The name SsangYong is unlikely to spring automatically to mind when you think about light commercials, but it should if you’re contemplating acquiring a 4x4 cargo shifter. That’s because two vans with off-road capability based on the South Korean manufacturer’s five-door Kyron and Rexton cars went on sale in the UK earlier this year.
Without back seats and with a cargo bed fitted — the conversion work is carried out in Britain — they are potential competitors to established rivals such as Land Rover’s Freelander Commercial. They also present a challenge to newcomers with more familiar name-badges such as Citroën’s C-Crosser Commercial.
We decided to sample both the SsangYongs and got behind the wheel of the Kyron first. We’ll bring you our verdict on its stablemate in the next issue.
If you don’t really need four-wheel drive, but simply like SsangYong’s styling — if it’s vaguely reminiscent of Mercedes-Benz’s approach then that’s probably because the Koreans have been co-operating with the Germans since the early 1990s — then it’s worth noting that a 4x2 Kyron C-S is available too.
Four- or two-wheel drive, power comes courtesy of a 2.0-litre four-cylinder common rail diesel producing its maximum output of 141hp at 4,000rpm. Peak torque of 310Nm kicks in at 2,250rpm and the engine is married to a five-speed manual gearbox. Engaging the selectable four-wheel drive is a doddle. All you need to do is twist a knob on the dashboard, then twist it a little further round if you want to engage a low-ratio set of gears.
The suspension system employs a double wishbone coil-sprung set-up at the front and a rigid five-link coil-sprung arrangement at the back. Our demonstrator was fitted with 16in alloy wheels shod with Nexen Roadian 541 225/75 R16 tyres. Can’t say that Nexen is a brand of tyre we’re familiar with, but it’s big in South Korea and we’re impressed that the alloys come as standard.
Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering comes as standard too, and disc brakes — ventilated at the front, solid at the back — are fitted all round complete with ABS and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. Electronic Stability Programme and Active Rollover Protection are provided as well, along with Hill Descent Control. Switch it on and it will allow you to go down a steep incline at a sensible speed without having to touch the brake pedal.
Grossing at 2,530kg, the Kyron C-S and its ladder-type chassis can handle a payload of up to 530kg. Its capable of hauling a braked trailer grossing at up to 2,300kg and our test van was fitted with a tow-bar. Even though we weren’t proposing to tow anything we were concerned about the absence of a tachograph, but at least a tacho fitting kit is available.
Access to Kyron C-S’s 2.4m3 cargo area is by means of a glazed top-hinged rear hatch with a wash/wipe system and hinged side doors. They open to reveal a cargo bed protected by a fitted carpet — not terribly practical if you’re going to be shifting bags of cement and shovels — and sides protected to half their height by plastic trim. The wheel-boxes are protected too, which is good news. Both the windscreen and the rear window boast heaters.
Four load tie-down points are provided along with a 12v power point. Our demonstrator was equipped with a half-height steel bulkhead topped off with a mesh grille for an extra £254 plus VAT.
Maximum load length is 1,700mm. Maximum width is 1,322mm narrowing to 1,130mm between the wheel boxes, maximum height is 1,060mm and the rear loading height is 650mm. The rear door aperture is 1,086mm wide and 889mm high. Dimension for the side door apertures are 540mm and 902mm respectively.
Some of the cab interior’s styling features look a little odd. We can’t figure out why the handbrake lever sports the sort of knuckle guard you might see on a sword. The narrow digital clock on the facia is somewhat peculiar too, with the hour figures displayed above the minute figures.
These considerations aside, we must admit that the cab is well-equipped and comfortable. Standard features include climate control, electric windows — electrically-adjustable and heated exterior mirrors are fitted too — driver and passenger airbags and a Kenwood RDS radio/CD player with remote controls on the steering wheel. The driver’s seat is height-adjustable as is the angle of its cushion.
Storage facilities include narrow bins in the doors, a largish cubby-hole at the bottom of the facia, a couple of sunglasses holders above the windscreen and a decent-sized lidded bin between the seats. Slide back a cover on the front of the bin and you’ll find a pair of cup-holders.
Fail to put your seat belt on instantly and you’ll be nagged by a remarkably insistent beeping until you do. An alarm is included in the price and you’ll do well to wait a second or two after you’ve unlocked the doors with the remote central locking before you enter the vehicle. If you don’t, you’ll set it off.
Performance is unlikely to be an issue for any Kyron C-S owner. There’s plenty on tap when you floor the loud pedal, although the engine can sound harsh under acceleration. There were times on motorways and dual carriageways when we wondered why SsangYong hadn’t fitted a six-speed box. The quality of gearchange provided by the five-speeder is perfectly adequate, however. So is the handling — Kyron feels a lot tighter and tauter on the road than the rather wallowy Rexton — despite the over-assisted steering.
The only word we can think of to describe the ride is knobbly. There were times when it felt as though the vehicle was fitted with studded tyres and this did nothing for driver or passenger comfort. Perhaps SsangYong needs to think a bit more carefully about the rubber it specifies and the way in which it tunes the suspension for the UK market.
Off-road the Kyron will get you up a pot-holed farm track or down a muddy country lane in the aftermath of a flood, but it isn’t designed for arduous Land Rover Defender/Iveco Massif style off-roading. If you regularly venture away from the tarmac into really wild country then Kyron probably isn’t what you’re looking for; but if you want to avoid getting stuck next time you need to cross a meadow to get to, say, an electricity sub-station, then it may well be.
Fuel economy during the test period turned out to be not too bad. We averaged 35mpg.
Smart-looking roof rails come as standard and the bumpers, door handles and mirror casings are all colour-keyed.
A self-supporting bonnet provides easy access to the screen wash reservoir, the dipstick and the oil top-up point. At 10,000 miles, however, service intervals are a bit too short. A three-year/60,000-mile warranty comes as standard with an AA roadside rescue and recovery package provided for the entire duration. Six-year anti-perforation corrosion cover with no mileage restriction is included in the deal too.
One of the 4x4 SsangYong C-S’s big plus-points is its extraordinarily competitive price. You get a remarkable amount of van for your money and that’s by no means a bad thing in today’s harsh economic climate. Well-put-together and well-equipped, it offers ample performance and a decent gearchange plus reasonable handling. OK, the ride isn’t marvellous and the cab interior needs a bit of a rethink in places, but we reckon the pluses outweigh the minuses. One cause for concern though is the potential second-hand value given that SsangYong remains a relatively-unfamiliar name in the UK market. However that has to be balanced against the low front-end outlay. It’s a newcomer that’s well worth a second look.