745 OTR ex VAT
A high and commanding driving position gives a king-of-the-road feel and makes the chunky Land Rover Discovery seem rather puny in comparison.
There are also decent views down to the front of the bonnet, something the Nissan Navara, for example, really struggles with.
Space for second-row residents is commonly pretty tight in pickups but, as the Musso comes directly from the Rexton drawing board, rear passengers get plenty of room for legs or even a gaggle of large dogs.
However, this does affect the load bed. It can easily swallow a euro pallet, but it does seem to have had its growth stunted by the generous cab space, in similar fashion to the outgoing model.
The hill descent works identically to the Rexton’s. A tap of the button in any range activates it and if you’re brave enough to keep your feet away from the pedals, the Musso will do a fine job of navigating down steep slopes unscathed.
On the Saracen and Rhino models, Ssangyong has added an odd moulded detail under the front bumper which not only looks out of place in the country, it sits low and greatly reduces the approach angle – not ideal for rutted tracks as ground clearance is already fairly limiting.
Annoyingly, every time you drop in or out of four-wheel drive, there is a five-second stop to allow the cogs to slot into place. It’s not the end of the world, but a number of other makers do this electronically without the need to anchor up.
We had a 700kg load of breeze blocks on board for a varied drive across Wiltshire and the Musso never seemed overly strained, although the low rear wheel arch design still makes the pickup look like a soft-roader.
The breeze blocks actually delivered a vast improvement in terms of ride quality, pointing up the fact that the empty truck is a pretty unremarkable ride.
Unladen, it struggled to keep its rear seated when hammering along a farm track and the driver will feel the majority of this through the seat. The extra ballast helped the ladder chassis soak up bumps, even if the cornering was a little boat-like.
A couple of dodgy directions from the co-pilot allowed us to see what the Musso had in its turning circle locker, and on narrow country lanes it was pretty nimble to swing around, which bodes well for towing.
Ssangyong Musso lineup
- EX £19,995
- Rebel £22,495
- Saracen £24,995
- Rhino £28,495 (limited edition)
- Optional extras:
Automatic transmission £1,250
Metallic paint £430
Ssangyong might see the L200, Navara and D-Max as competition for the new Musso, but we’re not sure the same will apply in reverse.
The new truck is a decent step forward for the brand and will no doubt help to polish its image as a maker of respectable cars rather than just cheap motors.
However, farmers will be put off by the short load bed, harsh empty ride and limiting off-road angles, especially on the top-speccers.
If we had to pick one model it would be the Rebel, mainly because it comes with simple alloys rather than the tacky chrome wheels on the grades above.
A rather sizeable carrot will be the seven-year/150,000-mile warranty, which Ssangyong offers as standard, coupled with a huge spec list and an entry price under £20k.
If some of the niggles were ironed out, it could be well worth considering.