Korean Kapability | UTE REVIEW – SsangYong Musso

SsangYong changes the ground rules with its new Musso – Chris Mullett reports 

The rise of Korean auto manufacturers in a global market has now reached the stage that brands such as Hyundai and Kia are first-thought contenders at purchase time. European styling, backed by tremendous levels of reliability and product support, such as a seven-year warranty, reinforces why a buyer will go for a trouble-free option and look no further when selecting their next purchase.

With Australia being one of the major ute markets in the world, it’s perhaps a surprise that neither Kia nor Hyundai have made an entrée as yet into the ute category. That omission has worked in favour of fellow Korean manufacturer SsangYong, which last December re-introduced the Musso nameplate with an all-new model reflecting all the advantages of the latest technologies, plus a few unique benefits for Aussie ute buyers.

When launched in December, the Musso was the light-commercial option amidst a selection of SsangYong products that included the Tivoli and Tivoli XLV, plus the Rexton SUV. Now, as a follow-on for this year, the company has added a long-wheelbase version called the Musso XLV. This keeps the same dual cabin and design forward of the cargo area, but offers a longer tray, a benefit that is unique to the Musso in this highly competitive segment.

Before expanding on the features and benefits of the Musso XLV we’ll pause for a moment to consider one factor that might tip the balance of choice in its favour, enticing customers to the nearest of 40-dealer showrooms around the country.

Here’s the deal, and it all comes down to product support and customer service. It’s called SsangYong 777 Care Cover and it provides a full seven-year, unlimited kilometre, bumper to bumper warranty applicable to all SsangYong vehicles supplied after September 1, 2018. Backing this is a comprehensive seven-year roadside assistance package.  And here’s the final clincher, the 777 Care Cover programme applies equally to business use, as well as those in private ownership.

So, now we have your attention, we’ll deal with the specifics of why the Musso could be a first thought alternative to the utes of Asian manufacturers, whether sourced from Europe, Japan, India or Thailand.

Externally, the styling is on par with the competition. Its modern appearance with a high waist line is influenced by the ANCAP Five Star crash test rating that applies to all models and results in part from the high-sided tub that re-enforces the cabin in the event of a rollover.

With its extended wheelbase and longer tub dimension the overall length of the XLV models, at 5405 mm, is up from the standard Musso of 5095 mm, gaining its length by extending the wheelbase from 3100 mm to 3210 mm, adding an extra 200 mm to the tray rearwards of the drive axle. In terms of volume, the larger tub of the XLV comes in at 1262 litres, with a length of 1570 mm, a width of 1610 mm and a depth of 571 mm.

The same 2.2-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled diesel engine features through the ute range, matched to the choice of a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. With a dial-in, all-wheel-drive system and a locking rear differential there’s every reason to expect good off-road performance, aided by an industry-standard ground clearance of 215mm. The e-XDi220 engine also powers the Rexton, and for the Musso it delivers maximum power of 133 kW at 4000 rpm with a peak torque rating of 420 Nm from 1600-2600 rpm.

The move to front and rear coil spring suspension by some all-wheel-drive ute models has improved ride and handling capabilities, especially when on the bitumen. What Musson XLV offers is a front coil spring with the choice of rear coil or rear leaf-spring alternative. The three XLV longer wheelbase and larger tub spec’ levels are designated ELX, Ultimate and Ultimate Plus.

Of these, it’s the ELX that offers the multi-leaf, semi-elliptical rear spring suspension and a higher payload of 1020 kg. This gives the buyer a choice. You can go for load-carrying ability with a higher payload together with 17-inch rims and LT tyres, or with the Ultimate and Ultimate Plus you can go for volume, with a rear coil spring, 18-inch tyres, but a reduced payload of 800 kg. It also comes with a locking differential system to provide better traction on steep and slippery gradients, and to improve traction when towing on loose surfaces or wet grass.

Delivery Magazine drove both examples of the coil and rear leaf-spring set-up over an extensive course of country bitumen roads and can confirm the ride quality of both when unladen is exceptionally compliant. For the most part there will be many drivers that don’t notice any discernible difference.

There’s no roughness at all in the ride comfort and with obviously good attention to aerodynamics, the wind noise is minimal, due to the body being secured to the chassis via eight body mounts and polyester (PET) wheel-arch linings. The engine bay also includes better sealing to improve sound, dust and waterproofing, while the fitment of larger rubber engine mounts helps reduce engine noise and vibration.

Wind noise is reduced through the fitment of quadruple-layered sealing, while aerodynamically designed wiper blades prevent wind noise around the windscreen.

At this stage it’s not been possible to run with quantifiable payloads, but that will be accomplished within a few weeks of the initial launch.

There can be a reticence about accepting a new manufacturer at face value and many Australian buyers were financially stretched when owning a Great Wall and finding that customer service was simply a phrase in the company advertising.  It’s important to understand that with SsangYong you deal with a manufacturer from South Korea with a history as an original equipment manufacturer that spans 65 years. With 20 percent of the current SUV market in South Korea, SsangYong is also the nation’s third-largest auto maker.

Australia is the first overseas market where SsangYong has established a company-owned sales and marketing network, using independent distributors in other countries. Our love affair with the ute is undoubtedly one of the influencing factors, but also the South Korean auto maker obviously feels comfortable with the Aussie psyche. Export director Mr Dan Rim told Delivery Magazine that following on from the Musso launch, SsangYong would be releasing at least one new model each year.

It’s challenging to compare ute models on the Australian market, as if all the contenders were lined up with their badges removed the majority of buyers would not be able to pick the different makes, such is their similarity.

What does stand out comes under the category of product sophistication. With the gestation period for a new vehicle in many case being three or four years, the Musso is competing against many contenders that are running low on shelf life, with designs that were penned over a decade ago. Musso, by these standards, is a relative newcomer and consequently the design features and quality of assembly are a generation ahead of models such as the Mazda BT-50, Ford Ranger, Isuzu D-Max and the current Toyota HiLux.

Whereas the other models have added safety features through the years, Musso comes into being with a wide range of standard features. Benefits such as Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Detection, Front Vehicle Start Alert and a 360-degree camera are all available, dependent on model selected. Also included is an infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth connectivity.

While the stylists of car makers wax lyrical about influences and gestures of styling nuances, for the most part the rest of us just look at a ute and reckon it’s either OK or ugly. Musso is better than some and not worse than others, which we reckon is a plus for the brand.

The tub area is large enough to carry a Euro pallet and it comes already wired with 12V/120W power outlets, and conveniently positioned hooks to help strap down loads.

The ELX standard trim level is with fabric seats, the Ultimate adds endure-Lite seats that are both heated and vented, while the range-topping Ultimate Plus adds powered leather seats with heating and venting. The second row of seats is designed for three passengers to travel comfortably with plenty of leg and elbow room.

With new technologies and features, the new SsangYong Musso XLV offers high levels of safety for all occupants.

With the high-strength steel construction of its Quad-frame, the vehicle starts with a superbly stiff chassis, achieved by using 1.5 Gpa-grade ultra-strength steel. This not only gives greatly improved body strength but also reduces weight.

For Delivery readers that are into suspension design, having a stiff chassis enables the engineers to tune the suspension by paying attention to springs and dampers. If the chassis manages to flex, that movement makes it difficult to affect a perfect suspension tune.

The Musso also features impact absorbing elements in the steering wheel and steering column to minimise injuries from a frontal collision, while the structure and materials employed in the front are designed to improve pedestrian safety.

Other features include auto closing – automatic door-locking when the key is carried away from the car; easy access – the automatic adjustment of the driver’s seat position when the door opens; dual-zone fully automated air-conditioning with fine dust filters; and a 12V/120W power outlet in the cargo deck area.

With all the advanced features and benefits present through the model range, buyer preference will come down to how it drives on the road. Delivery road testers spend huge amounts of time behind the wheel evaluating different products and it’s our view that Musso is in many areas ahead of the competition. It’s also very price competitive with drive way pricing across the range.

The XLV manual will be available from $33,990 while the automatic version will cost $35,990. The Ultimate will start from $39,990 and the Ultimate Plus will cost $43,990. Available options for the Ultimate Plus are 20-inch alloys and sunroof and there will soon be a collection of accessories such as ladder racks, canopies and bull bars available. If you are in the market for a new ute, add the Musso to your shopping list.

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