BY ANDY ENRIGHT
The Daewoo Musso is one of those vehicles that appear almost too cheap. With new rivals such as the Nissan Patrol, Isuzu Trooper and Land Rover Discovery costing thousands more, the Musso prompts the question "How on earth are they making a profit?" They in this instance are Daewoo, now one of the world's biggest automobile manufacturers and capable of turning out packages that make rivals quake in their boots. As a used buy, the Musso represents a cost-effective way of owning a good looking 4x4 at prices that'll leave enough change to load it up, go skiing, and still be left to count the change. With a range of Mercedes-Benz sourced engines, you won't have to concern yourself with exotic unproven technology either. Whatever way you look at it, a used Musso is an interesting option and one which is underrated by many.
Models Covered: 5dr 4x4, 2.3,3.2 petrol, 2.9 diesel
If by chance you feel the Daewoo Musso has a certain familiarity about it, you'd be right. That's because the Musso wasn't always a Daewoo. When it was launched in 1995, it was marketed by Ssangyong, who in turn were subsumed by the Korean giant in 1999. It had sold in the UK in steady but unspectacular numbers under the Ssangyong banner, but was hampered by high prices and an unspectacular equipment list. When Daewoo took up the reins in 1999, they had a product with some potential on their hands. Winner of two UK Auto Design Awards, the Musso was styled by Ken Greenley, then head of automotive design at the Royal College of Art. Keen to impose the Daewoo family look but keep the sleek styling, a number of small but significant changes were made. A more imposing chromed grille was introduced, with the obligatory jewel-style headlamps. Oversized foglamps were integrated into the new bumper and new tail lights were also penned. The changes were very successful, and now give the Musso a far stronger identity. The equipment list for the Musso was also beefed up considerably. Ssangyong models first arrived in May 1995, with the 2.9 diesel model in standard, SE and GSE trim levels. June 1996 saw this 94bhp engine uprated to 99bhp. In January 1997, the unusual GX220 model was launched. This boasted a 3.2 litre Mercedes sourced petrol engine, and with 217bhp available was notably quick off the mark. The 2.3-litre engine made its debut in August 1997 in 2.3 GLS guise, whilst in January 1998 2.9TD GL and GLS trim levels were announced. As sales slumped in 2000 and 2001, the range of available choices was rationalised. In order to simplify the choices available, there was an option of either the 2.3-litre petrol version or the 2.9-litre turbo diesel. Straightforward and easy to understand. It wasn't enough. The Musso passed quietly away in the Autumn of 2002.
What You Get
The Musso is one of the first 4x4 vehicles to look remotely sleek. The angle of the windscreen is raked back to give a purposeful, sporty image, at odds with the barn-door design of many of its rivals. The Ssangyong models are slightly bland around the grille area, a problem which the Daewoo badged cars have rectified handsomely. Parked next to a Nissan Patrol or Land Rover Discovery, the Musso looks a classier, more expensive piece of equipment, possibly even in the Range Rover or Toyota Land Cruiser bracket to the uninitiated. In practical terms, the Musso also makes sense as long as you don't need space for seven. That's impossible due to the fact that, unlike many competitors, you don't get occasional seats in the luggage compartment. Still, there is ample head and legroom for five people. Another point worth making is that, at only 67.7 inches high, it's still able to scrape aboard `Le Shuttle` (unlike some other 4x4s), should you wish to venture across the Channel. Another unusual feature is that the rear seat is set higher than those at the front. This novelty, copied from Korean executive cars unseen in Europe, was adopted to give rear passengers a better view. Other useful features include an intrusion-free 1120-litre, luggage compartment and split/folding rear seat. You'll also find Daewoo Mussos well equipped with remote central locking, revised alloy wheels, anti-lock brakes, electronic traction control and semi-automatic air conditioning. These features are on top of the existing items carried over from the Ssangyong era: all-round electric windows, heated, electric mirrors, a leather-covered steering wheel, power steering, tinted glass, an engine immobiliser and an RDS stereo radio cassette player. More importantly perhaps, in Daewoo form, the Musso gets the marque's renowned comprehensive 'customer package'. This includes three years' free servicing, warranty and breakdown cover, making a nearly new Musso a safe and cost effective purchase.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
The engines and gearboxes are proven items, and the ladder-framed chassis boasts good ground clearance, so the Musso won't cause any great concern in these areas. As with any vehicle that purports to offer serious off road capabilities, check the underbody for signs of damage. Concentrate on the suspension, exhaust and chassis, and make sure the steering and differential are still serviceable. Inspect the wheelarch liners for rust-inducing punctures and ensure that the four-wheel drive selector works properly, as these 'shift on the fly' mechanisms are prone to accidental damage. Otherwise, the usual reminder to obtain a service history applies. Daewoo's excellent after sales service means that well-maintained models that still have free servicing and warranty will be around for some time, and these are definitely worth a look.
(Estimated prices, based on a 2.3) Offering low new prices, an attractive warranty and great equipment, the flaw in Daewoo's master plan comes in the form of rather pricey parts. A new starter motor for a Musso will relieve you of approximately £578. A new alternator will demand the sum of £390. A radiator is more reasonably priced at around £145, and a clutch assembly will be in the region of £165. Things begin to go a trifle pear-shaped with a £450 exhaust system and a £735 catalyst, whilst front brake pads won't give you any change from £100.
On the Road
The Musso comes as standard with the high driving position and bulletproof feel that all good 4x4s engender. Despite being based on a proper off-road ladder chassis, the on-road ride is good. Coil sprung rear suspension gives a relatively composed ride, and stability feels good. There's none of the tilting, toppling and swaying that some 4x4 owners have become used to, that feeling that when the steering wheel is turned the upper and lower halves of the vehicle are going in opposite directions. Reassuring anti-lock brakes are fitted as standard, and the front suspension resists dive quite well. The four-wheel drive selector takes the form of a simple dash-mounted button rather than an awkward lever, and this can be operated at speed of up to 43mph. Once off-road, the Musso is not as agile as its sister car, the Korando, as sheer bulk mitigates against its ultimate capability and ground clearance is not the greatest. Of the two Daewoo models, the diesel is the off-road choice, and the Ssangyong badged GX220 is a bit of a handful.
The Daewoo Musso represents a classy, non-mainstream choice for less than you may expect. Since Daewoo took over at the reins, the marketing proposition has improved immeasurably, but the basic underpinnings are ageing, so it's debatable whether many more will filter through to the used market. Most buyers of medium-sized family 4x4s rarely venture off-road and many discover the added price and thirst of a big 4x4 an expensive irrelevance. With the Musso, even if you never use the off-road capability its still not much costlier than more traditional forms of carrying the family, such as the more popular MPVs. If you do choose to go off-road, think of it as a bonus. In a Musso, you'll have a good time finding out, though.