With its latest pickup, Korean car manufacturer SsangYong is finally getting it right, writes Mark Stone.

IT has a name that some still find difficult to pronounce and, at times, some of SsangYong’s models have been just as daunting. Let’s face it, once you’ve seen the automotive carbuncle that is the Rodius, it’s almost impossible to forget. Whoever signed this visual nightmare off should, as the saying goes, ‘have gone to Specsavers’. But like other Korean manufacturers, SsangYong has finally learned that to sell cars in Europe it must design models that appeal to the European eye. No, this isn’t a plug for the EU. It’s just that, in the main, Brits and Europeans tend to like the same basic designs.

Enter the new Musso pickup, which not only looks immeasurably better than the preceding version but ticks all the right boxes multiple times. It looks right, it drives right (contrary to certain comments) and it hauls vast amounts. It’s even priced right. From the single chrome bar grille and swept-back front lights, SsangYong has been able to build its distinctive trademark tapers, high waist and curvaceous light lines into the bonnet, deep sides, load bed and vast tailgate, all seated on a time-honoured ladder chassis.

Badged the Rebel, this means the Musso as tested sits on 18” alloys, 1” larger than the EX and 1” smaller than the Saracen and Rhino models. I mention these varying sizes due to the fact that, given the size of the Musso, even with 255/60 rubber fitted, they do at times look undersized. It doesn’t, however, have any detrimental effect on the 20.20, 220, 200 approach, departure and ramp-over angles, 215 mm ground clearance, reasonably short overhangs or relatively traditional suspension system.

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Cargo-wise, the impressively cavernous cargo bed can accommodate one tonne, either loose or strapped to a full-sized Euro pallet. Add in the fact you can hook 3.5 tonnes to the towing hitch and you have a pickup that, when combined, can haul five passengers and a genuinely impressive load. It’s also because of this that the Musso has become a serious favourite among the caravan fraternity.

Inside the cabin, SsangYong has opted to go down the SUV route. Trimmed in what’s described as TPU faux leather, the cabin is spacious, comfortable and well laid out. Seating is sizeable with hot and cold settings built into the front seats. A thick sports steering wheel sits just in front of a large, easy-to-understand instrument binnacle. The basic controls are simple and quick to deploy, the 8” central screen taking care of Bluetooth and entertainment. What you don’t get is satnav, although, with the plentiful number of 12 V and USB outlets, using your mobile device isn’t much of a problem. Nor is stowage. Sizeable door bins, along with a large glovebox and central cubby take care of quite substantial items.

Under the bonnet, there’s just one engine irrespective of the chosen trim spec. Delivering 181 hp and 400 Nm of torque, the noticeably smooth and quiet Euro6 2,157 cc 4-cylinder turbo diesel remains relaxed irrespective of what’s being asked of it. Mated to either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission with 2WD or rear-wheel drive, 4-High or 4-Low transfer settings, it was the auto on test. Auto also provides Eco, Power and Sports modes along with an unusual form of sequential. Shift the selector sideways and the up and down shift is controlled using a small rocker switch on the side of the main shift lever. Returning an acceptable 26.7 mpg, most users can expect around 300 miles or potentially more from each 75-litre tank of fuel.

Forestry Journal: The 2.2-litre diesel develops more than sufficient power.The 2.2-litre diesel develops more than sufficient power.

Fitted with a full-sized cargo bed canopy adding sufficient weight to keep the rear wheels more planted, driving the Musso feels exactly like driving the SUV it’s meant to emulate. Comfortable and undemanding to drive, the on-road ride is relatively smooth, general handling passable, although feedback through the steering wheel can at times seem excessive. The 3.2 turns lock-to-lock and 5.91 m turning circle mated to the light power steering and wide-angle-lens reversing camera means manoeuvring the Musso is a straightforward exercise. The all-round view for a pickup is good, the sidesteps mean getting in and out is no longer a chore, while using the Musso as everyday transport is no more arduous than living with your average family car.

Forestry Journal: An SUV-style interior makes the Musso’s cabin a comfortable place to be.An SUV-style interior makes the Musso’s cabin a comfortable place to be.

Switch into 4x4 and the Musso is again easy to pilot off road. The vehicle’s ability to absorb the effects of rough tracks and uneven fields before they transfer into the cabin is as good as the rest. Like all 4x4s of this ilk, take your time and the Musso will get you to where you and your cargo need to be, even on the road-orientated rubber the test vehicle was fitted with. Fit more aggressive tyres and the Musso’s abilities will expand exponentially. The one overriding sensation is that SsangYong has been able to dial out the agricultural feel that besets many similar double cabs whilst retaining the agricultural practicality.

Price-wise, the Musso pickup starts at around £23,933 for the entry-level EX, climbing to just short of £30,000 for the limited edition, fully specified Rhino model with the Rebel as tested and Saracen versions falling somewhere in between. But it’s worth remembering that, apart from road wheel and tyre size, the variations are nothing more than trim levels, so an EX or Rebel with personal variations could well prove to be the more sensible options.

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