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SsangYong Musso 2022 review: XLV ELX - GVM test

Is the Musso worth considering over a Ranger or HiLux? (image credit: Mark Oastler)

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

3.5/5

The Ssangyong Musso 4x4 ute has always been a small-volume player in Australia. However, since adding the XLV long wheelbase/leaf spring variant to its existing short wheelbase/coil-spring offering in 2019, the Korean manufacturer has been increasing its sales foothold.

Up to and including November 2021, the two-model Musso range has according to industry figures enjoyed an annual sales surge just short of 100 per cent, or almost doubling from 891 units in 2020 to over 1778 units in 2021. Albeit starting from a low base, that’s enviable sales growth and represents considerably more new owners than higher profile offerings like the Jeep Gladiator.

The latest Musso utes introduced in June 2021 bring fresh frontal styling, new alloy wheel designs and other minor tweaks to entice more bargain-hunters to the Korean brand. It's also backed by a seven-year unlimited km warranty which Ssangyong boasts is unmatched in the dual cab ute class.

We recently put one of these latest models to the test, to understand why more Aussies are adding a Musso to their shopping lists.

The Ssangyong Musso 4x4 ute has always been a small-volume player in Australia. (image credit: Mark Oastler) The Ssangyong Musso 4x4 ute has always been a small-volume player in Australia. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

 

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Our test vehicle is the long wheelbase XLV in ELX specification, which is the work-focused base model grade in a three-tier line-up that includes mid-level Ultimate and top-shelf Ultimate Plus.

It comes standard with a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel and six-speed manual transmission, or six-speed automatic as optioned here for a list price of $38,490. Our example also has optional Marble Grey metallic paint which adds another $495 to $38,985. That’s lineball with bargain-hunter Chinese 4x4 rivals like LDV’s T60 Mega-Tub ($38,937).

The ELX may be the base model in the XLV range but its generous standard equipment list doesn’t read like one, starting with 17-inch alloy wheels and 235/70R17 tyres with full-size spare.

The ELX kicks off the XLV range with 17-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Mark Oastler) The ELX kicks off the XLV range with 17-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

There’s also an automatic-locking rear differential, keyless entry, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, speed/rain-sensing wipers, reverse camera, leather steering wheel (previously plastic at this grade) with multi-function controls, A-pillar grab handles (previously missing), LED daytime running lights, power folding/heated door mirrors with LED indicators and puddle lamps, quality six-speaker infotainment system with 8.0-inch control touchscreen and multiple connectivity including Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and more.

A solid safety menu, headlined by AEB and trailer sway control, is spoiled somewhat by only providing a lap-belt for the rear seat’s centre passenger. This is a glaring omission which only serves to highlight where cost-cutting should never take place.

 

Is there anything interesting about its design?

There are new 17-inch and 18-inch alloy wheel designs and other minor styling tweaks but the latest range is most easily identified by its striking new front-end design.

Ssangyong claims that “the magnificent and imposing grille wraps the horizontal breadth of the front and harmonises with the restrained bumper that subtly supports the solid body.” In other words, it’s a good-looking facelift with a tougher and more imposing appearance.

The Musso breed maintains a consistently high standard of finish and build quality. (image credit: Mark Oastler) The Musso breed maintains a consistently high standard of finish and build quality. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

Otherwise, the latest Musso is much the same as before, with the XLV having an extra 110mm in wheelbase (3210mm) and 300mm in bed length compared to its SWB sibling, along with rear leaf-springs instead of coils to (theoretically at least) improve load-carrying. It also has a competitive 12.2-metre turning circle and is externally about the same size as a Ford Ranger dual-cab.

Fortunately, the Musso breed maintains a consistently high standard of finish and build quality. It's rattle and squeak-free with a pleasing interior design and all doors close with a satisfying thud. Like the SWB Musso, the XLV’s rear doors are only 50mm shorter than the fronts, ensuring easy entry/exit even for tall adults and spacious rear seating.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Ssangyong’s Euro 6-compliant 2.2-litre inline four-cylinder turbo-diesel offers excellent refinement. It produces 133kW at 4000rpm and its ample 420Nm of torque is served at full strength across a 1000rpm-wide torque band between 1600-2600rpm, showcasing its excellent flexibility.

Ssangyong’s 2.2-litre inline four-cylinder turbo-diesel offers excellent refinement. (image credit: Mark Oastler) Ssangyong’s 2.2-litre inline four-cylinder turbo-diesel offers excellent refinement. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

The Aisin six-speed torque convertor automatic provides snappy yet smooth shifting, with overdrive on fifth and sixth gears for good highway economy. It also provides the option of sequential manual-shifting using the toggle switch on the side of the shifter knob, which can be very handy when towing, plus there’s three driving modes to choose from comprising Eco, Power and Winter settings.

The part-time, dual-range 4x4 drivetrain features electronic traction control and a rear differential that automatically locks and unlocks in response to changing traction requirements. In 4x4 mode, the engine delivers power to the rear wheels to optimise economy, with the front wheels only coming into play as needed via electronic control. Ground clearance of 215mm is relatively low.

How much fuel does it consume?

How practical is the space inside?

With its 2195kg kerb weight and 3220kg GVM, the XLV has a genuine one-tonne-plus payload rating of 1025kg. It’s also rated to tow up to 3500kg of braked trailer, but to do so would require a 350kg drop in payload to 675kg to avoid exceeding the 6370kg GCM, or how much it can legally carry and tow at the same time.

Alternatively, if you wanted to keep the 1025kg payload capacity, the towing limit would have to be lowered by that same 350kg to 3150kg, which is more than ample for most ute owners in the real world.

The large load tub has square internal dimensions of 1610mm in length and width when measured at the top edges. Combined with its 580mm depth, it has a sizeable 1262 litres of load volume which is almost 25 per cent more than the SWB Musso and its load anchorage points are located nice and low at floor level in each corner. Our test vehicle was also fitted with a non-standard full tub-liner, which we’d strongly recommend to protect from scrapes and dents.

Front cabin storage includes a centre console with small storage tray up front containing USB, auxiliary jack and 12-volt outlets, along with two small bottle/cup-holders in the centre and a storage box with padded lid at the back which doubles as a driver’s elbow rest. There’s also a large-bottle holder and storage bin in each front door plus a shallow tray in the centre dash-pad, an overhead glasses holder and lockable glovebox.

There’s a large-bottle holder and storage bin in each front door. (image credit: Mark Oastler) There’s a large-bottle holder and storage bin in each front door. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

Rear seat passengers also get a large-bottle holder and storage bin in each door, plus two cup- holders in the fold-down centre armrest and flexible storage pouches on each front seat backrest. The rear bench seat base can’t be flipped up and stored vertically to create more internal cargo space like some rivals, but it does provide hidden storage space underneath for soft items.

The rear bench seat base can’t be flipped up. (image credit: Mark Oastler) The rear bench seat base can’t be flipped up. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

What’s it like as a daily driver?

NVH levels are impressive, particularly at highway speeds where overdrive on the fifth and sixth ratios results in low-stressed cruising. The quiet and refined turbo-diesel needs only 1500rpm to maintain 100km/h and 1700rpm at 110km/h, which combined with low tyre and wind noise creates a pleasant cabin environment.

The engine’s wide torque band, combined with well-matched ratios in the six-speed automatic, also make light work of city and suburban travel. It has good throttle response in the 40-80km/h speed range often encountered during these driving duties, combined with nicely-weighted steering and strong braking from four-wheel discs.

It's not hard to find a comfortable driving position in the fabric-trimmed seats and we liked the well-placed left footrest. However, the driver’s base cushion could be improved with some rake adjustment.

It's not hard to find a comfortable driving position. (image credit: Mark Oastler) It's not hard to find a comfortable driving position. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

Unladen ride quality is commendable for a leaf-spring rear-end, which combined with the XLV’s long wheelbase and supple 17-inch tyre sidewalls contributes to a smooth ride over sealed and unsealed roads. It’s a spacious, quiet and comfortable daily driver.

What’s it like for tradie use?

We forklifted 650kg into the load tub, which with driver equalled a 750kg payload. Although this was 275kg under its 1025kg payload rating, the rear leaf springs compressed more than 60mm, leaving only 30mm of static bump-stop clearance.

As a result, the rear suspension bottomed-out over larger bumps, as it did during our first test of the XLV ELX in 2019 with a higher payload. Fact is, the rear springs need to be stiffer for owners who regularly carry and/or tow heavy loads. Perhaps Ssangyong could offer a heavy-duty ‘tradie’ suspension option for Aussie buyers?

We forklifted 650kg into the load tub. (image credit: Mark Oastler) We forklifted 650kg into the load tub. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

The powertrain proved more than capable of lugging this payload up our 13 per cent gradient, 2.0km set climb at 60km/h, self-shifting back to third gear and holding 2400-2500rpm to easily reach the summit.

Engine-braking on the way down in a manually-selected second gear wasn’t as strong, quickly spinning to 3800rpm on overrun (4500rpm redline) before the transmission over-rode our manual selection and shifted up to third gear. These engine-protecting shift protocols are increasingly common in LCV auto transmissions, which is fine as long as you’re prepared for them when leaning on the engine to assist with braking on steep descents.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

No ANCAP rating, but it does have a reversing camera, AEB, front collision warning, trailer sway control and other active safety features. However, ELX buyers miss out on the lane-change collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and 360-degree camera exclusive to higher model grades. There’s also driver and front passenger front and side (thorax) airbags and curtain airbag protection for both rows of seating, plus three top-tether and two ISOFIX child seat anchorage points for the rear seat.

 

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

No ANCAP rating and only a centre rear lap-belt may be deal-breakers for some, along with rear springs that need to be stiffer for heavy load-carrying.

Even so, spending a week with a Musso XLV ELX made it hard not to like it. For most owners it does most things well and its high build quality and generous standard equipment backed by an outstanding warranty, all for less than $40K, should explain why sales are on the rise.

$36,490

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5

Tradies score

3.5/5
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.