It has arrived in the UK in recent years with cars that have certainly hit the motoring headlines, albeit not for the reasons managing director Ken Forbes would like.
The Rodius people carrier, with a face only a sledge-hammer could love, topped surveys to find the ugliest car of 2005, and the Rexton MPV has failed to impress most who have driven it.
But SsangYong, to its credit, has faced up to the criticism and vowed to improve.
Forbes, who joined the company at the end of last year, says the new Kyron SUV will win new fans and prove to be SsangYong’s best seller this year.
Bold words, but they may well prove to have substance. The Kyron is easier on the eye than previous SsangYongs, although designer Ken Greenley was also responsible for the Rodius.
It’s no looker, especially from the back, and the front has too many horizontal grilles which makes it look messy, but in profile it is entirely acceptable.
There is plenty of room inside and a wealth of equipment, including generous helpings of leather and satellite navigation on the top SX model.
Power comes from a new four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine offering 141bhp and 229lb-ft of torque.
The range-topping SX features a Mercedes-Benz five-speed auto gearbox, while the S and SE models make do with a five-speed manual. The manual models promise CO2 emissions of 197g/km, while the auto splutters out 217g/km.
The manual is also the more frugal, returning a claimed 36.7mpg combined against the auto’s 33.6mpg. However, the auto knocks two seconds off the manual’s 0 to 62mph time of 16.2 seconds.
SsangYong’s tagline these days is ‘Experts in 4x4’, and it’s keen to prove that it has what it takes to tackle more than the gravel driveway.
SE and SX models are fitted with ESP and hill descent control (HDC), the latter usually found on pricier 4x4s such as Land Rovers and BMWs.
SsangYong hopes the Kyron will account for 1,500 of its 3,500 total sales this year. There are currently 50 dealers across the UK, but there are plans to expand this to 75 in the near future. Competitors for this latest offering include the Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe, Land Rover Freelander and Toyota RAV4, as well as the Suzuki Grand Vitara and Nissan X-Trail, so it will have its work cut out.
Spec levels start with the S, available in two or four-wheel drive, which comes with full electrics, a leather steering wheel, 16-inch alloys, ABS brakes, manual air conditioning and a CD player. The SE adds ESP and HDC, as well as side airbags, auto climate control, a five-CD changer and full leather seats. The range-topping SX features power-folding door mirrors, cruise control, 18-inch alloys, tinted glass, heated electric seats and satellite navigation. Prices start at £16,995 for the base two-wheel drive S and rise to £22,495 for the four-wheel drive SX auto.
Behind the wheel
CLIMB inside the Kyron and prepare to be pleasantly surprised. Modern design abounds and there’s plenty of room in the front and back for six-footers, plus a massive boot.
The wide dash is of a decent-enough quality, with only a couple of hard plastic inserts detracting from it.
The leather steering wheel only adjusts for rake, not reach. I drove an SX, which had full electric leather seats but not enough support for my liking. The centre console houses a sizeable cubby hole, as well as a cupholder and another large storage area in the centre armrest. The SX also comes with a Blaupunkt radio and satellite navigation head unit, attached to an in-dash CD changer, although with the decibels pumped up I suspect the speaker quality is not so high.
Start up the engine using the plasticky key and the XDi engine purrs into life. It’s an unremarkable unit on the road, functional and quiet but far from exciting. On dual carriageways the Kyron seems perfectly at home, but on the winding test routes around Loch Lomond it seemed less comfortable. The ride quality is good and body roll is no more than expected, but the steering is vague and indirect. It’s difficult to dial in the right lock straight away and adjustments are often needed mid-bend.
The Kyron’s ace up its sleeve is produced off-road. Although few buyers will indulge themselves, it handles itself admirably on some serious terrain. The HDC system works perfectly, easing the vehicle down steep and slippy slopes at a steady 7mph using the ABS system.
STEERING feel aside, the Kyron is a surprisingly decent drive. There’s plenty of space and the equipment list is generous. The lower trim levels offer good value, although it’s hard to imagine the badge appealing to buyers at the higher price level.
|Model:||S 2WD||S/SE 4WD||S/SE/SX auto|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||140/4,000||140/4,000||140/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||229/1,800||229/1,800||229/1,800|
|Max speed (mph):||104||104||103|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||36.7||36.7||33.6|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||197||197||217|