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

The Northern Star - - MOTORING - GRANT ED­WARDS NEW RANGE: The SsangYong Musso (top and in­te­rior), Rex­ton (left), Tivoli (above) and Tivoli ELV (be­low). PHO­TOS: SSANGYONG

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.

Grant Ed­wards

Sur­pris­ingly, across the range SsangYong has ro­bust per­form­ers. They’re not per­fect, but they’re far from hor­ri­ble. Only diesel ver­sions of the Tivoli were avail­able to drive at launch, but it’s ex­pected petrol vari­ants — par­tic­u­larly the 1.5-litre turbo vari­ants com­ing next year — will be the big sell­ers.

Ac­cel­er­a­tion in the diesel 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, dives and the body rolls — some­thing which will no doubt be ad­dressed by lo­cal tun­ing changes which are planned for next year.

Gravel driv­ing ex­posed trac­tion con­trol cal­i­bra­tion weak­nesses where it con­stantly en­gaged and over­ruled the driver. How­ever, bi­tu­men will be its pri­mary turf which is where it per­formed with­out too many com­plaints.

Hard plas­tics are used across most sur­faces in the Tivoli, in­dica­tive of its price point, although the seats are com­fort­able.

Those want­ing more space can opt for the XLV, which adds 238mm in length and ex­pands the boot to a class-lead­ing 720 litres.

En­try-level vari­ants start from $23,490 and come with 16-inch al­loys, along with a seven-inch touch­screen with Ap­ple CarPlay/An­droid Auto.

Mid-spec ELX comes with the diesel op­tion, dual zone air­con, tinted glass and HID head­lamps.

Ul­ti­mate has all-wheel drive and is ex­clu­sively diesel. The top spec gets strong spec­i­fi­ca­tion for the $33,990 drive-away price tag, in­clud­ing sun­roof, leather trim, power ad­justable heated and vented front front seats

as well as 18-inch al­loys. Two-tone ver­sions cost an ex­tra $500.

Boot space is rea­son­able at 423 litres, but when the rear seats fold flat there is an awk­ward lip. The load area is only flat in Ul­ti­mate mod­els with a full-size spare.

SsangYong is in a hurry to gain a foothold in Aus­tralia. The Tivoli will re­ceive a ma­jor up­grade mid-2019, but SsangYong is des­per­ate to gain some early brand trac­tion.

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