► We test the 2016 SsangYong Musso pick-up truck
► Makeover includes new looks and upsized 2.2 diesel
► Plenty of power and torque but it’s terrible to drive
I’m told that pick-up trucks do rather well for viewing numbers on the CAR website – seems that tantalising blend of lifestyle image shenanigans and commercial vehicle tax-break tomfoolery has wide-reaching appeal, and those chunky looks are just so manly, no? Well, dear CAR reader, you may well want a pickup, but I’m here to tell you that you do not want this one.
This isn’t badge snobbery. Much as SsangYong is a distant third in the Korean carmaker grand prix, its latest offerings have been pretty decent – see the Tivoli, as a particular example. The trouble here is that this ‘new’ Musso pickup doesn’t just adopt an old name from SsangYong’s better forgotten past, it’s actually only a revised version of the existing Korando Sports pickup – rather than an entirely fresh model. The name-change has been effected by SsangYong UK buying up the remaining global stock of Musso badges; this is not a joke.
Looks alright in the pictures – what’s the problem?
The visual tickle that accompanies the name-over certainly has merits – it’s a cohesive, ever-so-slightly quirky design that in range-topping EX trim stands out thanks to contrasting black alloy wheels, standard roof bars and such modern accoutrements as LED daytime running lights. It is more up-to-date than before.
It’s also worth mentioning the new engine. The Musso ditches the Korando Sports’ 153bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel for the 175bhp 2.2-litre turbodiesel recently introduced to SsangYong’s SUV range. This makes the Musso an unusual instance of anti-downsizing, though the new motor is naturally more efficient and cleaner than the old oil-burner that went before, and with 295lb ft at just 1400rpm it’s hardly short of muscular fortitude. One of the test vehicles had 600kg of gravel in the back; Musso, not bothered.
This – and the Poundland special pricing – is all very well if aggregate relocation solutions are your primary purchasing concern. But even then you’re realistically going to have to drive the thing, which is when pretty much all of the appeal becomes akin to a smoking hole in the ground.
What’s wrong with the way the Musso pickup drives?
It’s tempting to say ‘everything’ and leave it at that. But, ok, you want specifics…
The Musso is unusual for a pickup, in that it has car-style springs and dampers at the back instead of the more common leaf springs that almost every rival on the market is content with. This should translate into both a more comfortable ride and more competent handling than is standard for a truck like this, especially given the Musso is also the most compact pick-up currently on sale.
It doesn’t. Instead this vehicle has the most extraordinary ride quality of anything I have ever driven – and I say that as someone who once went on a launch for the 2007 Dodge Avenger. It manages the astonishing trick of being wallowy and vague while also vibrating over all but the smoothest surfaces like a marital aid trapped in a biscuit tin, and smacking into bumps and potholes like prime Sly Stallone tackling a particularly recalcitrant pig carcass.
If you sit in the back you can actually watch the front passenger seat buzzing with excitement; the manual gearlever does the same thing. Add to this the lurching body-control in corners, zero-feel steering, brakes that offer as much feedback as a plank of wood and an unfortunately indecisive automatic gearbox – it’s unfortunate, for this aside it actually shifts rather smoothly – and you’ve got a pickup that’s tricky to tolerate for even short periods.
Ouch. Anything else?
Well, in pickup terms the one-tonne payload is a must – and ensures it’s taxed as an LCV rather than a car – but the load area is so small that it isn’t actually very practical. And while the all-new dashboard is certainly an improvement, the deliberately wonky alignment of the circular centre-stack controls is murder on the OCD. Rear legroom isn’t terribly generous, either.
Don’t do it. If money’s the concern buy a used, well, anything else instead. Even the supposedly agricultural Isuzu D-Max is positively cosmopolitan in comparison to driving one of these.
SsangYong, please – we know you can do so much better than this.
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