THE KEYS TO THE COME­BACK

Korean brand Ssangyong re­turns in three seg­ments AT A GLANCE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - GRANT ED­WARDS

Three new mod­els claim­ing a strong war­ranty and com­pet­i­tive drive-away pric­ing lead Korean brand SsangYong’s Aus­tralian come­back. The maker ends a twoyear hia­tus by match­ing Kia’s in­dus­try-best war­ranty — seven years/un­lim­ited kilo­me­tres.

The line-up in­cludes the small Tivoli SUV that starts from $23,490, the seven-seater Rex­ton SUV from $39,990 and dual-cab Musso ute with base­ment grades priced from $30,490.

The Aus­tralian op­er­a­tion is the brand’s first fully owned sub­sidiary so all mod­els are fac­tory backed. The maker pre­vi­ously worked solely with dis­trib­u­tors in global mar­kets.

Fol­low­ing the ex­am­ple of suc­cess­ful com­pa­tri­ots Kia and Hyundai, SsangYong is pre­par­ing an Aus­tralian team to tune sus­pen­sion and han­dling for lo­cal con­di­tions.

Ad­dress­ing one of the hand­i­caps of pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion SsangYong, the new-gen­er­a­tion mod­els are far less gawky to look at.

Fresh from help­ing launch Chi­nese brand Haval, Aus­tralian SsangYong man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Tim Smith says the mar­ket­ing will rely on the brand’s her­itage and aim to se­cure buyer con­fi­dence and trust with the strong war­ranty and re­li­able spares sup­ply in 32 deal­er­ships.

Two things aid the cause of the re­turn­ing brand: the pop­u­lar­ity of SUVs and dual-cab utes, which re­spec­tively out­sell pas­sen­ger cars and dom­i­nate Aus­tralian sales charts.

The com­pact Tivoli SUV is fore­cast to be the best­seller of the three. Smith an­tic­i­pates a big im­pact from the dual-cab ute, which he hopes will “throw a cat among the pi­geons”.

The Musso and Rex­ton come with 3500kg tow­ing ca­pac­ity. In the sec­ond quar­ter next year, a longer wheel­base Musso ar­rives with what Smith claims is the seg­ment’s big­gest tray.

That will be fol­lowed by a ma­jor model change for the Tivoli, as well as a mid-size SUV tipped to be the next Ko­rando. An elec­tric ve­hi­cle is ear­marked for ar­rival in 2020.

Mar­ket­ing man­ager Mitch Wi­ley isn’t fazed by the chal­lenge of get­ting Aus­tralians to trust an­other brand and cites pos­i­tives from re­search among pre­vi­ous own­ers. He says the mar­que has al­ready ad­dressed its great­est hur­dle, de­sign.

Stan­dard safety gear in­cludes au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing and for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing but there is no radar cruise con­trol. The Tivoli launches with four-star crash rat­ing.

ON THE ROAD

The lat­est SsangYongs are ro­bust per­form­ers. Only diesel ver­sions of the Tivoli were avail­able to drive at launch but petrol ver­sions — par­tic­u­larly the 1.5-litre tur­bos in next year’s ma­jor up­grade — are tipped to be the big sell­ers.

Ac­cel­er­a­tion is strong and lin­ear and, apart from some road rum­ble on coarse sur­faces, it feels ac­com­plished. At­tack a bend with too much vigour and the Tivoli pitches and dives

and the body rolls, a flaw that will no doubt be ad­dressed by lo­cal tun­ing. On gravel, the trac­tion con­trol con­stantly en­gages and over­rules the driver.

The Musso’s cabin is im­pres­sively quiet — de­sign house Pin­in­fa­rina as­sisted with noise sup­pres­sion. The ute shares un­der­pin­nings with the seven-seater and both proved more than ca­pa­ble on chal­leng­ing off-road sec­tions us­ing high and low-range.

In the Tivoli, most cabin sur­faces are hard plas­tics, in­dica­tive of its price point, although the seats are com­fort­able. Its XLV ver­sion is 238mm longer with class-lead­ing 720L boot.

VER­DICT

Value-packed and with a strong fea­tures list, the Ssangyongs cover key cri­te­ria and will un­set­tle some big play­ers. The driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, more than ad­e­quate for most, will im­prove.

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