Terry Smith checks out the new SsangYong Musso 4×4 Rhino.
A couple of days before full lockdown, we took delivery of a brand new, shiny, Atlantic blue, top-of-the-range SsangYong Musso 4×4 Rhino, the South Korean company’s latest statement of intent to secure a foothold in the buoyant pick-up market. Unfortunately, however, apart from a few trips to the shops, and some local recreation areas, it’s mostly remained where it was dropped off. The vehicle equivalent of being furloughed on reduced pay(load). One day in the early hours the alarm went off for no apparent reason, as if to remind us that ‘Hey, I am still here – raring to go to work”. And this is very much a vehicle which, in normal circumstances, would be out there earning its living.
As if to emphasise the point, one of the few forays off the driveway to the village post office resulted in a lengthy vehicle-related conversation with a causal acquaintance, who before the pandemic was something big in The City. The offer of early redundancy had proved a temptation worth taking, with the prospect of fulfilling a lifelong passion for garden landscaping. A pick-up, he had already wisely deduced, would fit the bill perfectly for all those trips to the merchant and garden centre and still provide a more than satisfactory mode of family transport for weekend outings. “So, what did I make of the Rhino, when there are so many other well-known pick-ups out there?”, was his inevitable question.
Having explained the dilemma of not having been able to put the vehicle properly through its paces – and ascertain whether the company has fully embraced some of the negative ride quality issues of previous incarnations – the early signs were nevertheless certainly encouraging. “You’d have to agree that it clearly looks the part. Much more rugged and robust than previous SsangYong offerings, with the introduction of a long wheel base limited edition Rhino version leading the way as the biggest double cab pick-up in the market with the longest load bed at 1.61m (32cm longer than any competitor). Most impressive is its ability to carry 1,140kg and tow 3.5 tonnes at the same time.”
Having read the press material just hours before this meeting, I was on a roll: “It has a 2.2 litre turbo diesel powertrain, which creates 181hp and torque of 420Nm but, as with all pick-ups, comes with something of a thirst, with around 30 mpg being a realistic target on a typical day.” At the time of writing, with diesel hovering not much above the pound a litre mark, perhaps that isn’t currently the factor it once was.
“The most discerning family would have no complaints with the interior, because there’s all the things you would expect in a modern car and – something you will certainly appreciate as a fledgling new business – the on-the-road price comes in at under 30 grand, considerably less than all its like-for-like competitors. And here’s the best bit, it comes with a seven-year, 150,000-mile warranty. Tell you what,” I said, momentarily caught up in the sales pitch, “when this horrible thing is all over, and you are up and running, I will come and spend a day with you so you can get a real feel for it, and how it could help your business day to day. Vehicle and driver only, of course, these hands have gone soft during lockdown.”
The reply is unprintable but this old rhino, like its vehicle namesake, has a sufficiently tough exterior to deflect the most pointed barbs.
SsangYong’s new Musso range of pick-ups also includes the slightly smaller Saracen, which shares the majority of standard features with its bigger sibling, but has a reduced load bed length of 1.31 metres and starts at just under a very attractive £22,000 plus VAT. The Rebel brings a slightly higher level of spec for around £24,500 plus VAT.
Lockdown and social distancing have inevitably played havoc with our usual testing. However, a number of suppliers (including SsangYong) have very kindly extended the loan period, so we should have ample opportunity to do the new launches proper justice. In the case of the new Rhino, we will be enjoying its company until the end of the year, by which time let’s hope we are all up and running on an economic charge!