If I’m brutally honest, there were only three occasions when I was glad we owned a Daewoo Musso 2.9 TD. That’s not to say I regret buying it, but I’m going to have to put it down as a failed experiment.
The reasoning behind buying a Daewoo Musso was sound enough. It came in under the £2k budget, it was a 4×4, it was local, it was low mileage and it had – or so I thought at the time – a whiff of PetrolBloggyness about it.
And now – 12 months after buying it – I’d like to turn to you and claim I’ve unearthed an undiscovered gem. A cut price BMW X5. A bargain basement Land Rover Discovery. Only I can’t, because aside from a few genuinely positive things about the Daewoo Musso, it really isn’t that great.
But it isn’t all that bad either.
For a start, it’s powered by a Mercedes-Benz 2.9-litre diesel engine that’s so strong, you sense it could outlive the human race. I have visions of it sat chugging away surrounded by the empty wastelands of a post-apocalyptic landscape. Everything else on the car would have long-since disintegrated, but the engine would still be there, merrily chucking out plumes of smoke into the atmosphere.
It’s a torquey old thing, too. It may be one of the slowest vehicles I’ve ever driven – the claimed 0-62mph time is 18.2 minutes – but there’s enough low range torque to tow an entire caravan site. Horse-boxes, trailers, boats, light aircraft, Watford – you name it, the Daewoo Musso 2.9 TD will tow it.
And speaking of Watford, I once crammed the entire population of this Hertfordshire town into the boot of the Musso. It’s big enough as it is, but fold the 50:50-spilt folding rear seats down and it transforms into a warehouse. Seriously, if you parked this thing in a trendy West London borough, a local estate agent would slap a half million pound price tag on it, before offering it as some kind of retro-chic des res. Bijou, it isn’t.
It’s also been pretty economical, never dropping below 30mpg, no matter how hard you pushed it. And you really, really needed to push this thing if you wanted to arrive at your destination before sunset.
But that’s where the positives end, because in just about every other way, the Daewoo Musso falls short. In fairness, it should be remembered that the Musso is based on technology from the early 90s, so the 2002 ’02’ plate is a bit of a red herring. And 4x4s aren’t what they used to be. You only need to look at the new Nissan X-Trail to see the difference between then and now.
Of course, comparing what’s essentially 1993 tech with a brand spanking new SUV is desperately unfair on the Daewoo Musso. And with values ranging between £500 and £1,500, the prospect of Musso ownership is a lot more appealing than losing a chunk of depreciation on something new. But as an everyday family workhorse, the Daewoo Musso falls short.
The five-speed gearbox is woeful, making you yearn for the ease of the optional fuel-sapping automatic transmission. Not only should the auto be more pleasant to drive, it also shaves a whole 0.8 minutes from the 0.62mph time. Yes, it’s really seconds, it’s just that it feels like minutes.
Then there’s the constant noise of the five-cylinder diesel, which – to be fair – isn’t the most acoustically-challenged diesel engine in the world, it’s just that it gets tiresome when you’ve lived with it non-stop on a three-hour journey. The brakes aren’t up to the challenge of stopping the massive 4×4, the steering is horribly vague and indirect and the clutch is very, very heavy.
All these things add up to create a tiring driving experience that’s anything but relaxed. Again, I’ll caveat this by saying that the Daewoo Musso is very much a car of its time, but things like poor brakes and 20-year-old safety tech matters when you’ve got two small children to think about. Travelling long distances in a Daewoo Musso isn’t a fun experience.
Then there were the constant niggles, like the ABS light, which would illuminate at certain speeds when cornering at a certain angle. The sensor could be replaced, but that would have cost in excess of £200. Then the radio packed up, which in turn meant the CD autochanger wouldn’t function. The air conditioning had all the cooling properties of a handheld fan and the headlights were only one step up from a pair of candles perched on the front bumper.
And don’t get me started on the central locking/alarm/immobiliser system, which had a mind of its own and required a launch procedure only slight less complex than something you’d find at NASA. Oh, and let’s not forget the way in which the car would randomly lock itself, which was always fun if you were stood outside the car, with the keys still in the ignition.
Remember, this was a relatively low mileage car with just 68,000 miles on the clock and one previous owner, so it’s not as though it has led a particularly hard life.
Besides, I’m probably being too hard on the old girl. As a practical, load-lugging, tow-anything workhorse, the Daewoo Musso represents incredible value for money. Fold the rear seats down and you’ve got yourself Range Rover-rivalling levels of space – 1,920 litres to be precise. The 1,120 litres with the rear seats folded up isn’t exactly stingy, either.
And this just happens to be tied to one of the three aforementioned occasions when I was glad we owned a Daewoo Musso. Having finally got round to fitting a new kitchen at PBHQ, we needed to shift the old units and associated gear. The Daewoo Musso swallowed the entire kitchen, in whole, meaning we only had to travel to the tip once. Job done.
The other occasion was when the Citroën ZX 16v suddenly found itself surrounded by rising floodwater, turning the Daewoo Musso into some kind of emergency response vehicle, rescuing the stricken French maiden. Thank you, Daewoo.
And the third time was on the family holiday to Wales last year, where it hauled a four-bike cycle carrier mounted to the tow-bar, leaving the vast boot to handle the gear required for a self catering break. I won’t mention the front-up/rear-down comedy stance this created. Or the way in which it transformed the Musso from depressingly slow to almost stationery.
But now, just over 12 months since she arrived at PBHQ, the Daewoo Musso has gone off to pastures new. She sold within five days of placing the ad and, truth be told, we could have sold it three or four times over. And the price of £1,450 is strong money for one of these, which proves that low mileage and low owners can help inflate the values of even the most unfashionable cars.
Daewoo made a promise that the Musso would bring “genuine 4×4 adventure within everyone’s reach” and – 12 years since those words in appeared in the brochure – that statement has never been truer. In four-wheel drive mode, the Musso feels like a rugged and authentic off-roader. A little rough around the edges perhaps and decidedly old school in its delivery, but it never did make any wild claims to be a crossover or “lifestyle vehicle”. Hashtag, #shudder.
The Musso’s interior is also a curious blend of crass and quite good. On the one hand you have that terrible shiny wood-effect plastic you only find in cars of this age, especially if they originate from the Far East. Or the ridiculously small cup holders, which – if you’re lucky – might have enough capacity to house one of those stupidly small cans of Coke you’re given on a short haul BA flight.
But on the other hand it will surprise you with a pair of clever folding armrests for rear seats passengers, which – when combined with a lofty theatre-seating arrangement – make the back seats the best place to be in a Musso. Oh, and I have to give a special mention to the POWER WINDOWS, as each electric window button is labelled with. You’ve got to love POWER WINDOWS.
Would I want to take the Daewoo Musso on a long journey again? Definitely not. Will I miss driving it? No sir. Will I miss its rugged charm and ‘throw-anything-at-it’ spirit? Almost certainly.
In the words of the Walker Brothers, there’s no regrets. And besides, the electric aerial worked for the duration. Respect, is therefore due.