Despite the ute growing into the role of family conveyance for many locals, the cabins rarely stray far from the vehicle's agricultural origins.
Hard, scratchy plastics and inferior infotainment are still easy to find in a segment that contains the country’s two best-selling models, but there is another way.
Enter the SsangYong Musso Ultimate, a ute with an interior that looks and feels more like what you would expect to find in a premium SUV.
When shopping for our ute, aside from the comprehensive safety package, the cabin propelled it ahead of higher-priced rivals.
The range-topping Musso Ultimate comes standard with supple Nappa leather seats which are heated and ventilated up front, as well as heated in the outer rear. For something different, we opted for the brown leather to bring some colour to the interior. Most ute interiors are either black, black or black. Not much personality to be found when everything is dark. The brown leather lifts the presentation enormously.
It’s not just a case of style, the seats are comfortable on a long run (road trip review is coming soon). The driver gets an 8-way power-adjustable seat that includes lumbar, while the passenger gets a 6-way power-adjustable seat. With so much adjustment available, the absence of memory functionality will prove irritating if regular driver changes are part of your routine.
The steering wheel is trimmed in soft leather and gets a brown contrast stitch that matches the colour of the seats. Thankfully, it offers both height and reach adjustment. It’s also heated, a helpful addition during a cold Victorian winter.
Drivers also enjoy a 7.0-inch digital information display as part of the instrument binnacle. It’s customisable and presents all the relevant metrics.
In terms of infotainment, there’s an 8.0-inch touchscreen display which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The system misses out on built-in satellite navigation, though smartphone mirroring means it’s not entirely necessary. Six-speaker audio, Bluetooth, USB, AUX input and a 12V charger are all standard.
Annoyingly, in a cabin where the attention to detail is well above average (the grab handles are damped!), there are no charging facilities for rear passengers. In a model chasing lifestyle buyers, this omission seems like a strange oversight.
On the flip side, rear passengers enjoy plenty of leg and headroom, along with proper rear air vents.
Also included is a black headliner that perfectly frames the electric sunroof, a 360-degree camera system, and an electrochromic rear-view mirror.
Importantly, all the control stalks, buttons and dials feel durable. There’s a quality atmosphere generated from the tactile experience of everything occupants will touch. The fit and finish are remarkable considering the price.
While everything looks and feels great, the Musso’s cabin has one final ace to play. The NVH levels are excellent. The overall refinement resembles that of premium SUVs that cost well over $100K. The cabin is insulated from wind and tyre noise, even at highway speeds.
The same can be said of the powertrain, from the inside the diesel engine is virtually imperceptible. The interior experience provided by the Musso gives it a genuine advantage over rivals that ask more for less.
For context, it could be compared to the Volkswagen Amarok which offers a nicely trimmed interior in higher grades by borrowing heavily from the parts bin that services the brand’s passenger cars, but it comes at a hefty premium. It’s a premium that’s impossible to justify for private buyers. For those that are happy to pay more, the Amarok also comes with that legendary Volkswagen reliability (yes, that’s sarcasm).
The Musso Ultimate continues to surprise us, the value for money is excellent and the ownership experience is proving to be much better than we were initially expecting.
Soon we will be publishing entries on the Musso’s first service, off-road driving, long haul driving and adding accessories. Stay tuned!