PetrolBlog Fleet: Daewoo Musso TD

PetrolBlog Fleet: Daewoo Musso TD

I own a Daewoo. Or, to be more precise, I own a Daewoo Musso. Two sentences I never thought I’d write on PetrolBlog. Still, a problem shared, is a problem halved.

Actually, to be fair, it’s not strictly mine. The Daewoo Musso actually belongs to Mrs MajorGav, who bought it as a replacement for the since-departed Audi A6 Avant 3.0-litre quattro.

Hang on? Swapping a top-spec Audi A6 Avant for what is essentially a SsangYong Musso that can trace its roots back over 20 years? Surely that’s tantamount to madness. Time to send the men in white coats round to PBHQ?

Well not exactly. You see, as time goes by, the Daewoo Musso is proving to be a rather useful and increasingly central part of family life. And it’s a whole lot more practical and robust than the Audi A6 Avant.

Rear of Daewoo Musso on Dartmoor

We didn’t set out to buy a Daewoo Musso (has anyone ever set out to buy a Musso?), but we were looking for a sub £2k diesel-powered 4×4. And, when you’re scratching around at that end of the market, you’re not exactly spoilt for choice.

Most vehicles are showing serious signs of neglect. Many will have questionable histories. Others will have done more miles than a Stuttgart taxi. It actually becomes rather depressing.

And that’s after having come to terms with the fact that you can’t afford a Volvo XC90 or that buying a 4.0-litre Jeep Cherokee would be like throwing £20 notes in the wood-burner. But none of this helps to explain why there’s a blimmin’ Daewoo Musso parked outside PBHQ.

2002 Daewoo Musso TD

As is customary for PetrolBlog, it was another eBay purchase. When you’re not being too selective about your choice of make and model, it’s surprising what turns up in the search results.

So, with the budget set to £2k and the search filtered to 4x4s and diesels, we sorted the results by distance. And there it was – like a Korean beacon in a haze of Japanese misery – the majestic, the misunderstood, the mighty Daewoo Musso 2.9-litre turbodiesel.

It ticked pretty much all the PetrolBlog boxes. Less than 20 miles from home. One owner from new. Original number plates, original tax disc holder and original Daewoo Exeter stickers. Oh, and just 59,000 miles on the clock.

2002 Daewoo Musso dials

What’s more, it was advertised with 13 months MOT. Within 24 hours of the ad going live, we were viewing the car. Apparently the seller was inundated with calls, but we suspect a certain amount of bravado was attached to this claim

But even so, it turns out that there’s a small, but passionate following for the Daewoo Musso, especially if it’s powered by the legendary Mercedes-Benz sourced 2.9-litre diesel engine. These lumps have been known to travel in excess of a million miles, without so much of a hiccup. And perhaps most importantly during these tough economic times, the engine will run on pure vegetable oil without modification.

You’ll rarely see a Daewoo Musso advertised without a reference to Mercedes in the title or description. Mercedes is to the Musso what Princess Anne is to the Reliant Scimitar.

Rear of black 2002 Daewoo Musso

Amazingly, the original owners of this particular Daewoo Musso bought it off the back of a review, where it was compared – favourably – with the BMW X5. In truth, it would have been hard to make a case for a £18,995 SsangYong with a Daewoo badge, even taking into account the £15k difference in price.

But that’s exactly what the farming family from Cornwall did – as they  completed the 60-minute journey to Exeter, paid cash to the Daewoo dealer, and subsequently kept the old girl for 11 years. It’s questionable whether they actually washed it during these 11 years, but they kept up the maintenance schedule, and that’s the main thing.

Finding archive review footage of the Daewoo Musso is tricky, but I do recall Jon Bentley reviewing the original Sssangyong Musso for Top Gear. His conclusion is typically well balanced and fair. He seemed to rather like the Musso. But did he have a point?

Well as a matter of fact, yes.

In 2002, the Daewoo Musso really was in the twilight of its sparkling career. By now, Daewoo was only offering two engines – a 2.3-litre petrol and the 2.9-litre diesel – and was pretty much chucking the proverbial kitchen sink at the options list. The comically named and equally comically badged ‘Special Edition’ Daewoo Musso came with all the bells and whistles.

2002 Daewoo Musso Special Edition

In fact, the only options were a 4-speed automatic gearbox and leather seats.

So – in what was a reasonable level of kit for 2002 – this Musso is packed with all-round electric windows, air conditioning, radio/CD autochanger, central locking, alarm, immobiliser, driver’s airbag, front fogs, alloy wheels, a pair of rather neat rear seat folding arm rests and surprisingly good leather trim. Not to mention a proper electronic 4×4 engagement system – switchable at speeds of up to 43mph.

You could throw many names at the Daewoo Musso 2.9 TDi, but swift, agile or dainty wouldn’t come high on the list. It is in fact, a lumbering great oaf which struggles to get moving and offers all the aerodynamic properties of a small bungalow. The 0-62 time? A not-that-rapid-at-all 18.2 seconds.

Count up to 18.2 seconds in your head…

Still counting…

Yep, still counting…

It’s a long time isn’t it?

But you know what? It really doesn’t matter. Because the Daewoo Musso is a tough old brut. It may look something that came out of North rather than South Korea, but it’s a proper throw-everything-at-it machine. With the rear seats up, the boot capacity is 1,120 litres. Put the seats down and this extends to 1,920 litres. It effortlessly swallows half a tonne of logs, enough horse feed for a few months and a couple of bales of straw. We know, because we’ve tried it.

Daewoo Musso TD 4x4

It will also tow up to 2,800kg in weight, so horse boxes and rescued motors won’t be a problem for the old girl.

Yes it’s slow and yes it has the same level of driving finesse as a rhinoceros on ice, but as a practical workhorse, it ticks a lot of boxes. And what’s more the award-winning styling (no, really) does grow on you. The back-end is a particular win, and overall there are touches of Land Rover and X5 about the styling. To PetrolBlog at least, it’s more appealing than any of its contemporary rivals from Japan.

The Daewoo Musso – or to be precise, the Ssangyong Musso – was styled by Ken Greenley, the then head of automotive design at the Royal College of Art. It’s easy to mock the Auto Design Award he picked up at the Birmingham Motor Show, but when you live with a Musso, you begin to appreciate it a little more.

Like the theatre-style rear seats, which give backseat passengers a commanding view of the road ahead. Or the interior packaging – plenty of leg and headroom, a surprisingly light and airy cabin…hang on, this is turning into a rather unPetrolBloggy review of the Musso.

PetrolBlog Daewoo Musso

It’s strange how tastes can change. A few years ago, when self image and brand names seemed to matter, I wouldn’t have dreamed of owning a Daewoo Musso. Like many people, I would have written the 4×4 off as irrelevant and bought by people who didn’t know any better.

But it’s one of the joys of running this little thing called PetrolBlog – it opens up your mind. Broadens your horizons. The Daewoo Musso is another unashamedly unfashionable car to capture the imagination. Rare, different, misunderstood – a car that falls neatly into the ‘not as bad as you think’ category.

Or put it this way. PetrolBlog is running a Daewoo Musso. So you don’t have to.

Written by Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

The chief waffler and person responsible for getting PetrolBlog off the ground in February 2010. Has a deep fascination of cars from the '80s and '90s, especially if they originate from France. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.

6 Comments

  1. Zootles

    Excellent! I too recently had the epiphany of choosing a 2k 4×4. It’s true that rooting around this end of the market gives an alarming insight into how some people choose to live their lives, using their car as some kind of mobile waste recycling centre / commode. Also it becomes clear that some people’s idea of “excellent condition” drastically redefines the concept of excellence. But lo, I did find the 2002 Honda CRV of my dreams, and it kicks ass. I greatly enjoy banging around in this older, classless car, and while I still have a fancy newish Audi too, it seems a massive relief to have a work horse that I don’t have to worry about getting dings in car parks. I feel the shackles of the “prestige brand” rat race slipping off and actually plan to sell the posh car in the spring! Go cheap old brutes!

    1. Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      An excellent choice, sir. Big fan of the Honda CR-V. The earlier the better. Would love to find one with the optional shower…

      You’re right about the ‘classless’ factor – it’s very important. A kind of anti-establishment, two-finger salute to the more conventional.

      Of course, for the ultimate statement, you need to do away with the ‘newish Audi’. ;)

  2. Darren Leslie

    Didn’t get a chance to see this when last we met up, however, it does look pretty smart from the pictures. It’s amazing just how appealling a practical car is when it can do all the jobs you ask of it.

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