Korean Catch

SsangYong’s ute intentions set up the way forward for its future

With Korean car companies, Hyundai and Kia, powering ahead in terms of acceptance in the Australian market, it’s only logical to expect SsangYong to want a slice of the action, especially now the company has an assured future. It wasn’t always that definite the company would survive, and, despite being one of Korea’s oldest vehicle manufacturers, SsangYong has experienced many challenges over the past six decades.

SsangYong is re-establishing itself with new products and an assured future, thanks to a majority stakeholding acquired in November 2010 by Indian trading giant, Mahindra & Mahindra.

The SsangYong origins actually date back to 1954, but the company name wasn’t used until 1986. Then, two years later, the company signed an agreement with Mercedes-Benz for the transfer of engine technology and the development of light commercial vehicles.

The launch of the SsangYong Musso in 1990, and other light commercials along with advanced diesel engines and the original Korando in 1993, led to the release for the Australian market in 1994 of a range that included the Musso, Musso Sport and Korando, initially distributed by Mercedes Benz.

The company was acquired by Daewoo in 1998, and its products were rebadged as Daewoo until 2000, when Daewoo went into receivership. SsangYong, with its stronger basis in the SUV business and better prospects on global markets, was spun off as a separate entity, and, in 2004, a controlling 51 percent stake in SsangYong was acquired by Chinese carmaker SAIC. This agreement remained in place until the Korean maker was placed in bankruptcy protection in early 2009.

So, with a chequered history of being Korean, part German, part Chinese and now part Indian, SsangYong can now plan its future with a new degree of assurance, and is able to concentrate on making its mark on the Australian industry.CARS_Utes_Ssangyong_4

There are still plenty of Musso utes around on our roads, and they’ve established a relatively strong reputation. The Actyon Sports was introduced onto the Australian market in May 2007, in both 2WD and 4WD form, and immediately outperformed many of the utes from its competitors through offering a three-star ANCAP rating, which could easily be expected to extend to a four-star approval rating. This was a direct threat to established brands, some of which, at that time, were recording two-star ratings.

Although the life expectancy of the Actyon Sports Ute has about six months left to run before being replaced by a totally new model, Delivery took the opportunity to revisit the Actyon Sports Ute to bring our readers up to date on its advantages, especially in view of some probable keen pricing in the short-term as the importer readies itself for the new model.

With four-wheel disc brakes and ABS anti-lock brakes, the Actyon Sports’ rear suspension is by way of coil springs, rather than the almost standard fare of leaf springs as fitted to its competitors. Coil springs may not be the best suited to extremely high loads, or overloading, but for those carrying less than maximum payload, the gain in ride quality and comfort is certainly measurable. Power-assisted rack and pinion steering also enables it to steer with better precision than the traditional Japanese makes that still fit recirculating ball steering box designs.

The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, common-rail diesel engine is no slouch, running with a relatively sophisticated and efficient Euro IV emissions rating. This turbocharged unit develops maximum power of 104 kW at 4,000 rpm and maximum torque of 310 Nm at 1,800 rpm. Standard equipment includes EBD, a locking rear differential on the 4×2 version, 16-inch alloy wheels, leather steering wheel and gear knob, and cruise control (auto only).

The top of the line SPR has a full climate control air conditioning system, cruise control, power windows, reverse park warning sensors, dual airbags for driver and front passenger, powered and heated mirrors, rain sensitive wipers, auto-headlamp illumination, headlamp levelling, leather seats front and back, a heated driver’s seat and, for the money, it’s highly impressive.

The transmission choices lie between a five-speed manual gearbox and a six-speed, Australian-made, automatic transmission, and there are three different trim and technology levels: the Tradie 4×2 and 4×4; the S 4×2 and 4×4; and the top-of-the-line SPR, which is automatic only.

CARS_Utes_Ssangyong_2Weighing in at a kerb weight of 1,986 kg, the payload is just over the 750 kg mark, and it can tow a 2,300 kg braked trailer with a tow ball download force of 230 kg.

In overall terms, the Actyon has stood the test of time well, even though it’s obviously suffered the adverse effect on sales caused by its uncertain future until the Mahindra buyout. It’s comfortable, offers one of the largest trays in its class in cab-chassis form, and, with a six-speed auto transmission, it’s relatively economical at 8.7 l/100 km, with emissions of 321 g/km, and certainly more frugal than many of the other utes on the market.

In light of its successor already having been previewed in Europe, first at the Geneva Show and only recently at the Frankfurt Show, the bonus for buyers is going to be in finding the right runout price to make it even more attractive. It’s certainly a better bet than the current crop of Chinese utes from Great Wall.

The next generation Actyon, if indeed it runs with that name when released in Australia in the second quarter of 2012, will add ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) to its already impressive list of standard inclusions.

According to Jeff Barber, general manager of SsangYong Australia, the new ute combines modern design with a traditional utility body, balancing the needs of load volume with an attractive looking dual-cab ute. It will appeal to a wide variety of drivers with its large 2 m2 ute tub that caters for outdoor enthusiasts needing room for their gear, business owners, trades people and those in need of a hard-working utility.

Drivers have the option of either rear-wheel drive or electronically switchable four-wheel drive coupled to six speed manual or automatic transmissions, all offering highly competitive economy with Euro 5 emissions standards.

“Typically found on full-size SUV models, the new ute has a combination of double wishbone and five-link suspension, and newly designed engine mounts, which minimise vibration in all driving conditions and give the new vehicle a premium feeling,” said Jeff.

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