SsangYong Kyron

25 Jan, 2006 12:13pm Richard Aucock

Anonymity is not an option for SsangYong drivers. The wild styling of the Korean company's newest models leaves onlookers staring open-mouthed

Verdict

By compact SUV standards, SsangYong's new Kyron lacks both engine refinement and ride quality, while the styling is challenging to say the least. However, the car is practical and generously equipped, and the cabin well built. The Kyron is able off-road, too, making it a good-value workhorse that's certainly individual.
Due here in February, it's heralded as the most important car the firm will produce this decade. With two and four-wheel-drive versions available, it's pitched as a genuine off-roader and priced to rival the Nissan X-Trail and Toyota RAV4.

As with the rest of the SsangYong range, the Kyron makes an immediate impression. Not only is the five-seater big, but it's also distinctive. Designed by a Brit, Ken Greenley, it's simply unique, although the rear is undeniably bulky and the bodywork top-heavy. Darker metallic colours suit the car best, disguising the challenging proportions.

Happily, the benefits of the high roofline are realised inside, where there is plenty of headroom. Disappointingly, rear legroom is no better than average, although at 625 litres the boot is huge.

The 2.0-litre diesel engine produces 141bhp and a healthy 310Nm of torque. However, as the Kyron weighs two tonnes, sparkling performance is traded for reassuring mid-range pull. But you'll need to make the most of the five-speed gearbox to ensure the turbo is always spinning, otherwise you'll quickly run out of pace. In fact, it's a measure of the manual box that the Mercedes sourced five-speed auto offers better performance; 0-62mph in 14.2 seconds, rather than 16.2 seconds, thanks to shorter ratios. Predictably, the self-shifting unit is less efficient - 33.6mpg against 36.7mpg.

But while gearchanges are smooth, the engine is not quiet, particularly under acceleration. In fact, it's noisy at all speeds. And the bad news doesn't end there: the suspension settings are soft and the Kyron leans into corners and dives under braking. Even the ride quality is unimpressive - the separate chassis leads to a 'juddering' effect over rippled surfaces and bumps. This is particularly noticeable in SX models with 18-inch wheels, though even lesser variants are rarely entirely smooth.

Off-road, the Kyron is a much more appealing machine, thanks to its rugged and extremely capable chassis. SsangYong even offers a sophisticated Hill Descent Control, while the switchable four-wheel-drive system copes well.

The maker expects the £18,995 SE, with four-wheel drive, to be the best seller. It adds ESP, curtain airbags, leather seats and climate control. Ultimately, the car is some distance from being a class leader, but there can be fewer surefire ways of getting noticed!

Key specs

* The high roofline and long overhangs are a result of the fact that, in Korea, the Kyron is sold as a seven-seater and so needs plenty of cabin space.
* Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 141bhp
* 0-60mph: 16.2 seconds
* Price: £18,995

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