STRETCHING THE FRIENDSHIP | Ute Review – SsangYong Ute

SsangYong’s new ute now offers a longer wheelbase – words by Warren Caves, Images by Torque it Up. 

If shelling out $50K on a new dual-cab ute doesn’t fit your budget, perhaps it’s time to think a little laterally and explore some alternatives.

At just $35,990 drive away, would the new SsangYong Musso provide a viable alternative to meet your needs? All the bells and whistles of the rivals, but at a fraction of the cost. If this sounds interesting, then read on.

With razor-sharp pricing and a standard features list to mix it with the best, here at Delivery  we were keen to see how the Musso XLV base-model workhorse measured up.

XLV translates, in a stroke of marketing genius, to Extra Long Vehicle, and is available in three equipment levels of ELX, Ultimate and Ultimate Plus.

So, what’s in the box? An impressive list of standard features, that’s what. Power is supplied by a 2.2 litre four-cylinder, turbo-diesel engine producing 133 kW of power at 4000 rpm and a healthy 420 Nm of torque at 1600-2600 rpm, conforming to Euro6 emissions standards.  Behind that sits either a six-speed manual (available in base spec. model only) or a six-speed automatic transmission.

While not the most powerful in its class, the 2.2 litre engine does not leave you languishing behind in traffic and hums along effortlessly at highway speeds. In fact, throughout its rev range the engine is remarkably quiet, from outside or within. The often noticeable rattly idle of a diesel engine is practically non-existent and even a heavy right-foot stab on the throttle imparts only a small amount of noise within the cabin where noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels are impressively subdued.

As tested with the Japanese sourced Aisin six-speed automatic transmission, slick and sensible shifting kept the Musso on the move without fuss. Gear changes were on-point and quick to respond to any throttle input.

Three transmission modes are selectable from the button located next to the shifter – Eco, Power and Winter modes – which modify the ratio shift protocol to suit the conditions. There is also a sports manual option which can be selected for those wanting to take full control.

As given away by its creative title, the Musso XLV has been extended in both wheelbase and tub length to create a seriously useful load-carrying vehicle.

The wheelbase has been stretched to 3210 mm, resulting in an overall length of 5405 mm. The tub with its 1610 mm length represents an increase of 310 mm over the dimensions of the short wheelbase version. There’s also a standard fitment 12-volt socket and four tie-down points located in the tub.

Our test vehicle was fitted with a double-wishbone front suspension and rear leaf-spring set-up. The leaf sprung version affords a maximum payload of 1025 kg, dropping to 880 kg for the optional coil-spring suspension that comes with the Ultimate and Ultimate Plus versions.  All models have a 3500 kg braked towing capacity. If you factor in a generous GCM of 6130 kg and a GVM of 2980 kg for the auto, this allows for in excess of 3000 kg available to be towed legally with a full load in the tray.

Unladen on-road, the suspension is quite firm and a little harsh at times, however cornering and handling on the road were predictable and responsive with only minimal road feedback. The coil-spring suspension option could provide some more subtlety, but at the expense of a 200 kg plus load carrying penalty.

Once on gravel roads and if pushed, corrugations on corners would result in a bit of tail-end wag and encourage intervention of the traction-control system (TCS).

A selectable, part-time four-wheel drive system is used, actioned by an electronic rotary dial for selection of 2H, 4H or 4L gearing. The Musso also benefits from hill-descent control (HDC).

For light off the road work the four-wheel drive system teamed up with the HDC and rear LSD worked well. The extended wheelbase and longer tub will realistically reduce off-road ability for more serious track conditions. This is due to a good deal of tub overhang devoid of any upward rake which would undoubtably hang-up under rougher conditions.

The Musso XLV is also not that well-endowed with underbody protection or bash plates over vulnerable driveline components. On the leaf-spring model tested, Delivery noticed a poorly-positioned rear brake line exposed to potential snagging when off the road. The 17-inch alloy wheels with 235/70/17 highway tyres are fine and quiet for the bitumen but would not do well when things get wet or boggy.

If you’re looking for safety, Musso has got you covered. There are six airbags backed up by lane-departure warning (LDW), autonomous emergency braking (AEB), electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) and an electronic stability programme (ESP). Further benefits include blind-spot detection, four-wheel disc brakes and a standard reverse camera that bring to attention unforeseen obstacles and vehicles.

The interior space is well laid out with a modern feel. The design features are derived from the SsangYong Rexton which offers a user-friendly information system within the main dash panel giving access to fuel and trip information as well as mode functions for various settings.

The eight-inch multi-media unit provides reasonable audio sound and Bluetooth phone connectivity, with controls on the unit or from the steering-wheel buttons. At this entry level you miss out on Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and satellite navigation which comes with the higher specification of the Ultimate or Ultimate Plus.

Cloth seating is comfortable and supportive with good adjustment range for legroom and height, but it does miss out on any lumbar adjustment, plus the steering wheel offers tilt only adjustment, not reach and rake.

Front seat occupants have access to four drink holders, a 12-volt accessory socket, USB and an AUX socket and in a throwback to years gone by there is a cigarette lighter and an ashtray.

Rear seat passengers do not have to fold themselves into their positions as the Musso can offer class-leading leg, shoulder and head room, so often a rarity in some sections of this market. A fold-down centre armrest provides holders for the baby chino’s and rear air conditioning vents keep the kids cool or cosy. Surprisingly, with SsangYong bringing to the table a raft of advanced, active safety features, one must question why, the middle rear seat receives only a lap seat belt?

SsangYong Motor Australia seems confident in bringing the latest Musso to market with a bumper-to-bumper, unlimited kilometre warranty back-up totalling seven years with capped price (15,000 km) servicing and road side assist for the same period, covered by a network of over 40 national dealers.

Sitting at the cheaper end of the dual cab ute market, the Korean built Musso XLV certainly ticks a lot of boxes. Admittedly there are areas where the costs have been shaved to make the purchase price super-competitive, but in general SsangYong has built a really attractive, value for money package, worthy of more than just a cursory glance.

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