WHEN it comes to outstanding value for money SsangYong has just raised the bar in the pick-up sector by launching its new rough, tough, no-nonsense Musso pick-upl that offers the robust nature of a working vehicle combined with the softer characteristics found in a family car.
The Musso, which is Korean for rhino, certainly looks the business with its powerful styling, chunky alloys, neat light clusters, side steps, tinted windows, roof bars and open back load deck.
Move inside the spacious double cab and there is a wealth of on-board creature comforts and infotainment systems to be explored with the likes of fine leather upholstery, heated and cooled seats and a heated steering wheel on the higher specced versions.
There are four trim levels called EX, Rebel, Saracen and limited-edition Rhino with prices starting from a very competitive £19,995 excluding VAT.
There is just one engine available - a punchy 2.2-litre diesel unit that delivers181PS and 400Nm of torque and this is mated to a six-speed manual or an Aisin six-speed automatic gearbox.
The Musso also features the same chassis and drivetrain as the multi award-winning Rexton.
We tried two models - the Saracen on a road route and the Rebel on a five-mile off-road course that showcased its rough terrain skills.
After all, original pick-ups were popular amongst farmers and those regularly towing horseboxes or caravans.
The Musso was totally unfazed when faced with steep climbs, shallow rivers, slippery grass banks and rutted tracks as it attacked every obstacle with confidence.
The car's hill hold was admirable as we stopped halfway up a steep incline and then moved away again without any difficulty, the hill descent system was unruffled both in ‘drive' and ‘reverse' and switching between 2WD, 4WD and then again to 4WD with low ratio gears is a quick and easy process.
Driving along relatively flattened dirt tracks at speeds up to 30mph was not an issue either with good comfort levels experienced within the car - I've tried that in other off-road vehicles and felt my teeth chatter!
Next up we were back on the trusty Tarmac for the road route in a high-end Musso Saracen priced at£26,245.
This car boasts all the bells and whistles such as a 9.2-inch touchscreen with TomTom navigation, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, DAB radio and Bluetooth, a reversing camera, automatic projection headlamps and LED positioning lights, cruise control, ametal front skid plate, rear corner bars, tubular side steps and Saracen graphics. I wasn't so keen on the ‘Saracen' and ‘4x4' decals but that's a matter of taste.
As the Musso is classed as a light commercial vehicle, there are no official 0-62mph sprint times, but it seemed nice and responsive through the six-speed automatic gearbox and has a top speed of 115mph, which is slightly higher at 121mph for manual versions.
When it comes to running costs, the Musso can deliver combined fuel economyof 32.9g/km with carbon emissions of 226g/km.
There is ample power on tap and the engine is pretty refined even when driven quite enthusiastically. The gear changes are smooth and well timed and there are three driving modes called Eco, Power and Winter that alter the car's handling.
Our car was laden down with sand and that helped with the road holding and it felt nicely balanced most of the time with only the occasional wobble.
The firm suspension system does feel a little hard at times, but it's not too bad especially for a car with such an attractive entry price.
A number of people who drove the Musso without any additional weight complained that the ride quality was not so impressive.
Obviously, practicality is going to be high on the agenda for anyone purchasing a pick-up and the Musso does particularly well here.It features a 3.5 tonne towing limit (which is the benchmark for those who tow large work trailers, caravans and horseboxes), but at the same time it can also transfer a one tonne payload in the back.
This, according to SsangYong, is the highest combined total load capacity for any pick-up on sale in the UK. There is a Euro pallet-sized load deck along with a load liner and tie down hooks.
Passenger comfort is also impressive - the side steps help with any access issues and all occupants benefit from generous amounts of leg, head and elbow space.
There are plenty of storage compartments scattered throughout the vehicle such as a glovebox, deep door bins, a central box, non-slip trays, sunglasses holder, cup holders and pockets in the back of the front seats.
The only real area where the Musso falls short is the level of safety features. Whilst it does have an ultra-strong chassis and energy absorbing steering wheel and steering column, some of the more common driver assist aids such as lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and emergency brake assist are noticeable by their absence.
But that aside, the Musso is a good all-rounder. It's economically priced, practical, it delivers off-road and it's well equipped.
And if that's not enough to impress, SsangYong has introduced the Musso with an exceptional class-leading warranty of seven-years or 150,000 miles and that will be attractive to any farmer looking for a long-lasting commitment.