The pick-up truck has been the workhorse of the rural community and the backbone of the building trade for decades
Pick-up Reviewed: SsangYong Musso Saracen
Manufacturers stepped up their game a few years ago when they saw that typical SUVs were becoming too expensive and that a new client profile, the active-lifestyle aficionados, was emerging.
The latter decade of the 20th century saw the introduction of models like the SsangYong Musso, which successfully catered to buyers interested in both a recreational and utilitarian pick-up.
SsangYong offers a select few vehicles, including the family-friendly Tivoli hatchback, the agile Rexton SUV, the sturdy Musso pick-up, and the spacious Korando SUV.
Musso (Rhino in Korean) is available today in four different trim levels, although only the highest-end Rhino model has a long wheelbase. The EX, Rebel, and Saracen models are all short-wheelbase variants.
The first Musso debuted in the 1990s and has undergone steady development and improvement. The 2022 model is based on the Rexton’s platform, making it feel more like an SUV than other pick-ups, which is a welcome change.
It has won numerous awards in journals oriented at the farming and construction industries, where a workhorse like the Musso is greatly valued because, when loaded, it can take a tonne payload and draw a 3.5-tonne trailer, a unique double achievement in its class.
As a result of continual upgrades, the Saracen and Rhino models now feature a more menacing black front fascia.
The Saracen’s standard equipment includes a CVT with manual range selection, power front seats with leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, a sunroof, foglights, parking sensors, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 9.2-inch information and entertainment console, cruise control, and a rear cross-traffic alert system.
There is surprisingly ample space in the front and back seats, and both the driver and passenger can make use of the seats’ motorised adjustability and heating.
Most drivers will achieve over 30 mpg thanks to the surprisingly efficient diesel engine that sits under the big hood.
Although the tuning improvements have improved responsiveness and on-road driveability, increased fuel economy a little, and decreased mechanical noise, the vehicle still uses a huge four-pot diesel, so it will never be as quiet as a petrol unit.
Even though the six-speed automatic transmission generally operated smoothly, there were moments when it seemed to be searching for a gear and making slow changes. Thankfully, shifting gears involved no more than turning a dial to the left of the shifter; the vehicle’s swift acceleration was commendable, but it was designed for usage in the thick mud and slopes of the countryside, not on paved roads.
There was a lot of road noise brought inside by the huge wheels and tyres, and I wished for a tighter turning circle and better feel via the steering if I were, say, navigating through trees and boulders.
The brakes worked admirably, with only moderate application resulting in substantial retardation; a large handbrake was also conveniently located for use on inclines and while parking.
There were secondary controls for the lights and wipers located around the steering column; however, there was no rear wash/wipe, and the windshield was only partially cleansed. The feeble, short-range, and narrow beams were a major letdown for me, especially as they would be a bother on a dark mountain trail if supplementary spotlights weren’t available.
The instruments in front of the driver were large and easy to read, while the centre console’s informational display was relatively modest and occasionally appeared cluttered. Some of its functions required being tethered to the user’s mobile device, which could be inconvenient if the user still needed to possess the necessary apps.
The air conditioning and heating controls were easy to use, extensive, and effective in delivering the desired temperature and humidity levels throughout the cabin. The power windows were a nice bonus.
We had trouble releasing the loaded roller-cover, despite the tailboard dropping to a level position for easy access. The oddments area was helpful for a workhorse to push in objects of varying sizes.
There was plenty of space for legs, heads, and shoulders within, but entering and exiting required some agility and a foot on the running board.
The seats were soft and supportive, with an especially nice contour in front for your thighs.
It had excellent forward and side visibility, but the broad back pillars reduced visibility over the shoulder to the point where safety sensors were required.
The driving manners were satisfactory; the steering was slow and lifeless, but the vehicle hung together well in turns thanks to independent springs all around. Most hiccups were taken in stride without any grumbling.
If you want to make good use of the cabin and the load bed, the Musso Saracen is fantastic value when compared to competitors.
Also, it offers a powerful on-road and off-road presence at a far more affordable price than some similarly luxurious SUVs. The advantages of the Saracen much outweigh its disadvantages.
Robin Roberts Wheelswithinwales
Robin contributes to a number of outlets in Wales and the UK, including the Driving Force editorial syndication agency feeding the biggest regional news and feature publishers in Britain.
Robin was the longest serving chairman of The Western Group of Motoring Writers. He specialises in the Welsh automotive sector and motor related businesses with interests in Wales and publishes WheelsWithinWales.uk which covers news, features, trade and motor sport in Wales.
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