SsangYong has rolled out the next phase of its  re launch program in this country with the launch of the long wheel base version of the Musso, the XLV dual cab,  adding to the Musso short wheel base dual cab it launched back in December last year.

SsangYong is the only Korean maker offering a ute and it is  being launched into what is a fast-growing and very competitive segment. After years of piecemeal SsangYong efforts from various distributors along with cars with at best challenging looks, the company may have turned a significant corner.

SsangYong says that has all changed, with the local operation now being factory owned and that the days of  odd-ball styling are well  behind the Korean brand. SsangYong has been sold here for around 23 years on and off, and according to the company there are around 5000 SsangYongs on Australia roads, not a huge number for 20 odd years of toil but if the improvements in quality, engineering, performance and styling with the latest offerings are anything to go by they should sell a whole lot more in the next few years. It must be said that it has modest and quite realistic sales expectations in the short to medium term, targeting 3000 sales this year, 4000 in 2020  and 5000 in 2021.

Currently it is only offering the  short and long wheelbase Musso variants along with the Tivoli small sedan/SUV crossover as well as the Rexton SUV. So far this year  the company says it has moved about 1000 units in Australia, so it is a little behind its projected target but says that with new models and more dealers expected on board it will finish close to the 3000 unit target figure this year  The new Korando SUV is expected to join the line up in October, while in 2020 Rexton gets a model refresh,  there’s a potential new C segment  SUV and a new MPV expected  later next year . A batter electric model is also on the drawing board with a possible launch in 2022.

The dealer network currently numbers 40, but SsangYong Australia boss Tim Smith says they are targeting 50 dealers by the end of next year.

“We want to grow this sustainably and organically,” Smith told  us at the launch.

“We want a spread of metro and rural dealers and we are looking at all areas with the aim of getting to 50 by the end of 2019 and we will look at targets beyond that then,” Smith said.

“We are under no illusions, it is not going to be an easy task but we are confident we have the product and  the resources to establish SsangYong as a strong brand in Australia,” he added.

The new Musso XLV is a an extremely competent and capable multi-purpose vehicle with excellent fit and finish, ride and handling and  a comprehensive list of standard features but most importantly sharp pricing.

As with the  short wheelbase offering, the XLV will be available in three different trims – ELX, Ultimate and top of the line Ultimate Plus. Starting price for the manual ELX  is $33,990 drive away, moving up to the automatic at  $35,990, while the Ultimate is priced from $39,990 the Ultimate Plus from $43,990. All of the prices are quoted as drive-away. A big drawcard will be.

Those prices represent a pretty compelling  case when it comes to purchasing decision,  and given the strong equipment levels, a 7 year warranty and its on and off road performance the Musso should be on more dual cab buyer’s shopping lists.

The seven year warranty, which is coupled with  seven year road side assistance and a seven year servicing package is, as far as we can tell, unmatched across the industry. SsangYong is calling this  the Triple 7 package and it should certainly be a swaying factor for any buyers worried about any uncertainties with long term reliability and maintenance costs 

Musso is powered by the 2.2 litre  e-XDi220 turbo diesel engine, which is also used in the Rexton. It boasts 133kW of power at a relatively high 4,000 rpm with maximum torque of 420Nm between  1,600 and 2,600 rpm and it is available with either a six-speed manual or an six-speed Aisin automatic transmission.

The engine is flexible, quiet, smooth and quite punchy with plenty of climbing and overtaking power and good take off.  It is  perfectly mated with the six speed auto which has good ratios and smooth shifts as well as a nifty shift switch on the side of the lever that allows for manual shifting. We didn’t get to try the manual but with such a small number of manuals being sold these days most will be choosing the auto making the performance of the manual academic.

Ssangyong says the XLV boasts the longest tray in the segment with a 1,262-litre capacity tub which comes with a liner as standard. It is a big, deep load area and the extra length of the XLV model is immediately apparent. This is a feature we are sure that the Musso will win buyers over with . The load deck is large enough to carry a Euro pallet between the arches and it also comes equipped with 12V/120W power outlets and four tie down hooks to secure loads.

It will also be available with a choice of either leaf spring or multi-link coil spring rear suspension. It says local suspension calibration work  has been done on the Musso and  this was quite apparent on our test drive in the  hills around Marysville in the Great Dividing Range east of Melbourne. Some may question this strategy after a disaster with Nissan pursuing a similar strategy. with  the two options available on Navara, but SsangYong is confident it can do it and avoid the problems Nissan encountered.

The leaf spring ELX comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, heavy duty tyres and a maximum payload of 1,020 kgs while the Ultimate and Ultimate Plus are fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels and have a slightly smaller payload of 800 kgs.

The Musso uses the same body on frame architecture as the Rexton SUV so like the prominent one tonne pick ups in the market such as HiLux, Ranger and Colorado it has the toughness to handle off road conditions but still delivers smooth on road manners and performance.

Interior comfort and finish is excellent. with comfortable seating for five and a dash and instrument layout that is easy to use and nicely designed.

Equipment levels include safety features such as Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Change Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Detection, Front Vehicle Start Alert and a 360-degree camera as well as an infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth connectivity. The central 8 “LCD screen is easy to read and operate and everything about the dash just sits nicely with tactile switch gear and a premium feel from then material used with nice touches like contrast stitching.

Musso’s drive system features part time 4×4 with power delivered permanently to the rear wheels while  4WD is ‘dialled in’ electronically as required, with high and low ratios available on demand.

The new Musso XLV also comes with a locking differential system to provide better traction on steep and slippery gradients, and for increased towing capability. We found the off road performance win a brief but testing drive in wet and slippery conditions to be sure footed and confident despite only being on road tyres.

On road again it was confident and sure footed with very good NVH levels and a comfortable, relaxed feel. It is a dual cab ute that could easily swallow up long distances on Australian roads without fuss and in comfort.

After  an all too brief time behind the wheel of  the Musso XLV we  came away impressed by it.

The challenge for SsangYong will be overcoming the lack of brand awareness and to make people realise this is a very capable and good value ute in a highly competitive market. We hope they can win over buyers and with the pricing, performance, styling and overall finish there is no reason why they can’t