SsangYong has finally injected a dose of desirability into its line-up, but the Kyron still lacks strength in depth
Not known for its pleasing visual design, SsangYong has finally injected a dose of desirability into its line-up. The new Kyron's smarter shape makes it the best-looking model in the Korean brand's range - but it still lacks strength in depth. While it is capable off-road and remains durable and practical, the Kyron's driving experience remains agricultural - and that's unforgivable in a class full of more modern rivals.
Even though it was cheap and practical, the SsangYong Kyron was a lesson in how not to pen a 4x4. While its shape was well proportioned, the fussy detailing and shield-like tail-lamp clusters proved a turn-off for image-conscious buyers, and in the UK, the car was a sales disaster.
Responding to this criticism, designers at the company have gone back to the drawing board and polished off the Kyron's rough edges. The result looks much better - but does that mean SsangYong is ready to take on the compact SUV class leaders?
As well as softening the angular rear lamps, the stylists have made the car bigger. Now 50mm longer and 10mm wider, the SsangYong promises to be more practical.
Yet despite the increased dimensions, improvements to the cabin are minimal. The Kyron still has plenty of headroom in the front and back, but passengers in the rear remain short of legroom. At least the 4x4's huge boot makes it a versatile all-rounder.
The engine line-up is unchanged, giving UK buyers only one option - a 2.0-litre diesel unit. In Korean spec, the oil-burner delivers decent performance, but is short on acceleration at low speeds. It's noisy, too, although the sound deadening improves refinement within the cabin. Still, the firm now offers a range of new interior colour schemes, while the smarter steering wheel from the latest Rexton is fitted, too. Other additions to the cabin include orange tone lighting on the dash and revised dials.
Buyers also get the choice of a manual box or a Mercedes-sourced five-ratio automatic transmission. The self-shifter is a £1,500 option, but provides greater refinement. It even offers a manual mode, with gearshifts via buttons mounted on the steering wheel. However, the controls could be placed better, as they don't fall within easy reach of your fingertips.
Both front and four-wheel-drive versions of the Kyron are available in the UK. Opt for the 4x4 variant, complete with hill descent control, and its ladder-frame chassis construction makes the SsangYong a formidable mud-plugger and towing vehicle.
The suspension specification fitted depends on which engine you choose. While the flagship 2.7-litre models offered in other countries get a more sophisticated set-up, the 2.0-litre cars bound for the British market are less impressive. As a result, the SsangYong's cornering balance fails to inspire confidence, with excessive body roll at speed. Potholes also rattle the cabin, and the ride quality is poor.
Revised prices and specifications for the UK line-up have yet to be announced, but bosses are likely to pitch the 4x4 into the mainstream compact SUV market. Yet even though its looks will no longer be such a turn-off for buyers, the Kyron still trails the competition in other areas.