Sensible or silly: How should you choose your pick-up?

Ted Welford, PA Motoring Reporter
·6-min read

There are two ways of doing everything in life.

The first, save your pocket money, work hard, live an understated life and never be flash. If that’s you, I present the SsangYong Musso. A big, useful, well-priced truck that offers a warranty that laughs in the face of rivals.

And there’s the second way you can live – outlandish, wild, waste your money on silly purchases that you don’t need and enjoy yourself. I present the Ford Ranger Raptor – a big daft truck that suits all those characteristics to a tee. I mean, just look at it.

Ssangyong Musso v Ford Ranger Raptor
The Raptor and Musso go about the pick-up business quite differently

And yet, both the Musso and Raptor are similar vehicles – they’re both pick-ups and they both have the capability to be very handy, albeit in exceptionally different ways.

So with a freshly-harvested field at our disposal to come and enjoy ourselves, now’s the time to put these trucks to the test to answer the important question – should you be sensible or silly?

Ssangyong Musso v Ford Ranger Raptor
Ssangyong Musso v Ford Ranger Raptor

Let’s start with the talking point – Ford’s Ranger Raptor.

It’s the truck that makes heads swivel everywhere it goes. Over in the States, Raptors come with a monstrous V8 engine under their bonnet. But here in the UK, Ford can’t really do that.

So instead it uses a 2.0-litre diesel engine from the regular Ranger. Boring? Well, not quite, because Ford Performance has had its say, so this most certainly doesn’t drive like any normal pick-up. With a monstrous bodykit, significantly raised ride height and a mightily impressive suspension setup that encompasses the likes of Fox shock absorbers, it’s world’s apart from a standard Ranger.

Ssangyong Musso v Ford Ranger Raptor
It’s not hard to get the Raptor to oversteer

And in a word, the suspension setup is sublime, with an ability to drive across bumpy fields at 30mph or so with the same level comfort you could expect on tarmac. It’s remarkable.

And now let’s look at the sensible pick-up option – the SsangYong Musso. Tested here in long wheelbase (LWB) guise, it’s the only extended wheelbase pick-up you can buy today, and has the longest bed of any truck on sale in the UK – measuring 1.61m, which is 30cm longer than the standard Musso. Coupled with a lengthy list of standard kit and a seven-year, 150,000-mile warranty, it’s the pick-up for those buying with functionality in mind first.

Ssangyong Musso v Ford Ranger Raptor
The Musso remains composed over rough terrain

One of the first things you notice about the Musso is just how low it sits, with the bed at the back sitting much closer to the ground than the Raptor, and any other truck on the market today, in fact. You also don’t have to climb up into it like you in the Raptor – it doesn’t feel much higher up than your average SUV.

That presents the first worry as the entrance to the field involves a pretty hefty ditch. The Raptor sails through with no questions asked, but I creep over with the Musso, fully expecting to get stuck. Dead at the first hurdle is hardly the best start to a twin test, but thankfully the SsangYong is fine.

And then we arrive into what can only be described as a bog. This is Yorkshire where it seems to rain 24/7, and after more than 12 hours of constant rain, this field is as muddy as it gets. Ideal for bombing two pick-ups around in, though.

Ssangyong Musso v Ford Ranger Raptor
Clever suspension ensures that the Raptor glides over rough surfaces

Stick the Raptor in ‘Baja’ mode – a setting that Ford says ‘tunes responses for high-speed off-road performance’ – and is named after the famous Baja Desert Rally – and the Ford has you giggling in seconds. A pick-up should not be this much fun to drive, nor as easy to get sideways, with a rear end that kicks out at the lightest press of the throttle. In a wet and muddy field, it’s a recipe for sheer joy. And while lacking a V8, the Raptor’s 210bhp feels more than enough.

But the Musso puts up a surprisingly good fight. Once I’ve figured out how to disable all the traction and stability controls – something that’s understandably not as easy as a press of a button – it actually allows you to have a bit of fun. Put it in the default two-wheel-drive mode and with enough throttle and the Musso will begin to slide around a bit.

Ssangyong Musso v Ford Ranger Raptor
The Musso trades on being robust and versatile

Even before missing out on all the Raptor’s off-road trickery, it’s at an immediate disadvantage by being on a set of road tyres, but it’s still grippy and can certainly still get anywhere the Raptor can in this muddy field – you just never have as much fun doing it and always have to be weary that this isn’t quite what the Musso was designed for…

And now the boring bits, and where you realise why the Musso is the sensible choice and the Raptor isn’t. Let’s start with the amount of weight you can chuck in the flat bed – the Musso can withstand a tonne. That’s the same as the standard Ranger can muster, but all that fancy suspension on the Raptor reduces the payload to 680kg. It’s a similar story on the towing front – as the Raptor’s towing capacity is reduced from 3.5 tonnes to 2.5 – a tonne less than the humble SsangYong.

The final blow for the Raptor – just in case you were still trying to justify it as a sensible choice – is the fact the modifications mean it is no longer classed as a ‘commercial vehicle’. And if you buy your pick-up through a business – like many do – that means you can no longer claim the VAT back.

That basically adds another 20 per cent to the price of the Raptor, which costs an eye-watering £50,000. To put that another way, that’s £20,000 more than the SsangYong…

Some mega styling and outrageous capability goes some way to justifying that price of the Raptor, but can it fully? Not really. The Musso is undoubtedly the better all-rounder here, but it’s also as exciting and inspiring as a plain scone. The Raptor comes with the jam and the cream instead.

Buy with your head and the SsangYong is infinitely the best choice. But if you want something that will leave you grinning throughout and after every journey – whether that’s gunning it across fields or just tarmac, the vote always has to go to the Raptor. There really isn’t a pick-up quite like it on sale today.