TRIO LEADS RES­UR­REC­TION

Korean mar­que re­turns, dis­play­ing con­fi­dence after a two-year hia­tus

NewsMail - - MOTORING - GRANT ED­WARDS

Only a mother could love the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion SsangYong line-up.

While the mum of SsangYong Aus­tralia’s manag­ing di­rec­tor Tim Smith has a deep af­fec­tion for the new Tivoli com­pact SUV, she won’t be alone. Look­ing like a blend of Suzuki Vi­tara and Mini, the Tivoli is the star re­cruit among a trio of new vari­ants spear­head­ing SsangYong’s re­turn to Aus­tralia after a two-year hia­tus.

Armed with a seven-year, un­lim­it­ed­kilo­me­tre war­ranty — match­ing the in­dus­trybest bench­mark set by Kia — and stan­dard safety gear in­clud­ing au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing and for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing, SsangYong has re­launched with 32 deal­ers and a strong drive-away pric­ing propo­si­tion.

The Tivoli starts from $23,490, a sev­enseater Rex­ton be­gins at $39,990, while the dual-cab ute range has mod­els priced from $30,490. An ex­tended ver­sion of the Tivoli, called an ELV with an ex­tra 238mm at the back, has a start­ing price of $31,990.

“I don’t want a flash in the pan. We are here for the long haul,” Smith says.

SsangYong’s res­ur­rec­tion is also fac­tory backed. Aus­tralia is the brand’s first fac­tory sub­sidiary — the Mahin­dra-owned out­fit has pre­vi­ously only worked glob­ally with dis­trib­u­tors.

Like suc­cess­ful Korean brands Kia and Hyundai, SsangYong is cur­rently pre­par­ing an Aus­tralian tun­ing team which will make sus­pen­sion and han­dling changes for im­proved per­for­mance.

Bol­ster­ing SsangYong’s chances of suc­cess is the pop­u­lar­ity of SUVs and dual-cab utes. SUVs are out­selling pas­sen­ger cars, while utes se­cured three of the top 10 po­si­tions on Aus­tralian sales charts last month.

The Tivoli is fore­cast to be the big­gest seller, but Smith can see a big op­por­tu­nity with the dual-cab ute, where he hopes to “throw a cat among the pi­geons”.

Musso utes, and the Rex­ton SUV, come with a 3.5-tonne tow­ing ca­pac­ity and 350kg tow ball rat­ing. Early next year will also see the ar­rival of a longer wheel­base ver­sion of the Musso that Smith claims will have the big­gest tray in its seg­ment and raise the pay­load from 790kg to 1020kg with a leaf spring rear sus­pen­sion.

That will be fol­lowed by a ma­jor model change to the Tivoli, which in­cludes a 1.5-litre turbo petrol, as well as an all-new mid-size SUV ru­moured to be the next Ko­rando.

Mar­ket­ing man­ager Mitch Wi­ley has the great­est chal­lenge: con­vinc­ing Aus­tralians they can trust an­other brand — but the mar­que has al­ready ad­dressed its great­est hur­dle. De­sign.

“The pre­vi­ous it­er­a­tions of these cars have been po­lar­is­ing. There are a lot of peo­ple who love what they look like and there are a lot of peo­ple that might ques­tion it, but it is in the eye of the be­holder,” Wi­ley says.

Safety will in­clude au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing and for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing stan­dard on ev­ery model. The Tivoli will, how­ever, launch with a four-star crash rat­ing due to low rear child oc­cu­pancy per­for­mance. Other mod­els are yet to be fi­nalised.

Radar cruise con­trol is also not avail­able, even on high-end vari­ants, de­spite hav­ing the for­ward col­li­sion soft­ware.

The en­gines all come from the South Korean car­maker, with the only lin­ger­ing part­ner­ship hang­over with Mercedes-Benz a seven-speed au­to­matic gear­box found in the Rex­ton.

BOOTED: The ‘stretched’ ver­sion of the Tivoli, called the XLV. TOP: The Musso in­te­rior.

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