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SsangYong Musso Saracen Pickup Review

Introduction

The Ssangyong Musso might not be the first name on a list of pickups, but this Korean value-based brand makes a truck that makes some compelling arguments for itself.

It goes toe to toe with the best in class in terms of equipment and refinement and can hold its own off-road. Its towing credentials are top-notch, too - it’s the only pickup truck on the UK market that’s rated to tow three and a half tonnes while also carrying a tonne of cargo. Now it’s had a facelift to keep it looking fresh against newer rivals, so it’s time to take a look at what the Musso can do for you.

Select's rating score* - 3.3 / 5

At a Glance

SsangYong must hate the ‘budget brand’ tag that it gets, as the Musso is anything but cheap. It undercuts its rivals and offers excellent value for money, but there’s been no cutting of corners. You get a pickup truck that’s impressively equipped, refined and capable.

Stepping out of an SUV and into a pickup can be a shock for many, but the Musso blurs the lines between the two. The rugged exterior contrasts with a cabin that’s plush and luxurious, meaning it could be a great model for those looking to take advantage of generous tax benefits without giving up their SUV comforts.

There’s just one engine and four trim levels to choose from, so picking the right Musso shouldn’t be too difficult. Interestingly, the top-spec Rhino model even has a larger load bed, making it both more opulent and more practical.


Key Features

SsangYong pushes the value aspect of its range, and for good reason; in the pickup world, you won’t find a more comprehensively equipped model for the money.

But there’s much more to the Musso than a compelling price tag. Chief amongst those is, unexpectedly, its impressive cargo carrying and towing capacity - something that’s vitally important to many pickup users.

Powered by a 181hp 2.2-litre diesel engine, there’s enough grunt to be able to carry a payload weighing more than a tonne in the load bed behind the cab. On top of that, the Musso is also rated to tow a trailer or caravan of up to 3.5 tonnes. While every other pickup on the market can manage both of those tasks, it’s only the Musso that can legally perform both at the same time.


Performance & Drive

There’s a 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine under that high bonnet with 181hp available. Combined with the 420Nm of torque on tap, it’s capable enough to keep up with traffic on the UK’s roads, but it’s not going to leave you breathless.

SsangYong doesn’t quote any 0-62mph times, but some rough stopwatch work suggests it’ll take around 12 seconds. That’s not bad, but not great - a Toyota Hilux 2.8 and the punchier models of the Ford Ranger will both be quicker, although they’re also more expensive.

Happily, once you’ve got it up to speed, it’s a pleasingly quiet truck, with little of the engine rattle and wind noise you can find on some rivals.

Find some bends and it’s less convincing. The automatic gearbox, while smooth, can be left a little confused at times, while the steering lacks any real feel. Yes, this is a pickup truck and not intended to set lap records around racetracks, but others are more entertaining to drive. Grip levels are higher than you might expect though, helped by relatively stiff suspension that keeps the body nicely upright.

The trade-off is in ride quality. The Musso is amongst the roughest of rides, with even smooth motorway tarmac still not enough to stop the SsangYong from constantly fidgeting around. Carrying 300kg in the back (it’s able to take more than three times that amount) and the ride settles down, but never smoothes out completely.


Running Costs

The list price of the SsangYong Musso looks appealing - it comfortably undercuts its rivals and, in Saracen trim as tested here, is absolutely packed with equipment. However, depreciation is steeper than you’ll find on a Toyota Hilux or Ford Ranger, which narrows the gap. And, with it, the leasing costs.

Fuel economy for any pickup truck isn’t something to get too excited about, but the Musso still feels a little thirsty. Officially, the manual gearbox model will return up to 31.8mpg, while this automatic model is a little needier, getting 29.5mpg. Drive carefully and it’s possible to achieve those figures, but mid-20s is as good as you’ll get.

That thirst also means CO2 emissions are quite high, but that’s not a huge concern to commercial users - at least not financially. Classified as a light commercial vehicle, company drivers will pay a fixed rate of company car tax, protecting their wallet from high tax rates.

Service packs are available to ensure you know how much it’s going to cost to maintain your Musso and, should something go awry, it’s backed by an impressive seven-year warranty. That’s more than enough to see you through even the longest of leasing deals.


Interior and Technology

Being a value brand hasn’t stopped SsangYong from stuffing the Musso to the gunwales with kit. While the cabin might not be the last word in stylish design, it looks modern enough and is dominated by a large infotainment screen, so it stands up to its rivals.

The dashboard is topped with pleasant material that’s soft to the touch, while the rest of the controls, buttons and switches are machined to a high enough standard that they all feel solid and reliable. Yes, there are some scratchier plastics as you move lower in the cabin, but it’s still a rather plush environment.

But it’s the equipment levels that stand out. That touchscreen measures an impressive 9.2 inches (at least on the Saracen and Rhine models) and includes navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a DAB radio, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and the ability to play seemingly any digital format of music.

There’s also climate control, cruise control, and even heated and ventilated Nappa leather seats.


Payload and Practicality

SsangYong holds the title of having the shortest load bed on the market - but it’s also got the longest! How so? Opt for the EX, Rebel or Saracen models and the load box has a maximum length of just 1,300mm. However, the Rhino model has an extended box, increasing the maximum load length to 1,610mm. They’re all 1,570mm wide at the widest point, and 570mm deep, so your only choice is overall length.

Every model will carry more than a tonne of cargo, with the regular model mated to a manual gearbox taking 1,050kg. The long-wheelbase model, with its automatic gearbox, takes that to 1,140kg.

SsangYong has a great reputation with the caravan community, so you would expect the Musso to be able to tow something sizable behind it. Pleasingly, it can. At 3,500kg for models with an automatic gearbox, there’s nothing else you can buy that will tow as much without needing an HGV licence.

In the cabin, passengers also get plenty of room. The rear doors open very wide (although beware of the door panel that sticks out when it’s open, ready to catch an elbow) and reveal a comfortable rear cabin. In the front, it’s very SUV-like and includes every inch as much space.


Safety

The Musso hasn’t been through Euro NCAP’s extensive safety testing programme, but that’s probably best as SsangYong hasn’t been too generous on fitting essential safety equipment to the pickup.

While you get the usual stability control and traction control systems that you expect on any vehicle, as well as a decent smattering of airbags, there’s little extra in the way of safety systems - there’s no automatic emergency braking system on any model, and you’ll need to pick the top-level Saracen or Rhino models to get blind-spot vehicle detection, lane changing assist or traffic sign recognition.

All models do come with hill descent control, however, which will be a benefit when working off-road.


Options

You can’t get simpler than Ssangyong’s model range. There are four models, from the entry-level EX, through Rebel and Saracane, and onto the long-wheelbase Rhino model. All come well equipped, but you’ll need to go to at least Rebel spec to get a usable infotainment system.

Rebel and higher grades also get a fully adjustable and heated steering wheel and heated and ventilated seats. The top-spec Saracen and Rhino models add cruise control, parking sensors, and even heated rear seats. They’re also the models that receive the complete, if limited, safety kit.

Options are limited. You can pick a metallic paint job for £575 plus VAT and, er, that’s it.


Rival Pickups

There aren’t too many pickups to choose from right now, but the most popular one is the Ford Ranger. You’ll find the Ranger to be more comfortable and every bit as stylish inside, but it’s more expensive and the waiting lists are getting longer.

The Isuzu D-Max is a more work-centric truck, able to tow the same 3,500kg. Impressively, because it’s ever so slightly lighter than other trucks, it’s able to travel at the same speed limits as cars, which could be important for those covering long distances.

A Toyota Hilux is the most expensive option, but is trusted by Australians - if they trust it in the middle of the Outback, you can rely on it getting you to work each day. Opting for the top-of-the-range models starts getting eye-watering, but strong residuals protect you when it comes to monthly lease payments.

Verdict

Opting for a SsangYong Musso doesn’t mean you’re taking the cheap option. It might not have the badge kudos of some other rivals (although is there much to a Ford badge?) but it makes up for that by being well equipped, comfortable and, dare we say it, almost premium inside.

There’s no doubting its practicality credentials either, especially when it comes to payload capacity. You might not want to push it too hard offroad, though; its on-road behaviour (even if it’s a little restless) comes at the expense of mud-plugging ability, with a low ride height limiting where it can reach.

But if that’s not a deal-breaker, then the SUV-like ambience, luxury trimmings and predictable on-road behaviour make it a surprisingly pleasing option.

Where to next?

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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the SsangYong Musso Saracen

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