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Car reviews - SsangYong - Kyron - 5-dr wagon range

Our Opinion

We like
Off-road prowess, quietness at 100km/h, quality turbo-diesel, fuel economy, solid body
Room for improvement
Lack of suspension rebound control, vague steering, flat front seat cushion and seatbacks, space-saver spare

23 Feb 2006

WE have yet to meet SsangYong designer, Briton Ken Greenley, but when we do there are some serious questions to get out of the way.

What possessed him to take SsangYong design down the path it is now headed? And didn’t any senior SsangYong folk raise their hands to suggest, ever so politely, that some of the styling cues of his vehicles were a little too challenging for a conservative car-buying public beyond Korean shores?

Most recently the Stavic people-mover comes to mind as a styling mis-adventure. Sure, the packaging might be great but the car looks odd.

Having just driven the Kyron four-wheel drive though, it looks like a design change is in the air at SsangYong.

Visually, the five-door, five-seater is positively rakish from some angles and from the side its wedgy silhouette is sharp and, well okay, handsome.

The rising belt-line does cut into rearward visibility and the rear window is shallow, making reversing a cautious affair but the overall execution is the best we’ve seen from SsangYong’s most recent designs.

Some odd points remain, like the multi-faceted grille and heraldic "shield" tail-lights that seem at odds with the Kyron’s rear-end.

If you can look past the car’s quirkiness, the Kyron’s big selling point is its size and packaging for the price.

Larger than a RAV4, but smaller than a Ford Territory, there is plenty of interior room and a sensible interior layout.

The newcomer is based on the larger Rexton 4WD, so the integrity of the chassis is already established. It rests on a smaller 2740mm wheelbase and at 4660mm in overall length, is shorter overall than a Rexton.

Importantly, the Kyron helps move the SsangYong brand up a notch in quality, safety and body strength.

The local distributor, Rapson Holdings Ltd, also says Korean engineers spent time looking at dust sealing issues, suspension tuning and hot-weather testing for Australian conditions.

The 2.0-litre XDI is well equipped, with dual front airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, anti-lock brakes, disc brakes, foglights, rear three-point centre seat belt, 18-inch alloys, leather steering wheel, steering wheel audio controls, two 12-volt outlets, electric folding mirrors, 60/40-split fold rear seat, in-dash CD stereo, rear parking sensors, cruise control, as well as electric windows and mirrors.

From May, a 121kW/342Nm 2.7-litre CDi diesel as well as a 162kW/312Nm 3.2-litre in-line petrol engine – both originally Mercedes-Benz units, will be added to the range. The 2.7 should sell under $40,000 2.7 and the premium equipped petrol six from around $45,000.

Initially though, the focus is on the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, which develops 104kW at 4000rpm and 310Nm from 1800rpm.

The diesel is mated to either a standard five-speed manual transmission or a $3000 five-speed sequential automatic, manufactured by Mercedes-Benz and has an intelligent shift system that reads the driver’s driving style.

Being a diesel fuel economy was impressive.

SsangYong claims the car will deliver outstanding fuel economy of 7.7L/100km combined for the manual or 8.6L/100km combined for the auto, which should provide a good cruising range from the 80-litre fuel tank.

The engine/transmission is mated to a part-time dual-range four-wheel drive system, which lets the driver switch from 2WD to 4WD on the fly.

We spent most of the time in the auto, which proved smooth and well matched to the diesel’s characteristics.

Make no mistake though the relatively small diesel is pulling a vehicle tipping the scales at 1956kg or 2028kg, depending on specification, so acceleration could best be described as adequate rather than spirited.

The reason for the hefty weight is the chassis, which is a triple-layer steel unit with a separate sub-frame and rigid bodyshell.

A by-product of the strong chassis and impressive sound proofing is that the cabin is one of the quietest we’ve experienced in an SUV.

At 100km/h the car is blissfully serine, cocooning occupants from the outside world. There’s barely a rustle from the large exterior rear-view mirrors, nor audible diesel clatter from the engine.

The dash panel, firewall and transmission tunnel use a foam-padded dual-layer structure that not only reduces the transfer of noise to the interior but aides bodyshell rigidity.

The same material is used for the side panels and roof, along with extensive sound-proofing.

Such is the low NVH of the car and improved build quality, it is apparent the Korean car-maker is rapidly gaining on some of the more established Japanese players.

The only downside is that some of the interior plastics still look low-rent and the dashboard controls feel a tad brittle. The front seats could also do with more cushion and backrest support.

Look beyond these minor flaws and it is obvious SsangYong has invested heavily in delivering a four-wheel drive that actually lives up to its name. Off-road the Kyron is no pretender.

Like many, we were a bit sceptical until the Kyron was put to the test.

The first thing to impress was the diesel’s impressive engine braking in low range. The car could be left to "walk" down steep terrain without touching the brakes.

SsangYong says Hill Descent Control will be available on the up-spec models but low-range in the 2.0-litre diesel proved it was not really necessary.

The second impression was that the wagon’s short overhangs and impressive axle articulation for the rough stuff – 27.1-degree approach angle and 23.8-degree departure angles - mean it will go a long way off road before getting snagged. The minimum ground clearance is 206mm.

The car’s ruggedness carries over to the suspension, which is a double wishbone set-up at the front and five-link coil system at the rear.

It all sounds very promising until you realise that despite good off-road credentials the spare tyre is only a space-saver.

Like similar ladder-frame chassis vehicles, the Kyron is more impressive off-road than on-road.

It suffers from poor suspension rebound damping control on bitumen, allowing the car to bounce around more than we would have liked and the steering felt disconnected from the wheels.

Price and packaging mean the Kyron presents a very persuasive case to go Korean.

But perhaps the last issue of note is that one dealer we know in Queensland reports that SsangYong warranty claims are among the lowest experienced across his dealerships.

Now that’s cause for concern for the established players.

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