THE KEYS TO THE COMEBACK
Korean brand Ssangyong returns in three segments
T hree 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.
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.