SsangYong's Q200-series Musso aims to shake up the pick-up segment. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the revised version.
Ten Second Review
SsangYong's Musso pick-up aims to redefine the value proposition for customers in this segment and provide them with rugged but car-like transport. It's the only model in the sector tough enough to offer a seven year warranty and its combined payload and towing capacity is unmatched in the class. Now it's been further improved with the addition of a long wheelbase 'Long-bed' 'Rhino' variant at the top of the range. If you're buying in this sector, you probably won't have been considering a Musso. Perhaps you should.
What do you want when buying a pick-up? Probably things like rugged practicality, load capacity, towing strength, reliability and cab space. Here's a contender you probably haven't considered that claims to be class-leading in many of these areas at the same time as being one of the most affordable pick-ups in its class to buy. This is the SsangYong Musso.
Some background might be useful at this point. After all, since SsangYong pick-ups haven't so far made much headway in our market, you probably don't know much about them. The Korean brand's most recent pick-up design was the one launched as the 'Korando Sports' back in 2012, then updated and re-branded with 'Musso' badging in 2016. This new-era 'Q200'-series Musso model is very different from that, sharing all its engineering with the third generation version of SsangYong's Rexton luxury SUV that was launched here in Autumn 2017.
If you're used to driving pick-ups, there'll be one thing that'll immediately strike you as soon as you set off in a Musso. This model's exceptional refinement. SsangYong has put a huge amount of effort into improving this and it's really paid off, especially at higher highway speeds. On urban tarmac, refinement remains excellent but on poorer surfaces, you do start to notice a rather unyielding standard of ride quality. Some have criticised this but we prefer to take into account that this SsangYong offers the highest combined Gross Train Weight in the class. You don't get that without a fairly stiff suspension set-up - which in this case uses rear coils rather than the crude rear leaf springs that still feature in some rivals. Other pick-ups certainly deal with tarmac tears, speed humps and pot holes much better. But they can't carry a one-tonne payload at the same time as pulling along a 3.5-tonne trailer. It all comes down to priorities. What are yours?
The figures we've just quoted refer to the automatic gearbox variant that most buyers will probably choose - it's a well-proven Aisin 6-speed package. A 6-speed manual gearbox is of course also available. Either way, the engine beneath the bonnet is the same - a 2.2-litre e-XDi220 SsangYong-developed diesel unit that puts out 181PS and 420Nm of torque. That's enough to breeze you past 60mph in about 11.3s in the manual (11.9s in the auto) on the way to a top speed that's rated at 115mph in the auto model - or 121mph in the manual.
Design and Build
Creating a pick-up from a luxury SUV certainly seems like a promising concept. That's what SsangYong has set out to do here, the front half of this Musso being virtually identical to that of the brand's third generation Rexton model. The result is a muscular stance that in some ways suits this SUV product rather better. Only a Double cab body style is offered here - but that's the one the vast majority of buyers will want.
Once inside, a glance around reveals interior quality and design that's way better than anything SsangYong has produced in a commercial vehicle in the past and easily a match for mainstream market rivals. Infotainment provision is far better than you might expect it to be too, courtesy of the larger, higher-set HD centre-dash touchscreen that comes as standard providing you avoid entry-level trim. A proper pick-up should have a properly high, commanding driving position - and this one does. The ergonomics are good too. Front three-quarter visibility's excellent, judging where the extremities are is easy and the deep side windows really help at T-junctions and roundabouts. Once on the back seat, there's plenty of room for head, shoulders, knees and feet and the deeply-set windows give a bright, airy feel too.
Market and Model
Previous SsangYong pick-up models have vastly undercut obvious rivals on price - but then arguably that kind of approach isn't too difficult when the product concerned isn't quite as sophisticated as the competition. This 'Q200'-series Musso model is the brand's first really class-competitive pick-up, yet it still manages to maintain a useful price advantage over its rivals, prices for mainstream variants sitting in the £22,000 to £30,000 bracket, excluding VAT.
There are four trim levels - 'EX' (only offered with a manual 'box), 'Rebel' and Saracen' (offered in manual or auto forms) and 'Rhino' (auto only). Where available, automatic transmission is a £1,250 option. The main body style on offer is the standard Doublecab one - which is what nearly all customers in this segment want - though SsangYong has also developed a long wheelbase 'Longbed' body shape if you want a larger cargo bay; this comes with top 'Rhino'-spec, which comes with niceties like 17-inch alloy wheels, climate control and all-round parking sensors, plus a package of camera safety kit.
All Musso variants get the same mechanical package, a 2.2-litre 181PS e-XDi diesel mated to four wheel drive. If you're shopping in this segment, you'll probably be familiar with the main alternatives. The only rival that can match this Musso's asking prices is Isuzu's D-Max, but if you specified one of those up to match the spec of this SsangYong, you'd probably need the best part of another £1,000. And then you'd still be getting yourself a pick-up with less power and higher running costs.
Practicalities and Costs
The addition of a long bed lwb variant gives the Musso the potential to offer one of the highest capacity loading bays in the pick-up segment. It was already a sector leader in terms of potential payload. Most pick-ups cannot tow a trailer at maximum weight and carry a full payload at the same time, but Musso and Musso Rhino are different from most pick-ups. With a class-leading gross train weight of 6450kg (manual), 6750kg (automatic) and 6900kg (Rhino) Musso has the highest total load capacity of any pick-up on sale in the UK. It can tow 3.5-tonnes (automatic) concurrently to give the highest total load capacity in the segment. These are stats that really will get the attention of savvy operators.
Once you've got your stuff on to the large, flat rear deck of the standard-length variant, you'll find you've got 1,300mm of load bay length, 60mm of load bay height and a load bay width that's a class-leading maximum of 1,570mm (100mm more than a Mitsubishi L200), narrowing to 1,110mm between the wheel arches.
As for running costs, well you won't be expecting a pick-up with a gross vehicle weight of over 3.2-tonnes to be especially frugal, so the return in this case - a quoted 29.4mpg on the WLTP combined cycle for the manual model - may be better than you might have feared. CO2 emissions are NEDC-rated at 216g/km. Choosing the automatic gearbox doesn't have too much of an effect on these stats. Plus there's a class-leading 7 year / 150,000 mile warranty.
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 has struggled to provide exactly that - and got remarkably close to delivering it.
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.