JOHN MURDOCH'S DRIVE TIME: An impressive KGM Musso Saracen+ and the new VW Golf

-Credit: (Image: WSH])
-Credit: (Image: WSH])


In this week’s instalment of Drive Time John Murdoch gets behind the wheel of the impressive KGM Musso Saracen+ pick up truck which offers performance and ability at a great price. John also reveals that the fastest ever production VW Golf will soon be available in the UK market.

Korean manufacturer SsangYong may have changed its name in the UK to KGM but the company is still building vehicles that are great value for money and that is especially true for its tough four-wheel-drive pick-ups.

A revamped and smarter looking Musso entered the market last year boasting a striking chrome-finished front and grille to enhance the looks of its top-selling Saracen and Saracen+ models.

The Musso is available in four specifications - EX, Rebel and Saracen in standard bed length, and the Saracen+ I have been sampling with a longer length loading bed.

The Saracen and Saracen+ models come with equipment you would expect to find in SUVs and are fitted with electrically-operated heated and cooled Nappa leather seats as well as a heated leather steering wheel.

Based on the same platform as the firm’s Rexton SUV, the Musso’s interior means that it has much more to offer than other workhorses. The dashboard design is largely copied across from the Rexton and as a result the Musso has a cabin to match family SUVs, with nice materials and good details.

All versions of the Musso feature a DAB radio with Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, while the Saracen trim features a 12.3-inch digital driver’s display, a rear-view camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Visually the Saracen comes with a black exterior pack which includes larger 18-inch black alloy wheels. It also gets power adjustable driver’s and front passenger seats, heated rear seats, dual zone automatic climate control, a 9.2-inch screen with TomTom navigation, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors and Saracen detailing.

You also get a smarter instrument panel, projection headlamps, LED daylight running lights, triple LED fog lights and dark tinted rear privacy glass.

Based on the same platform as the firm’s Rexton SUV, the Musso’s interior means that it has much more to offer than other workhorses. -Credit:WSH]
Based on the same platform as the firm’s Rexton SUV, the Musso’s interior means that it has much more to offer than other workhorses. -Credit:WSH]

It also comes with the latest safety features including Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

The Saracen has a smooth six-speed automatic transmission and all models are powered by a turbocharged 2.2-litre diesel engine which delivers 199bhp and stacks of torque - meaning it is great for towing.

The truck comes with a part-time four-wheel-drive system that sends drive to the front wheels only when it is needed. High and low range 4WD modes are available to select when the going gets tough.

You get a great view from the driving seat thanks to the height and the Saracen delivers its power smoothly and quietly, making it a very comfortable ride. There is surprisingly little noise, even travelling at motorway speeds.

The double cab provides bags of room for five occupants, with lots of head and legroom and getting in is easy thanks to the steps and grab handles.

Thanks to its impressive ground clearance the Saracen should be very good off-road but I never got the opportunity to test it on the rough stuff.

The Saracen is the only pick-up truck on sale in the UK which can tow 3,500kg and carry a payload of over 1,000kg at the same time and yhe load bed also offers hooks to hold cargo in place and a power point.

I really enjoyed my time with the Saracen+ and found that it is well equipped, extremely capable and refined as well as being excellent value for money.

The Musso is available in four specifications - EX, Rebel and Saracen in standard bed length, and the Saracen+ I have been sampling with a longer length loading bed. -Credit:WSH]
The Musso is available in four specifications - EX, Rebel and Saracen in standard bed length, and the Saracen+ I have been sampling with a longer length loading bed. -Credit:WSH]

FAST FACTS:

Price: £34,505 (ex VAT)

Mechanical: 199bhp, 2,157cc, diesel engine driving all-four wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox

Top speed: 113mph

0-62mph: 11.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 31.5

Insurance group: 50

CO2 emissions: 236g/km

BIK rating: 37%

Warranty: 5yrs/100,000 miles

Overall rating (out of 5): 4.5

Meanwhile, Volkswagen has revealed the fastest ever production versions of the Golf in the shape of the latest R hatchback and estate models.

Based on the eighth generation versions of the iconic Golf, which received a major update earlier this year, the latest R models come with a more powerful, 328bhp, two-litre turbocharged engine which feeds all-wheel-drive via a seven-speed DSG transmission. Top speed is an impressive 155mph which can be boosted to 168mph with the optional R-Performance package.

In addition to the higher top speed, the R-Performance package offers two additional track-focussed driving modes, a GPS lap timer and G-meter plus a larger roof spoiler.

Volkswagen has revealed the fastest ever production versions of the Golf in the shape of the latest R hatchback and estate models. -Credit:WSH]
Volkswagen has revealed the fastest ever production versions of the Golf in the shape of the latest R hatchback and estate models. -Credit:WSH]

UK prices and specifications will be confirmed soon, says Volkswagen, but at launch in Germany the starting price for the R hatchback is just over £45,500 at current exchange rates with the R Estate starting at £46,580.

At launch there will also be an exclusive Black Edition model, which, as the name suggests, comes with darker VW badges and R logos, black brake calipers with a dark R logo, black 19-inch wheels, black tailpipe trims and darkened matrix headlights.

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