The Actyon Sports comes of age – Delivery looks at the latest ute to join the pack in the tradies paddock
When the SsangYong Actyon Sports Dual Cab Ute range was released five years ago, we found a few items that we thought needed rectification. SsangYong listened, and the second-generation Actyon is a serious work-and-play ute-market contender.
SsangYong seems to have had more starts than Phar Lap, but the company’s future now is assured, following a late-2010 takeover by wealthy Indian auto maker Mahindra. This long-term relationship promises a much better future than the previous failed marriage with Daewoo that was based on shaky financial ground.
The injection of Indian capital has enabled SsangYong’s engineers to incorporate some important changes to the Actyon Ute, and our testing of the new machine shows that it deserves to be checked out by anyone looking for a 2WD or 4WD crew-cab ute.
The Actyon heritage goes back to the Musso Sports ute, which used a Mercedes-Benz-derived powerplant, and the Actyon continues that DNA, but not with the ancient and asthmatic five-cylinder, 2.9-litre diesel. The Actyon engine is a state of the art, third-generation, common-rail-injected four that displaces two litres and is pressurised by a variable-geometry turbocharger. The 2007 diesel four had figures of 104 kW at 4000 rpm, with peak torque of 310 Nm at 1800 rpm, but the 2012 model scores 114 kW, with peak torque of 360 Nm in the 1500-2800 rpm band.
Oil drains are at 15,000 km, which is considerably more generous than most diesel ute service schedules.
The upgraded diesel couples to a new six-speed manual transmission, replacing the previous Borg Warner T10-based five-speed. The Drive Train Systems International auto box option also has Borg Warner heritage, and, although it was launched in 2007 as a five-speed, this auto is now a six-speed. On 4WD models, a two-speed (2.48:1 and 1:1) transfer case is standard equipment
The 2012 Actyon retains the same ladder-frame chassis and running gear as its 2007 predecessor, along with most body panels. Suspension is 4WD wagon-style, with double-wishbones and coil springs up front, and coil-sprung, five-link-located live rear axle. In exchange for wagon-like ride and handling, there’s a payload penalty in comparison with leaf-sprung rear end utes: 800+ kg compared with most crew-cab utes’ claimed one-tonne plus. Towing capacity is also comparatively low, at 2300 kg.
However, the Actyon Sports is said to meet the Australian Tax Office’s formula for freedom from FBT.
The 2012 Actyon Sports Ute retains most of the 2007 model’s bodywork, but where changes have been made, they’re all improvements; with the most noticeable being revised frontal appearance. Gone is the quirky Bruce the Shark nose that was reminiscent of a 1937 Willys or a 1940 Ford: replaced by more conventional split-upper and lower grille styling.
There’s one body style in the Actyon Sports Ute range, a dual-cab pickup, but there are now three equipment levels from which buyers can choose.
Exterior and interior build quality looks first class, with regular panel gaps and quality finish throughout. SsangYong Australia’s ‘blind’ market research, back in 2007, reportedly indicated that most people didn’t believe the Actyon was Korean-made, and acceptance of Korean products has increased markedly since then.
The base-model Actyon 2WD six-speed manual retails for $25,282, and 4WD is a reasonable $3000 option (comparable with the price difference between most 2WD and 4WD utes.) The six-speed auto box is an additional $2500.
In the ‘base’ Tradie model, the buyer gets: five steel 16-inch wheels; disc/drum brakes; Bluetooth with audio streaming; tilt-adjustable steering column; steering wheel controls for Bluetooth functions and upshift and downshift buttons for the auto box; dual SRS airbags; AM/FM CD audio with MP3 and USB jacks; power widows and heated mirrors; LED instrument lighting; trip computer; manual air conditioning; lumbar adjustable driver’s seat; alarm/immobiliser; front fog lamps; seat belt pretensioners; and three child seat anchorages. A plastic tray liner and front fog lamps are also standard.
The SX 2WD and 4WD versions pick up: cruise control on auto models; aluminium 16-inch wheels; four disc brakes; leather-bound steering wheel; four-channel ABS brakes; electronic stability control (ESC) with hill start assist (HAS), traction control, active roll-over program, EBS and BAS. The RRP range is $29,282 to $36,732.
The top of the range SPR is 4WD auto only and comes with: 18-inch aluminium wheels; leather seat covers; climate control air conditioning; rear parking sensors; auto headlights and wipers; headlight levelling; auto-dimming rear vision mirror; power-adjustable and heated front seats; and power-folding mirrors. RRP is $39,809.
On and off road
Although the photos are of a red SPR model, our road test vehicle was an SX, in non-photogenic black, so we’ve used handout shots to illustrate the test. We drove it Sydney-Melbourne-Sydney three-up, as well as doing metro and bush-road testing.
Pre-trip checks are easy enough, and the engine bay is well laid out and finished. Service items are easy to identify. The lined ute tub is high-sided and fitted with tie-down loops.
Getting comfortable behind the wheel is easy, thanks to the height-adjustable driver’s seat and steering column – even easier in the SPR with its power-adjustable front seats.
The driving position is very good, with all controls in easy reach and excellent forward and rearward vision.
The diesel starts quickly and idles without very much diesel ‘crack’. Once under way, it’s indistinguishable from a petrol engine, except that low speed torque is much better.
The previous Actyon diesel suffered from lag when the accelerator was floored, but the variable geometry turbo on the latest engine removes that almost entirely.
Anyone who drives the Actyon diesel and doesn’t know the engine is a relatively small capacity two-litre won’t feel that performance is inadequate. The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly and has a downshift program when in cruise control, to help control hill descent speed.
Economy is excellent for a ute, but our testing on highway and around town couldn’t match SsangYong’s claim of a combined cycle figure of 7.9 l/100 km. We managed 8.8 l/100 km at half-rated gross vehicle mass.
With some load on board, the Actyon Sports Ute’s steering and handling are exemplary, and it feels more car-like than any 4WD ute we’ve evaluated to date. Coils all around outperform any torsion bar/leaf or coil/leaf setup. However, without a load in the tray the suspension reacts harshly to rough bitumen and dirt roads. The Koreans aren’t famous for damper design, and we suspect that’s where the problem lies.
Our off-road testing was limited to some site work and smooth slippery trails, where the vehicle’s low range gearing and powerful traction control system did excellent work. The Actyon Sport’s nemesis is car-like ground clearance that limits its bush ability.
We reckon there’s ample scope in the Actyon Sports Ute for further suspension refinement and ground clearance development that would make it a much better bush machine.
As it’s now presented, the SsangYong Actyon Sports Ute has great market potential. Tradies and their families should love the vehicle’s combination of low price and car-like equipment levels, and the choice of 2WD and 4WD variants covers a wide market segment.
Ground clearance restricts the Actyon’s site and off-road ability, so VW Amarok, Thai-built Japanese utes and Mahindra currently have the rough-country edge over the SsangYong.