The cheapest double cab pickup on the market, but not necessarily the worst
- Seven-year, 150,000-mile warranty
- Impressive payload and towing combo
- Very quiet inside for a pickup
- Interior similar to Rexton SUV
- Good value
- Small load area
- Lacks advanced safety tech
- Vague manual gearchange
- Very little feedback from steering
- High insurance groups
Launched in 2018, the latest SsangYong Musso pickup truck is an all-new vehicle based on the same platform as the South Korean firm’s contemporary Rexton SUV, and represents a dramatic improvement compared with the previous version.
Key points of the Musso's appeal are that is offers impressive towing and load capacity for relatively little money, but it still faces a not-insignificant challenge convincing pickup drivers that it’s a worth a punt versus the industry's leading contenders such as the bestselling Ford Ranger and useful Mitsubishi L200.
Brand aspiration may be less of a priority for commercial drivers than it is for car buyers, but brand values are arguably more important. Trustworthy reliability, dealer support and a consistent driver experience are as vital as knowing that the sauce in Heinz baked beans and sausages is the same in every tin.
A seven-year, 150,000-mile warranty - the best in the UK pickup truck sector - helps address the first point. But as a relatively unknown marque, is it really worth looking at a Musso before the more obvious choices?
For despite the budget-brand marketing, the reality is that the range’s entry-level pricing faces some fierce mainstream 4x4 double cab pickup competition; the well-respected Isuzu D-Max Utility is actually cheaper.
SsangYong Musso - a good looking pickup?
SsangYong has made some extremely challenging-looking vehicles in the past, but the Musso is much more mainstream, with an imposing, neatly-proportioned body and tightly integrated rear box.
From the front, its relationship to the Rexton SUV is very clear, and you have to get a long way round towards the back before its pickup status becomes clear. As such, it will probably be no surprise to discover the Musso is one of the shortest pickups in the UK, with a correspondingly small load bed.
Italian design and engineering company Pininfarina (also part of Mahindra & Mahindra, SsangYong’s parent company) developed the body sealing and insulation. This has been effective; noise levels inside the cab are lower than in many double-cab pickups.
SsangYong Musso engine and gearboxes
There’s just one engine on offer – a 2.2-litre turbodiesel – and you get a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, with an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission available as an extra-cost option.
Either way, the Musso has some impressive statistics as a workhorse too, with a 3.2-tonne braked towing weight for the manual model and 3.5 tonnes for the auto.
Thanks to its gross train weight (GTW) of 6,450kg it’s also able to carry a load of over a tonne and tow those weights at the same time, which is something no other pickup can manage in the UK.
SsangYong Musso four-wheel drive system
The Musso has a switchable four-wheel drive system (though this isn’t for use on tarmac, only in slippery off-road situations) featuring a low-range gearbox for more extreme terrain.
It also has relatively short overhangs and good axle articulation for a pickup, so can cope when the going gets tough, as long as you respect the limitations of its ground clearance. Some models are sold with off-road tyres for increased grip.
The chassis is of ladder-frame construction, like all pickups, with the body suspended by eight rubber bushings on top.
The Musso’s driving experience isn’t as honed as some rivals’, however, and we had to question the fitment of some accessories that appear to offer far more fashion than they do function.
But the cabin, which is very closely related to the Rexton, impresses with its fit and finish and its lack of noise, vibration and general harshness – a significant boon in an area where pickups typically struggle.
SsangYong Musso pickup verdict
The SsangYong Musso offers genuine capability, high levels of kit and a car-like cabin, alongside a class-leading seven-year warranty and low list price. It's also very refined inside.
The driving experience could be better, however, and it's perhaps not as cheap as SsangYong's budget reputation might lead you to believe.
Could this be the pickup for you? Keep reading for the full SsangYong Musso review on Parkers Vans and Pickups to find out.
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- Exceptionally good refinement for a pickup
- More than acceptable comfort but poor steering feel
- Capable off-road although ground clearance is limited
Our initial impressions of the SsangYong Musso's driving experience at its launch in 2018 weren't overly positive.
In order to achieve that outstanding gross train weight rating, very stiff rear springs were fitted, and seemed to cause some unpredictable behaviour on bumpy roads, especially when going round corners.
However, revisions have been made, and Musso's we've driven more recently have proved more pleasant.
What’s the SsangYong Musso like on the road?
SsangYong claims the Musso is more like an SUV than a traditional pickup, but that does need a caveat; its own highest-specification SUV uses an old-school ladder-frame construction just like a pickup, so put ideas of the Musso driving like a modern Skoda Kodiaq or BMW X5 right out of your head.
However, multi-layer door seals and an all-round bonnet seal keep the 2.2-litre diesel’s noise subdued in town as it busies itself producing 181hp and 400Nm. That's enough power for the Musso to reach 115mph and feel brisk heading towards the more legal benchmark of 62mph. Though no official 0-62mph figures are given, our tests suggest this takes around 11 seconds.
Following the suspension tweaks, keeping up with other traffic cerrtainly isn't an issue. Speed-sensitive power steering and progressive brakes (discs all-round, unlike the rear drums of many rivals) make it a very light-touch pickup to drive in urban situations, and it’s a lot more stable under unladen emergency braking than some rivals.
Similarly, the suspension is now soft enough that mid-corner drain covers and bumps are absorbed well with little noise, although as with most pickups there remains a constant background jitter on all but the smoothest surfaces. Pressing on along more rural routes, passengers will probably appreciate a more sedate pace than the performance allows, as there’s a lot of body roll that takes time to settle in sequences of bends – though if you’re driving alone there’s plenty of grip
What there isn't is much feedback from the steering. This isn't unusual for a modern vehicle, but the extent you can move the steering wheel around the centre point in the Musso without anything seeming to happen takes a bit of getting used to, and at speed this can contribute to a slightly lurching action when changing direction.
As such, the Musso is at its best when driven with smooth, delicate inputs, but ultimately you’re very aware that this is a large, heavy vehicle without much feedback from the controls.
Visibility is good – though blind-spot monitoring would be a welcome addition - and in-gear acceleration on the automatic is ample for keeping up with traffic or overtaking safely.
Off-road in the SsangYong Musso
SsangYong’s official figures put the Musso at a disadvantage off-road because of the low wading depth of 350mm; the deep, sill-covering doors and large side steps also reduce the ground clearance, which falls as low as 215mm.
Even so, the chassis is deep, and offers good protection for the transmission.
The all-wheel drive system is part-time selectable 4x4 with locked centre differential, and a low-range mode. The rear differential has electronic traction control, but no manual lock for dealing with really slippery conditions, and the hill descent control system only has a fixed speed, so you can't adjust this. It works perfectly well, though.
Part-time 4x4 means it's rear-wheel drive only by default - and this is the only way it should be driven on the road - and though engaging one of the two four-wheel drive modes is no more strenuous than twisting a knob by the gearlever, you do have to stop and put the Musso into neutral before selecting them.
Visibility is excellent, so placing the Musso in the environment is straightforward, but you’ll want more suitable tyres than the road-biased Continentals on all but the limited-edition Rhino models.
A metal skid plate on the front of the Saracen model offers protection for the radiator while reducing approach angle, but as it doesn’t extend to similar protection under the body it’s largely cosmetic. Likewise the plastic arch trim is recessed, and the bumpers deep, leaving a lot of vulnerable bodywork and trim exposed during more extreme green-laning attempts.
But stay within the chassis' limits and the Musso proves basically effortless off-road, especially when fitted with the automatic transmission. Traction is good, the light steering works in the Musso's favour when tackling undulating terrain, and there's plenty of power for climbing hills.
Towing with the SsangYong Musso
We’ve taken the opportunity to test the Musso towing an Ifor Williams CT136HD twin-axle car trailer and suitably heavy project vehicle. A combined mass of around 1,900kg posed no challenge, dynamically or in terms of safe performance, and the SsangYong’s factory-fitted towing package includes niceties like enabling the trailer’s side-marker lights with the daytime running lights. Large mirrors help keep an eye on the load, and the reversing camera and light, reasonably direct steering aid with confident manoeuvring of the combination.
Ride quality and stability when towing on motorways is impressive, and the Musso is a pickup well suited to covering serious distances while pulling a trailer. Naturally there’s an impact on fuel economy, the additional load costing about 7mpg compared to unladen driving at the same speeds.
SsangYong Musso – one diesel engine, manual or automatic gearbox choice
The Musso’s 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine is SsangYong’s own design, and the same as the one in the Rexton
It produces 181hp and 400Nm between 1,400 and 2,800rpm – decent figures, especially given the Musso’s budget-conscious cost. Its sound is also well insulated from the cabin, which helps the SsangYong to feel robustly built.
The engine comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. This has a long, notchy shifting action, and isn’t particularly nice to operate.
As such, the Musso is far better with the optional six-speed Aisin automatic gearbox, which replaces the more expensive seven-speed Mercedes-Benz auto fitted in the Rexton. You won’t notice much of a penalty in the way Musso drives relative to its SUV sibling, as neither transmission is particularly quick-shifting.
The Musso’s six-speed is smooth enough, however, and doesn’t feel demonstrably worse than any other torque convertor auto in the pickup market.
Our only gripe is that if you want to manually select a gear you have to use a tiny thumb switch on the side of the automatic transmission lever. It would be so much easier with paddleshifters, or the more typical lever movement of other pickups.
- Car-like interior quality and design - for the most part
- Roomy inside for people in the front and the back
- Some poor finishing in places
Taking the interior of the Rexton SUV almost unchanged, the airy, spacious interior and car-like dashboard of the Musso make an immediate good impression – there’s a handy storage tray above the infotainment screen, and bold trim panels that integrate the tweeters in the doors and door handles. Some touch points could feel higher quality, like the stalks, but the soft-touch plastics and leather-look stitched trim are the equal of much more expensive rivals.
The large, wide windscreen offers a panoramic view compared to many smaller pickups. That square body, without protruding arches or curves falling away from your vision, and the relatively slim A-pillars help with placement on- or off-road, and a wide range of seat adjustments plus reach and rake adjustment for the wheel ensure the driving position can be comfortable for a wide variety of human shapes.
Detail differences, such as lacking the soft-trimmed doors of the Rexton (the underlying plastics appear to be the same) keep the Musso from having to a genuinely premium feel throughout, but as it’s ahead of the pack for what it costs already you’ll probably like what you find.
At motorway speeds, the Musso is remarkably quiet, helped by the Continental road-biased tyres. It’s possible to hold a conversation with rear passengers without shouting, and there’s no need to crank the radio up to eleven (this is not entirely a positive mark; for all the attractive grille designs, carbon nanotube speakers and 9.2-inch touchscreen of the Saracen, the audio side of things is relatively basic).
Overall, the SsangYong is a genuinely pleasant place for all occupants on long journeys, and extremely relaxing for the driver – albeit, without the latest attention-and-effort saving tech.
Plenty of room inside
Few pickups have the same feeling of room for front passengers. Of more interest for families and work crews, the rear passenger space is similarly generous. Not only is there an impressive amount of legroom, the door apertures are wide and rectangular without intrusions, great for child seats.
Although no longer adjustable (the previous model was), the rear seat back is reclined slightly rather than the bolt-upright seating position of most double cab pickups, and has a high base for a good view out.
There’s ample room for three adults, but the one in the middle not only misses out on a warm bum from the Saracen-spec heated seats, there’s a lap belt. A curious throwback when a solid bulkhead means there’s really no reason to leave the shoulder belt out. Still – the other two passengers enjoy a spectacular view out from the large windows – which open fully – and the safety of side curtain airbags that cover rear passengers as well. Under the rear seat base (untrimmed – so springs, wiring and foam are visible if you peer beneath) the carpeted flat floor continues to the back of the cab, adding a useful storage area.
- Best warranty of any pickup
- Limited dealer network
- Average fuel economy
Lifestyle pickups are slowly, but surely, moving upmarket as an alternative to premium off-roaders. The Musso is a very unusual blend, and without badge prestige to lead the way it’s easy to overlook how it compares with rivals realistically.
Is the SsangYong Musso good value?
First, the Musso is big inside. If space is the ultimate luxury, then the width, the relatively low, flat dashboard, the big windows and the legroom are like going from a Ford Focus to a Mondeo, which changes the value equation somewhat; traditionally drivers paid more for larger cars to get greater comfort. As all pickups are already fairly big to start off with, most have hit the baseline need with room to spare, but the Musso still has a large-car feel compared to rivals.
Design also contributes to the feeling of luxury, and SsangYong has done very well here. Prod the fashionably-styled door handles and aluminium-look speaker grilles, and the illusion wobbles, if not shatters, but it looks good, cohesive and pleasing to the eye.
Some design elements wouldn’t be out of place in a modern mid-range car; quite a feat when many more expensive pickups feel like interior design was an afterthought. Rear grab handles help scale the tall sills (designed to be covered by the doors, so passengers avoid getting muddy legs) but front occupants need to rely on the side step, or be reasonably athletic.
There’s no excuse for a £27,000 pickup having manual aircon and no lane departure warning when the parent company offers so many advanced bits of tech. What's more, the tacky, sharp-edged stick-on chrome on the Saracen model – there’s about £500 of the spec that comes straight from the accessory catalogue – cheapens the otherwise quality feel.
Adding dual-zone climate control and a couple of driver assistance features, leaving the pointless chrome-plastic gewgaws on the accessory page and even charging a little more would add the final touches to a deeply promising set of foundations and first-fit.
SsangYong Musso seven-year warranty
The SsangYong Musso comes with a seven-year, 150,000-mile warranty, adding extra value for those buying rather than leasing. It’s the longest manufacturer warranty on any pickup.
SsangYong Musso fuel economy
The Musso isn’t blessed with particularly good fuel economy, but this is a very heavy, un-aerodynamic pickup after all.
The claimed figure of 35.8mpg for the manual drops to 32.9mpg if you’ve gone for the automatic.
However, our long-term test SsangYong Musso Saracen automatic has consistently returned over 30mpg in mixed on-road driving, falling to around 26mpg when towing – driven reasonably there’s no suggestion that it won’t deliver the claimed economy.
SsangYong Musso dealer network, insurance and tax costs
The Musso falls into insurance groups from 42 to 43D (out of a possible 50), which is on the high side.
Another drawback, depending on your location, is that SsangYong only has 60 dealers nationwide. They’re usually rural, and there are plans to expand this to around 90, but for now you may have to travel a bit.
Of course, the major advantage of a pickup over an SUV as a business car is the tax relief they qualify for. It’s a flat rate for both private and company car drivers, and will almost certainly work out cheaper than a similarly appointed SUV.
SsangYong Musso standard equipment
Top-spec models get electric front seats with height and tilt adjustment, and premium Nappa leather trim that is soft and comfortable. Wide cushions and carefully designed bolsters are pleasant for a variety of bodyshapes, too, though there’s no lumbar adjustment; the seatbelts are also easily adjusted across a good range of heights.
SsangYong’s wildcard is the inclusion of seat ventilation as well as heating on Rebel and Saracen specifications, and in our increasingly hot summers, that’s a real boon. Winter drives are further helped by the heated steering wheel, standard on all but EX models.
Nestled below even the largest infotainment screen are a pair of chrome-ringed dials for fan, and cold to hot, without temperature markings. Where most rivals have dual-zone climate control at this price point, the Musso makes do with the sort of manual air conditioning that you’d find on a bare-bones economy car. It’s effective, if crude, and can defrost the windscreen quickly, but it’s not set-and-forget like most pickups at this price.
The load area is usefully wide, at 1,570mm, and remarkably deep as well, with relatively little height lost to wheel arch intrusion. That 600mm depth does mean there’s a lot of tailgate to get past when loading, though.
Base-spec SsangYong Musso EX models get the following standard equipment highlights:
- 17-inch wheels
- DAB radio
- Electric windows
- Manual air-conditioning
- Full-sized spare wheel
- Alarm and immobiliser
The SsangYong Musso Rebel is expected to be the most popular trim level and also benefits from the following standard equipment highlights:
- 18-inch wheels
- Roof rails
- Floor mats
- 8.0-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
- Artificial leather upholstery
- Heated and ventilated front seats
- Heated steering wheel
- Black side steps
- Rebel graphics
Next up is the SsangYong Musso Saracen, which gets following standard equipment highlights:
- 18-inch alloys in black
- Nappa leather seats
- Electrically adjustable front seats
- Heated rear seats
- 9.2-inch touchscreen
- Cruise control
- Saracen graphics
At the top of the range, but limited to 100 units, is the SsangYong Musso Rhino spec, which includes:
- Red or black paint
- Automatic gearbox
- 20-inch alloys with General Grabber tyres
- Black front skid plate
- Black tubular side skirts
- Load deck bar with LED lights
- Limited edition plaque
- Rhino graphics
SsangYong Musso optional extras
Optional extras are limited to the automatic gearbox and metallic paint.
This Musso is an all-new vehicle, but it’s based very heavily on the Rexton. It’s with that in mind that we’re confident it’ll be a dependable machine. SsangYong has a reputation for robust build quality and there’s no reason to expect anything too alarming here.
Our only slight concern isn’t with the vehicle itself, but some of the accessories that are bolted on when it reaches the UK. Specifically it’s the sidesteps you get on all but base EX-spec Mussos. These are apparently rated to carry 85kg, but they felt incredibly flimsy and flexed considerably when leaned on with just one leg.
We certainly wouldn’t feel confident using them to step up into what is a particularly tall cabin, so have to question their usefulness past added aesthetic appeal.
The lightbar on launch edition Rhino cars is another example – it’s positioned towards the rear of the cab, so won’t actually illuminate the area in front of the car that such lights usually help with.
- Structure seems sound
- Six airbags as standard
- Lacks active safety equipment
SsangYong’s build quality is promising, with doors that feel solid, six airbags, high-spec Continental tyres, a robust chassis and a kerb weight that suggests there’s a lot of metal for the money here.
But what there isn’t is much in the way of active safety kit.
SsangYong Musso safety equipment
That might be excusable if this were a budget pickup from a manufacturer that didn’t offer such things.
Unfortunately, the Saracen model costs more than a Fiat Fullback Cross and is snapping at the heels of an automatic Nissan Navara N-Connecta - before discounts.
Still, Korean crash testing indicates the Musso is a safe pickup, though Euro NCAP has yet to test a UK/European specification.
SsangYong Musso security
The Musso's tailgate locks with the remote central locking, and if specified, the optional luxury hardtop also locks on the fob, saving a lot of faffing with keys.
Better yet, every version comes fitted with an immobiliser and a perimeter alarm system as standard.
Which Ssangyong Musso is best for me?
- Better for lifestyle buyers than working operators?
- Rebel automatic is the best choice for towing
- Specification causes some confusion
If you want a working vehicle first rather than a lifestyle accessory, the Musso may be hard to justify.
The large passenger compartment comes at the expense of load space, and if you’re carrying rather than towing then the reduction in load volume is keenly felt. The strong chassis and overall refinement are intact in the EX, though, so unless you absolutely must tow 3,500kg, that’s the one to have for serious work. Tempted by that towing ability? Go for the Rebel automatic.
Lifestyle buyers face less confusion – the SsangYong Musso is a really comfortable, refined pickup for daily driving, and easy to live with, and the Saracen is undeniably good value for the engineering.
However, a disjointed approach to specification means going up the price range nets as much useless bling as it does actually decent kit, and the rather imperious, detached on-road feel is challenged by the basic gadgets and lack of driver assistants.
The oddly low-rent bling on the Saracen doesn’t help, either - the Musso doesn’t need to be showy to justify the price, but blindspot monitors would add to the feeling of confidence on Britain’s crowded motorways.