SsangYong has significantly updated its Korando Sports pick-up and changed its name. How does it match up to its more expensive rivals?
The Musso returns! Those with longer memories will recall that there has been a SsangYong Musso before, back in the 1990s. Originally introduced into the UK as the Daewoo Musso, this was a rugged and competent 4x4, aimed at offering a cheaper alternative to models like the Land Rover Discovery, Nissan Patrol and Toyota Land Cruiser. The specification, the dynamics and its highly competitive price should have made more of a sales impact, but sadly the model was withdrawn and spotting one still on the roads today is a bit like being a 4x4 twitcher spotting a rare migrating waterfowl. Now the name is back, this time on the much revised SsangYong Korando Sports pick-up. We have always commented that the previous SsangYong pick-up deserved more success, given its specification, dynamics and price…
The new Musso is a very significant improvement on the previous model, this is certainly no mere cosmetic update, hence the completely new name. While the styling is revised, it still bears a strong resemblance to the Korando Sports, more importantly, the Musso gets a much-improved new engine and gearbox. The engine still has commercial origins, as indeed do many pick-up models, but this 2.2 -litre turbodiesel is a lot quieter, smoother in operation and is now Euro 6 compliant. It is also much more powerful; the Korando Sports only had 153bhp, whereas the Musso now claims 176bhp, which is much closer to its competitors. Torque is up as well, now a claimed 400Nm at 4000rpm.
The engine is mated to new gearbox options; a six-speed manual or an Aisin six-speed automatic. The previous model only had five cogs, and this auto ‘box is a smooth changer and can be let alone, although it is possible to switch to manual changes, very important if you are seriously taking this off-road.
As ever with pick-ups, it’s payload and towing capacity that really matter and here the Musso has significantly upped its game. The payload is 1050kg and the load bed, which is not
March 2017 - Words by Nigel Fryatt
as big as some competitors, will still take a standard Euro pallet. The automatic version also has a maximum towing weight of 3000kg, which is now the minimum required in this competitive market these days. We didn’t tow with it during our first drive, but the new engine certainly has the grunt to ensure this shouldn’t be a problem, meaning the Musso can certainly be expected to work hard for its living.
When Nissan announced its new NP300 Double Cab last year, much was made of the manufacturer’s decision to drop the pick-ups ‘usual’ leaf spring rear suspension, in favour of a multi-link system and more ‘car like’ ride and handling. The model has duly won plaudits for this change, which just has to have annoyed SsangYong, since the Korando Sport already had a similar rear suspension, and this is obviously carried over to the Musso. The result is a decent ride quality, and less of the ‘bounce’ that leaf sprung trucks suffer from (especially when empty). But it’s not perfect, and can lead to an irritating joggly effect on some road surfaces. We also noticed during our drive that it was very easy to lose rear grip and cause the traction control to become involved. Of course, we drove the Musso during winter and a particularly wet and cold snap in the weather, and the rear was unloaded, but this did seem to occur at quite low speeds; we were not racing around the place!
The Musso’s ride and handling need to be balanced with the vehicle’s steering, which remains too light. The original Korando Sport had ridiculously light steering with very little feel; things have improved, and the lightness will be beneficial for low speed manoeuvring in a Tesco car park, but it is not what you want at speed, or when off-road. The lack of feel is actually alarming at times. Familiarity would probably improve matters, but you have to wonder why SsangYong engineers haven’t compared it with competitors and just added a little more feel to give the driver confidence. Driving in very strong crosswinds on a motorway was not ideal, although you did get used to it after a while.
The vehicle is a little slab-sided, which probably didn’t help in those cross winds, but the design does mean that it is able to carry the manufacturer’s rear load bed hard top cover really well – it makes the things look like a big SUV,
rather than just a pick-up with a big box cover at the rear, which certainly should appeal to private owners who might be using the Musso as both a work and a family option.
The Musso’s engine does offer a very smooth delivery, which (light steering apart) makes for a good driving experience, which would not get tiring for any commercial operator having to spend hours in the cab. The manual version has a claimed 40mpg for the combined cycle, for our automatic test vehicle that drops to 37mpg. In real life, and using the sprightly nature of the 176bhp available, you can expect rather less than that.
The Musso’s interior is certainly smart. The EX model driven here had leather upholstery, steering wheel and gearknob, which gives a nice, quality feel when you climb into the cabin. For the EX model, you also get heated seats, automatic climate control and automatic lighting and wipers. There’s a neat seven-inch touchscreen, which displays a very sharp rear view camera – something of a must with a pick-up. However, the stereo isn’t DAB, which may be a disappointment for some and irrelevant to others, but it also doesn’t include a satnav. Admittedly, ‘plug-in’ satnavs are excellent and cheap these days, but for a commercial vehicle you would have thought this a ‘must have’.
The fascia is neat enough, but the plastic has that brittle feel to it which tends to look a little ‘cheap’ and is a shame, given the otherwise quality specification. The ergonomics are a bit haphazard as well, some switches hidden from view, and having the passenger reaching across to control his/her heated front seat is not ideal, and if you are reaching across in the opposite direction to stretch for the mighty handbrake at the same time, you’ll be grappling with each other.
All of which might sounds as though we are being highly critical of the new SsangYong Musso, and that’s not the case since the really important part of this pick-up is its price. Our test car is the top of the range EX, resplendent in Indian Red paintwork and with some smart 18-inch black alloy wheels, and the OTR price is only £18,995 (plus VAT). The Musso range actually starts at a real budet £15,995 (plus VAT), which can be compared with the base Mitsubishi L200 starting at over £20,000, and the cheapest double-cab Ford Ranger coming in at over £24,000. You’ll also get SsangYong’s five-year limitless mileage warranty, which is another important plus for the commercial operator, big or small.
Taking price into consideration, the Musso must look an attractive proposition to the smaller commercial operator. The engine change is a major plus, for a cheap truck (and that is meant as a compliment) it is a pleasingly sophisticated driving experience. It deserves to be a success, but then we said that about the previous Korando Sports version, and many years ago we said the same about the very first Musso.
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