SsangYong Musso wins Best Dual-Cab Ute under $50K

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Car Of The Year

The winner of the 2024 Drive Car of the Year Best Dual-Cab Ute under $50K, the SsangYong Musso, proves buyers on a budget don’t need to compromise on space, comfort or features

Drive is proud to launch a new category for 2024: the Best Dual-Cab Ute Under $50k.

With the top three best-selling cars in Australia being utes – and with prices of dual-cabs ratcheting up to $100,000 and beyond – our editorial team felt there was an opportunity to hold a magnifying glass over the value end of the spectrum on behalf of our readers.

After all, there are plenty of individuals, families, and businesses across our country who need and want a dual-cab, but can’t justify spending near-six-figure sums on a new vehicle – particularly when you can get so much ute for your money lower down in this segment.

For this newly-created category, the rules are simple: all dual-cab utes for sale prior to 31 December 2023 available with an automatic transmission and four-wheel drive, and priced at less than $50,000 before on-road costs, were considered. As we mentioned when our finalists were announced, that ruled out the two best-selling utes – the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger. The all-new Mitsubishi Triton also missed out, due to not being on sale in time.

Drive’s judges had value-for-money as the top consideration when deciding on the finalists – but looking at these vehicles through the lens of someone who potentially uses the ute for work, the school or shopping run, and as an occasional tow rig or off-road camping vehicle on weekends and holidays. 

This meant judging each model on its standard features, build quality, safety, design, comfort, on- and off-road performance, and peripheral attributes such as warranty, servicing, aftersales support, and if there was any ‘X factor’ – a non-tangible quality that cannot necessarily be translated from a list of specifications on paper.

Winner: SsangYong Musso

Drive’s pick: SsangYong Musso Ultimate Luxury XLV from $49,500 MSRP

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SsangYong Musso key facts:

  • Priced from $40,000 to $49,500 (range)
  • 7-year warranty
  • 8.6-9.0L/100km consumption (claimed)

Why the SsangYong Musso won:

  • Bigger than most dual-cabs
  • Heaps of tech and features
  • Seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty

The SsangYong Musso is a ute that surprises us every time we get behind the wheel, and it’s a vehicle that has been improved each year, inch by inch, to add up to something that is astonishingly good for its price tag.

Released roughly six years ago, the current-generation Musso ute is a clear and worthy winner of this category, boasting a very long list of standard features, excellent build quality, good on-road manners, and great off-road capability.

Despite increasingly fierce competition from Chinese newcomers like LDV and GWM, SsangYong keeps shovelling new technology into the Musso, making the South Korean a real stand-out in this space.

In fact, the SsangYong Musso isn’t just impressive when viewed in this sub-$50k category, but among the entire line-up of dual-cab utes on sale in Australia today. 

During Drive’s 2022 Ute Megatest, the Musso came in fourth place overall – sitting behind the Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT-50 twins in equal second, and the Ford Ranger in first place – and beating out the GWM Ute, Toyota HiLux, and Nissan Navara.

All of this has resulted in the Musso gaining a cult-like following among its owners, owing to its quality, reliability, and capability.

For many people, mentioning the SsangYong Musso may stir up memories of the first-generation model – the square SUV launched in the 1990s with stickers proclaiming it to be powered by a Mercedes-Benz engine. But those days are long gone, and like the other South Korean manufacturers, Hyundai and Kia, SsangYong is now a real contender in the spaces it exists in.

The entire Musso range is powered by a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine developing 133kW of power and 400Nm (SWB) or 420Nm (XLV) of torque, now exclusively mated to a six-speed automatic, and offering claimed fuel-consumption of 8.6 to 9.0 litres per 100 kilometres.

For those heading off-road, buyers get part-time four-wheel drive with low range and an automatic-locking rear differential as standard.

At the top of the range, features include a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a 12.3-inch touchscreen for the infotainment, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 360-degree cameras, a heated leather steering wheel, heated and ventilated electric front leather seats, (outer) heated rear leather seats, dual-zone climate control, 12V and USB-C ports, a sunroof, proximity key, cruise control, HID headlights, high-beam assist, LED daytime-running lights, LED front fog lights, a tyre-pressure monitor system, a 12V plug in the tub, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

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While the Musso remains untested by ANCAP or any other global NCAP safety body, it comes with six airbags, lane-departure warning, hill start assist, hill descent control, active rollover protection, electronic stability program, driver attention warning, front vehicle start alert, autonomous emergency braking with forward collision alert, blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change collision alert, safety distance alert, and safety exit alert.

One of the few marks against it is the antiquated lap belt for the rear centre passenger – something to consider if you’re often transporting a full complement of passengers.

The Musso Ultimate with the XLV pack – providing a 300mm longer bed with an increased wheelbase – offers a relatively low payload of up to 880kg, despite its large tub. But if you need more, you can go with the Musso ELX with the XLV pack. That changes the rear suspension from a multi-link set-up with coil springs to leaf springs, increasing the payload to 1010kg. Towing is rated at 3.5 tonnes braked.

On top of all that, the SsangYong Musso comes with a seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty – which includes commercial use. Couriers and Uber drivers take note.

All of the specifications only tell part of the story, however. The Musso doesn’t look like it in pictures – thanks to its proportionate and mature design – but it’s actually a half-step bigger than most other dual-cab utes on the market today. It’s not approaching a full-size US pick-up, but there’s greater cabin space, and heaps of headroom, and overall it’s just bigger than what you’ll find elsewhere.

Its size doesn’t come at the cost of its driving manners, and our judges have been consistently surprised at how it performs on – and off – the highway.

During our judging, it became clear early on that the SsangYong was the one to beat. And while the rivalries are hotting up, the Musso is the best dual-cab ute to buy in Australia for less than $50,000.

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Drive Car of the Year – Every category, every winner

Find out everything you need to know about all the Drive Car of the Year 2024 category winners at our DCOTY content hub.

Ben Zachariah is an experienced writer and motoring journalist from Melbourne, having worked in the automotive industry for more than two decades. Ben began writing professionally more than 15 years ago and was previously an interstate truck driver. He completed his MBA in Finance in early 2021 and is considered an expert on classic car investment.

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