2019 SsangYong Musso XLV Ultimate road test

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 23 January 2020

Tim Nicholson road tests the new SsangYong Musso XLV Ultimate pick-up.

  • Thumbs up

    Standard safety and in-cabin equipment list is impressive. Surprisingly refined road manners. 

  • Thumbs down

    Over-sensitive lane-keeping aid. Infotainment system feels a generation behind its rivals.

  • Perfect for

    Heading bush but doing it in car-like comfort and with plenty of space to stretch out.

  • Verdict

     While it could do with a tech upgrade, its on-road performance puts some of its mainstream competitors to shame.

Red SsangYong Musso XLV Ultimate parked in front of Ballina lighthouse


Utes, pick-ups, trucks, workhorses. Whatever you call them, they are big business in Australia. Specifically, the 4x4 pick-up category is one of the biggest market segments, and it’s not just big fleet buyers like mining companies or tradies buying these types of vehicles. Families and adventurers are increasingly opting for pick-ups as they are a better fit for their lifestyle.

As well as top-selling offerings like the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger and Holden Colorado, less well-known brands are offering affordable alternatives.

One such brand is South Korean manufacturer SsangYong. After a short hiatus from the Australian market, the brand returned late last year with a line-up that includes a trio of SUVs and a pick-up – the Musso. This moniker was previously used for a Mercedes-Benz-powered 4x4 SUV that SsangYong sold – in quite reasonable numbers – in the late 1990s. 

Sharing its underpinnings with the Rexton large SUV, including its body-on-frame platform, the Musso is available in regular and long-wheelbase guise. The latter is dubbed the Musso XLV which stretches the wheelbase by 110 millimetres, bringing the overall length to 5405 millimetres. It is also 15 millimetres higher than the regular Musso. The longer tray can take 1262 litres of cargo, up on the standard-wheelbase version’s 1011-litre capacity. Towing capacity is 3500 kilograms and it has four tie-down hooks in the tray area and a 12V/120W outlet.

SsangYong says it has one of the biggest load spaces in the market and can carry a full-size European pallet. Payload for the XLV depends on the choice of suspension. While the XLV ELX comes standard with leaf-spring rear suspension that is better suited to workhorses that haul loads, coil spring rear suspension – which is more geared for comfort – is standard on the Ultimate and Ultimate Plus. You can get leaf springs on the Ultimate as a no-cost option. Payload for leaf-sprung Mussos is 1025 kilograms, dropping to 880 kilograms for coil-sprung versions.

SsangYong Australia has rolled out aggressive pricing for the Musso, which ranges from $30,490 to $39,990 for the regular wheelbase and $34,990 to $43,990 for the XLV. The XLV Ultimate we tested is priced at $41,990. All Musso pricing is driveaway.

Lined up next to its rivals, the Musso starts to make a lot of sense from a value perspective. The XLV Ultimate is fitted as standard with front and rear fog-lights, power folding and heated mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, leather steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity and a six-speaker stereo. Safety wise it has cruise control, a reversing camera, autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, tyre-pressure monitoring system, front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot detection, lane-change assist and rear cross-traffic alert. To get this level of kit in some of its mainstream rivals, you’d need to spend north of $50,000.

Red SsangYong Musso XLV Ultimate parked on beach
Rear view of red SsangYong Musso XLV Ultimate parked on beach


Pleasingly, the SsangYong Musso is no utilitarian workhorse inside. The dash layout isn’t particularly original, but it’s neat and uncomplicated with controls falling easily to hand. The front seats are well bolstered and supportive with a nice leather-look trim. The inclusion of soft-touch materials lifts the ambience and while it’s not at VW Amarok comfort levels, it’s a step above some more established utes, like Nissan’s Navara.

There are storage options aplenty, with two bottle holders in each door, a massive central compartment, lockable glovebox and decent storage in the console as well as on the top of the centre stack. It might have car-like comfort levels, but it also offers the practicality of a proper tradie ute. The Musso has excellent visibility all round thanks to generous use of glass. 

SsangYong’s infotainment system feels a generation behind some of its rivals and doesn’t have the functionality of Ford’s Sync system, but it doesn’t do anything particularly wrong either.

Second-row occupants get knee-level air vents, a central armrest/drinks holder, map pockets and decent door storage, as well as comfortable, supportive seats. There’s plenty of head and knee room and loads of storage space under the rear pew. 

Under the bonnet is a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine that delivers 133kW of power and 420Nm of torque – a 20Nm boost over the regular-wheelbase Musso – driving all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. It’s a surprisingly responsive engine, offering strong performance from a standing start. It lacks the turbo lag of some of its rivals, and steering feel is on the lighter side, ensuring it’s a great vehicle for around town. 

Our Musso had coil-spring suspension and the ride when unladen was slightly jittery on poor-quality roads, but on smooth blacktop we had no complaints. A short stint on a rough, unsealed road revealed a bit of shuddering at higher speeds, but the four-wheel-drive system ensured it maintained traction the whole time.

The Musso handles better than expected too, despite a bit of body roll through bends. The Musso’s brakes feel a little spongy, but stopping performance is not compromised. One gripe was the overly sensitive lane-keeping aid that intervenes a little too quickly.

One of the many surprises with the Musso is how quiet and refined it is. Compared with a few other diesel utes, the noise, vibration and harshness levels are seriously impressive. Holden, Isuzu and Nissan could all learn a few things from SsangYong. 

SsangYong says the Musso XLV consumes 8.9 litres per 100 kilometres on the official combined cycle. We recorded 10.3L/100km over a week of testing.

Our recent review of the Mitsubishi Triton highlighted the value equation for that vehicle. While that stands, the Musso takes value to a new level. It offers the most ute for your dollar in its segment, and also shames some of its more popular rivals when it comes to driveability and refinement. Welcome back, SsangYong.

SsangYong Musso XLV Ultimate

PRICING

Price as tested: $41,990 driveaway.

Model range: $30,490 to $43,990 driveaway.

DRIVETRAIN

2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, six-speed automatic, four-wheel drive.

Power: 133kW@4000rpm.

Torque: 420Nm@1400-2600rpm.

Wheels: 255/60 R18

FUEL

Diesel, 75-litre tank.

Consumption: 10.3L/100km (RACV test), 8.9L/100km (government test). 

Emissions: 233g/km CO2.

STANDARD SAFETY

Autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning, blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, reversing camera.

STANDARD FEATURES

8.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, leather steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, six-speaker audio, rain-sensing wipers.

WARRANTY/SERVICING

Seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. Seven-year fixed-price servicing plan scheduled every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres.