Ssang-Youg Family


Ssang-Yong Chairman CM600

If you think the car in the pictures looks a little like the old Mercedes E-Class, then that’s because it is! It’s the new SsangYong Chairman, and it is based on the same platform as the obsolete German executive model.

In South Korea, the Chairman is one of the most exclusive motors money can buy. And if SsangYong’s recent return to the UK with the Rexton 4×4 is a success, the car could be joining the firm’s British line-up in less than 18 months’ time. We took a spin to see if the Chairman can cut the mustard in the UK executive class, despite its aged design.

Given that it will cost considerably less than its rivals when it goes on sale, the SsangYong stands a good chance. The Mercedes underpinnings might be old, but they’re still impressive enough to stand scrutiny next to rivals such as Kia’s Magentis and Toyota’s Camry.

We tried a Korean-market car, which had ultra-soft suspension and excessive bodyroll, but making it more suited to European tastes would simply be a matter of readjusting the spring rates to the original Mercedes settings. In all other respects, the Chairman is fairly dynamic. The steering is well weighted, the brakes are powerful and the 3.2-litre Merc engine is pretty responsive. Meanwhile, the five-speed auto gearbox is smooth and the brakes pull the car up squarely and safely.

The Chairman is not an exciting model to drive by any stretch of the imagination, but it feels predictable, safe and fairly well balanced. It looks as if SsangYong could score a hit with spec levels, too. Our test machine had heated, vibrating back seats, separate front and rear air-con controls, and a pop-up screen for sat-nav, DVD and stereo.

The interior quality is acceptable, although some of the plastics feel brittle and cheap, while the leather facings aren’t up to the quality of top-flight European cars. But the Chairman is a promising contender, and if it’s priced correctly, it could well prove a bargain. It has the class and equipment of a full-sized executive, and hopefully the price tag of a much smaller offering.


Ssang-Youg Korando 3200 4X4 Off Roader.

The SsangYong Korando may be many things but bland doesnt enter the equation. Its looks will doubtless divide opinion but whether you love or hate its curious styling, one things not up for debate the value proposition. The 4×4 market is overpopulated by tiny tinny barbie trucks that wilt at the sight of a muddy pathway. The Korando is built of much sterner stuff and if you can track one down, youll be treated to a genuinely tough customer.

Get past the challenging appearance though and a used Korando makes a lot of sense. Its based on rugged underpinnings and features a pair of powerplants sourced from a German concern called Mercedes-Benz, who are reputed to know a thing or two about engines. Priced attractively from new, the Korando makes a left-field alternative to a Jeep Wrangler, and one that will guarantee a certain exclusivity.

Although British designer Ken Greenley may disagree, what you get is a somewhat unusual looking, but incredibly tough, 4×4. It will generally appeal to those who need a serious off-road vehicle but find the Wrangler a little bit too Marlboro Man, a Land Cruiser too dear and a Land Rover Freelander too Cool Britannia. The effect of this is slightly odd. From the front, the Korando looks for all the world like a pastiche of the original Willys Jeep, with its twin circular headlamps and separate wings, albeit one which has been squashed from either side.

The rear is utterly oriental-conventional, though, with a neat, boxy shape. The overall look is of two different concepts melded together. The engine choices available are both well up to the task. Built in Korea under licence from Mercedes-Benz, the 2.

3-litre petrol unit is as refined as youd expect, but the 2.9-litre diesel, also a Mercedes unit, has proved more popular. Equipment includes electric front windows, electric mirrors, a height adjustable drivers seat with lumbar support, a tilt-adjustable leather-covered steering wheel, power steering, tinted glass, an alarm and immobiliser plus an RDS stereo radio cassette player. Certainly, despite the three-door-only availability, the Korando makes practical sense.

Theres ample head and legroom for five people, a split/folding rear seat and a respectable 1254 litres of boot space. Try that with a Jeep Wrangler.

If youre looking for a lot of metal for your money, the Korando makes a decent claim. The 2.3-litre petrol-powered cars solely available in GLS trim – start at £3,800 on a 1997 P plate rising to £4,225 for an S registered model. Automatic gearboxes tend to tack another £200 onto those prices.

The 2.9-litre diesel models open in LS trim at £3,825 while the plusher GLS version can be your s for as little as £4,025, topping out at £4,475 for an S-plater. Insurance is Group 12 across the board.

The engines and gearboxes are proven items, and the ladder-framed chassis boasts good ground clearance, so the Korando keeps its nose clean on these counts. As with any vehicle that purports to offer serious off road capabilities, check the underbody for signs of damage. Concentrate on the suspension, exhaust and chassis, and make sure the steering and differential are still serviceable. Inspect the wheelarch liners for rust-inducing punctures and ensure that the four-wheel drive selector works properly, as these shift on the fly mechanisms are prone to accidental damage.

Otherwise, the usual reminder to obtain a service history applies.

(Estimated prices, based on a 2.9D) Youll need around £1,000 for a Korando exhaust and a catalyst will be around £410. Front brake pads will retail for at least £100, while a new radiator weighs in at around £250. An alternator will be in the region of £240, and a new starter motor £200.

Though it may be damning with faint praise, the Korando is better than it looks on the road. Despite being based on a proper off-road ladder chassis with meaningful ground clearance, the on-road ride is good. Coil sprung rear suspension gives a relatively composed ride, and stability feels good. Theres none of the tilting, toppling and swaying that some 4×4 owners have become used to, that feeling that when the steering wheel is turned the upper and lower halves of the vehicle are going in opposite directions.

Anti-lock brakes are fitted as standard, and the front suspension resists dive quite well. The four-wheel drive selector takes the form of a simple dash-mounted button rather than an awkward lever, and this can be operated at speed of up to 43mph. Once off-road, the short front and rear overhangs give the Korando admirable clambering ability, although it will struggle to match a Land Cruiser; theres just not the torque available. Of the two models, the diesel is the off-road weapon of choice.

A used SsangYong Korando offers quality, if somewhat old fashioned, engines, tough running gear, a certain individuality and an affordable sticker price. If you need a family-friendly 4×4, the three-door body style may strike it out and if youre at all the aesthete, it may never have entered your considerations in the first place. Nevertheless, it is surprisingly honest and charming and cant lose too much value over a typical three year ownership period. Do bear in mind that sales were, to put it kindly, modest.


Ssang-Youg Musso Sport 290S.

t was the perfect setting as SsangYong launched a 4×2 version of its Musso Sports double-cab bakkie at Glenburn Lodge in Gauteng’s mink-and-manure belt north of Johannesburg. In so many ways the latest offering from Korea’s “Twin Dragons”* fits the profile.

It has all the high-riding, broad-shouldered, roll-barred, big-wheeled tough-guy looks of the 4×4 version launched earlier this year but with no transfer box, no front differential and no locking front hubs to worry about.

Instead it has five-link coil suspension in place of the usual leaf springs on the solid rear axle, which gives a surprisingly comfortable ride for a bakkie.
As well as some rolling resistance, to bring about a useful reduction in fuel consumption. SsangYong claims 8.8 litres/100km when fitted with the five-speed manual transmission.

Other than that, it’s more of the same; it shares with its all-wheel-drive sibling the biggest double cab on the market that really will take four adults in comfort and five if necessary. Unique among the double cabs on the SA market, the cab section of the body extends to the centre of the rear wheel arch, making it possible to fit sedan-type rear doors.

That gives it its class-leading interior volume and enviable ease of entry and exit, albeit at the expense of load box capacity. The Musso Sport has only 880 litres of cargo space under its tonneau cover and it’s rated for 569kg (543kg for the automatic), which means that for all its size and macho posturing it’s actually only a half-ton bakkie


Or is it a luxury saloon with a lidless boot?

Power is provided by the familiar 2.9-litre, five-cylinder diesel with turbocharger and intercooler built under licence from Mercedes-Benz and rated for 88kW at 4000rpm plus 250Nm of torque at 2250rpm.

It’s a sweet-running and very willing motor that can be coupled to either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic gearbox. I didn’t drive the automatic at the launch but the manual is slick and positive, although the lever throw is long, especially from side to side, and takes a little getting used to.

The clutch is light, if a little vague, and the power steering is very light at low speeds, although it firmed up nicely on the highway. On roughish gravel roads there’s a lot of feedback through the wheel, making the steering a little skittish and reminding you that this is intended primarily as an urban cowboy.

Bell and whistles

The Musso Sports is highly specced, with 16″alloy rims wearing 235/70 radials, disc brakes all round (ventilated in front), power steering, air conditioning, electric windows, a rather dated-looking radio/tape sound system, remote-controlled central locking, anti-lock brakes, side impact bars and a driver’s crash bag.

It comes with a PVC lining in the load box as well as a tonneau cover and stainless-steel rollover bar (both sourced locally). Also local is the remote-controlled alarm/immobiliser that uses a Sanji aftermarket transponder.

Considering that the nearest most 4x4s in this area get to off-roading is the gravel drive at the country club, it’s perhaps the ideal vehicle for the guy (or doll) who wants the muscular bakkie image but really needs a car for family duty.

The Musso Sports 4×2 costs R229 995 for the manual and R244 980 for the auto, complete with a three-year or 100 000km warranty and a three-year or 60 000km maintenance plan.

Service intervals are 10 000km.

*You didn’t know? That’s what SsangYong means in English.


Sssang-Yong Rexton Rx320 4WD.

SsangYongs Rexton RX320 Model May Have The Look And Feel Of An Expensive Big 4×4 But Wait Until You Clock The Price. Andy Enright Reports

There are certain cars that are excellent subjects for a game of guess the price tag. Its easy to draw up quite a list of cars that are a good deal more expensive than many would guess, due in no small part to the ingredients that make them pricey being very well hidden. Its a lot trickier to find vehicles that have people gaping by dint of their low prices. SsangYongs Rexton, however, is one of the best.

The RX320 model with its Mercedes-sourced engine takes some beating in the value stakes.

Invite a friend to take a look around the Rexton. Theyll never guess how little it costs. Its a big car, longer than a Mercedes M-class although its a good deal narrower. Youll probably be grateful for this when manoeuvring through city streets.

The Rexton is also very nicely finished, inside and out. Theres the obligatory jewel effect headlamps, a generous amount of chromium at both ends and an interior thats chunkily styled with none of the design faux pas that have haunted many ambitious South East Asian cars. Pop the bonnet and theres that 3.2-litre in-line six-cylinder engine fitted with a variable resonance induction system and featuring such refinements as a drive-by-wire throttle system.

It develops a hefty 218bhp, the same as a BMW X5 3.0d. Whats not remotely akin to the BMW is the Rexton RX320s price tag thats some £10,000 more manageable. Of course, £10,000 as a proportion of £100,000 isnt a big story, but when the BMW costs around £35,000 and the SsangYong £25,960, you really have to ask yourself how badly you need the German car.

Its no use scanning the depreciation indices either, as no amount of Bavarian bluster can counter that sort of price disparity. Lets not kid ourselves here though. Weve picked on the X5 just as an indicator of price versus power. In reality, pigs will fly before an X5 customer is ever going to consider the Rexton, more realistic opposition being Mitsubishi Shoguns and lower end Toyota Land Cruisers.

Capable of sprinting to 60mph in 11.7 seconds, the RX320 has a fair turn of speed for something so bulky and a top speed of 114mph ensures fairly relaxed progress at typical motorway cruising speeds. Although it may be inexpensive to buy and, with a group 13 rating, relatively cheap to insure, the RX320 is partial to a drink, quaffing unleaded at the rate of 18.8mpg.

Its not the most environmentally conscious vehicle, emitting 351g/km of carbon dioxide. Console yourself with the fact that youre giving the trees plenty of nourishing CO2 to breathe and concentrate instead on the value proposition.

“Invite a friend to take a look around the Rexton. Theyll never guess how little it costs”

One of the advantages of a really low sticker price is that you can pick and choose from the options list to satisfy your requirements. SsangYong offer a reasonably comprehensive list of extras with a wide array of styling accessories that include roof bars, side steps and so on. The best value options appear to be the Bluetooth hands free mobile phone kit, the 6 CD multichanger and the reverse parking sensors. The phone kit automatically mutes the stereo when you pick up a call.

Satellite navigation is fairly expensive at just over £2,300. The RX320 is the only petrol powered model in the Rexton line up and those looking for more manageable fuel bills albeit at the expense of straight line power may well find the 120bhp entry-level RX290 or the popular 165bhp RX270Xdi model more to their liking. With the RX270, rest to sixty takes 13.2s on the way to 111mph, while the combined fuel consumption figure of around 32mpg should keep running costs within reasonable bounds.

Step inside and youll be impressed by the finish. Certain fittings look very familiar, although lets diplomatically say that if not copied, then many switches and layouts have been inspired by Volkswagen Group products itself no bad thing. The Rexton may be slated to compete with Discoverys and Shoguns but its pricing puts it alongside Family 4x4s from the slightly more utilitarian class below where youll find models like Mitsubishis truck-based Shogun Sport and yes, the Hyundai Terracan. Just as well then that the ambiance is reminiscent of the more upmarket class.

Seven seats are fitted as standard, a feature that may well swing the balance in the RX320s favour. Although the Rexton rides well on road, its not been designed for exclusive blacktop use. On tarmac, it defaults to rear wheel drive operation but the push of a button forces the Borg Warner transfer case to engage either high range four-wheel drive for when things get a little slippery or low-range four-wheel drive for those occasions when you really need to lug yourself out of a spot. When in all-wheel drive mode theres a torque-on-demand system which engages 4×4 progressively according to conditions, saving the need to press any buttons.

The Rexton is built around a proper industrial strength ladder-framed chassis construction. Although immensely strong, most rivals have abandoned this architecture in favour of monocoque chassis structures that give a more car-like drive. Given the Rextons luxury pretensions it seems a trifle odd that it uses this he-man set up but the upside is that it feels almost indestructible when taken off road and the wheel articulation will get you out of many a tight spot. Its ride on tarmac isnt the smoothest but if you need a 4×4 that looks good but can still walk the walk when the going gets tough, the Rexton is a good value bet.

The RX320 possesses a fair turn of speed and body control is better than expected but it lacks that polished final few percent that convinces people to stump up big premiums for a premium product. Bear in mind that low price and any criticisms we make should really be put into context. The cheapest Mercedes M-Class is £30,410 and the cheapest Lexus RX300 is £28,950. Theres no point pretending the Rexton RX320 is a viable cut-price contender to the likes of the BMW X5 and the Volvo XC90.

It just hasnt enjoyed that sort of development budget. What it does represent is a car far more polished and credible than its sticker price and non-image would suggest. If you were thinking of buying a used Toyota Land Cruiser, Mitsubishi Shogun or Land Rover Discovery, take a drive in the Rexton. If it isnt better than you think and cheaper than all your friends think, wed be very much surprised.


CAR: SsangYong Rexton RX320 SX7
PRICE: £25,960 on the road
CO2 EMISSIONS: 351g/km
PERFORMANCE: Top Speed: 114mph / 0-60mph 11.7s
FUEL CONSUMPTION: (combined) 18.8mpg
STANDARD SAFETY FEATURES: Twin front and side airbags, ABS with ABD
WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: Length/Width/Height, 4720/1870/1760mm


Ssang-Youg Rodius MPV.

SsangYongs Rodius Certainly Creates A Stir. If Youre Fed Up With Bland MPVs This Will Certainly Generate Comment. Andy Enright Reports

If you could measure world-weary cynicism, press day at the Geneva Motor Show would probably represent a global hot spot. Legions of seen-it-all, jaded hacks troop from one stand to another complaining about the quality of the coffee, dismissing the latest Italian supercar with a derisory snort and barging past the Swiss Prime Minister in a bid to file copy and hit the bar. Despite this, there was one stand which brought even the most experienced hacks to a gaping standstill. SsangYong didnt have the widest range of cars, the most dazzling light show or the shortest skirts on the hostesses.

It topped the lot with a solitary Rodius, an MPV that, to put it politely, is certainly intriguing to behold.

A colleague of mine put it rather less delicately, comparing its face to the north end of a southbound camel although I have to say the Rodius front end is arguably the most conventional aspect about it. Its tough to know where to start in describing the car, a lumbering leviathan of an MPV with unparalleled presence. The side profile is especially challenging, with the wheels lost in acres of sheet metal. The last time I felt so dwarfed by this much panel work I was standing next to the QE2 in dry dock.

The sloping roofline would look pretty rakish were it not for the fact that theres an unusual section of glasshouse tacked on top of it, looking almost like a stylistic afterthought when the manufacturers mentioned to the stylist that there wasnt adequate luggage space. Walk round to the rear and the view is even more bizarre, looking for all the world as if the stylist has contrived a way of adding the rear hatch of a 4×4 to the bootlid of a saloon car. The current trend for high-mounted brake lights is wilfully ignored while the detailing of the rear glasshouse does little to match the rest of the car. Its quite astonishing and looks so wrong in so many regards that it does something that very few MPVs can do.

It brings a smile to your face and impels you to find out more about this curious vehicle.

“The Rodius represents a striking break with MPV norms while actually taking MPV strengths to an altogether higher level,” commented Tom Martin, the Marketing Director of SYUK Cars. “As the ultimate family car, or a corporate people carrier of top class quality and comfort, there is nothing else to touch it for the money.” Talking of money, the entry-level Rodius retails at less than £19,000 which, in terms of metal for your money, is the most screaming deal since Andre Poisson thought hed bought the Eiffel Tower from Count Victor Lustig.

The man behind the Rodius styling is none other than Ken Greenley, former head of the automotive design course at the Royal College of Art in London. This is a gentleman whose CV includes cars such as the Bentley ContinentalR, Bentley Azure and the Aston Martin Virage. Quite what happens when Ken receives a commission from SsangYong is open to conjecture, but he also penned the Musso, another of their back catalogue with love it or hate it lines. One design touch that is undoubtedly rather deft is the way that the lights and some of the other detailing have been supersized to disguise the bulk of the Rodius.

At 5125mm long and 1915mm wide, this is a car that comprehensively dwarfs a Range Rover. “The Rodius represents a striking break with MPV norms while actually taking MPV strengths to an altogether higher level,” commented Tom Martin, the Marketing Director of SYUK Cars. “As the ultimate family car, or a corporate people carrier of top class quality and comfort, there is nothing else to touch it for the money.” Talking of money, the entry-level Rodius retails at less than £19,000 which, in terms of metal for your money, is the most screaming deal since Andre Poisson thought hed bought the Eiffel Tower from Count Victor Lustig. Look beyond the unconventional lines and theres a utility vehicle thats virtually unbeatable. To give some idea of the amount of space inside a Rodius, in some markets its sold in an 11-seat guise! Given that us Brits are some of the largest people on earth, our Rodii are configured in a seven seat format, with two seats up front, a pair of pews in the middle and a triple bench seat at the back. As would be expected, theres actually a fair amount of legroom even in the back.

Fold the rear bench down and although it doesnt fold flat into the floor like a Vauxhall Zafira, you probably wont mind as there looks to be more luggage space than in the cargo hold of a Hercules. The middle seats can be spun round to face the rearmost seats for a more sociable set up but its very easy to bunch the carpet up and make a real pigs ear of things. One for experienced users only. Naturally, youll need a fair amount of muscle to haul a vehicle this big about and at first glance 163bhp doesnt seem a whole hill of beans.

You can buy a Peugeot 206 with more grunt than that. What hope does 163bhp have of moving this mountain of metal? In truth, it does a pretty reasonable job. That power output is generated by a common-rail 2.7-litre diesel engine of Mercedes origin and generates 252 ft/lbs of torque which is a good deal more than a 3.

0 BMW X5. Thus equipped, the Rodius will get to 60mph in around 13 seconds and run out of go at 104mph. Fuel consumption is also relatively good for such a sizeable vehicle, the 28.5mpg combined figure being better than youd expect had you invested your money in a 2.

3-litre Ford Galaxy instead. One figure thats somewhat less than stellar is the 257g/km of carbon dioxide emitted per kilometre, something that may affect the buying decision of companies looking for some major league airport shuttles. SsangYong offer a pair of trim levels, both mated to a five-speed T-tronic automatic gearbox, again of Mercedes provenance. The first is the £18,999 S auto which still includes safety functions such as ESP stability control, twin airbags, anti lock brakes and three-point seatbelts on every seat.

If this is still well under your allotted budget, the SE auto retails at £21,999 and includes leather seats, wider tyres, privacy glass and a sunroof. I think Id stay with the S and feel smug about the value proposition. The styling is obviously going to be a major impediment to most right-thinking people. Theres no getting away from the fact that the Rodius is quite shockingly ugly.

If you can forgive the jarring lines, theres a very creditable MPV vehicle lurking beneath. Drive a Rodius and youll soon find yourself chuckling at the reactions of other drivers and pedestrians. You could be at the wheel of a Lamborghini and attract less attention. Lifes rarely dull with a Rodius.

Facts At A Glance
CAR: SsangYong Rodius range
PRICES: £18,999-£21,999 on the road
CO2 EMISSIONS: 267g/km
PERFORMANCE: Top Speed: 104mph / 0-60mph 13s
FUEL CONSUMPTION: (combined) 28.5mpg
WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?: Length/Width/Height, 5125/1915/1820mm

Scribbled on May 29th 2007 in Miscellaneous, Pictures, Ssang Yong
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