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SsangYong Kyron 2.0 EX Auto

Click to view picture galleryIts a fact of life that ‘money talks,
  but paying less and still getting a
  good deal is not always so easy.
  With SsangYong
s recently re-
  launched five-door, five-seat Kyron
  SUV you get a lot for not a lot of
  money. Interested?

SALES OF SOUTH KOREAN SSANGYONG vehicles have recently re-started in the UK for the third time, with the sales, parts and service operations now under the control of a totally new company — Koelliker UK, part of the Italian Koelliker automotive group. So what does the revised SsangYong range offer?

The new line-up of revised, re-specified and keener-priced vehicles — Kyron mid-sized SUV, Rexton large SUV and Rodius large MPV — are now on the market with budget prices starting from just 14,995. For good measure, and to support the re-launch, all models have attractive reasons to buy with offers which include three-years/30,000 miles free servicing, free satellite navigation upgrades on selected models and no-deposit finance offers on Kyron and Rodius models.

With all the customer offers on the table from the company to buy new SsangYong models, it makes good sense to at least consider the product and residual values, although poor at the moment, should improve. We also know the South Koreans can make good quality vehicles at affordable prices — the success of Hyundai and Kia proves that.

While they may not be the most attractively styled vehicles on the market, their core designs are sound, durability is good and their mechanical technology is proven: much of the drivetrain technology comes from Mercedes-Benz although it is a few years behind their current products.

Reviewed here is the five-door, five-seat Kyron SUV which will sell against the much more expensive market leaders in this sector — the Honda CR-V, Land Rover Freelander and Toyota RAV 4 although in reality think more along the lines of Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe and Chevrolet Captiva. The starter model in the Kyron range, admittedly with two-wheel drive, is priced at just 14,995; it used to be 17,995.

You get the full specification, from air conditioning to electronic stability programme — and much more. Some models have part-time four-wheel drive and there are manual and automatic transmissions and S, EX and SPR levels of trim and specification, depending on the engine size chosen. As part of SsangYong's sales drive, the Kyron is available with the Mercedes T-Tronic automatic transmission at the same price as a manual version.

There is a choice of 2.0 and 2.7-litre turbodiesel engines. The best option, given the high fuel prices and escalating CO2 charges, is the 2.0-litre, 139bhp turbodiesel unit with 229lb ft of torque. This model will tow up to 2,300kg and the manual gearbox model should return 37.7mpg with CO2 emissions of 191g/km giving it a road tax bill of 210.

My test model was the Kyron 2.0 EX 4WD automatic, now priced at 19,495 thanks to the free automatic transmission offer. However, for most rural or business customers who could be considering a workhorse budget SUV, then the 2.0 S manual or auto models now priced at 16,995 make more financial sense. The top of the range model, the 2.7-litre diesel, costs 22,495. My advice is that, given these are budget buys and even the lowest specification versions are well equipped, stick with the S 2.0-litre variant.

Like all SsangYong products, do not expect the sharpest handling, the best road-holding or the fastest performance. The suspension is on the soft side — set for comfort rather than sharp handling — but do workhorse customers really care about things like that? I think not. The Kyron looks well made and does things well enough for most budget brand buyers.

The steering is too light but this 2.0-litre four-cylinder, common rail, DOHC, turbodiesel engine is good — much better, in fact, than some other more expensive competitors but it can get noisy when pushed to perform. Top speed is 103mph with 0-62mph taking 15.8 seconds, and there's 229lb ft of torque available from 2,250rpm.

The automatic transmission feels old-school technology, taking its time to move between the gears, but it works. There is no 'smart' 4x4 system, just a knob with which the driver can easily select 2WD, 4WD high ratio or 4WD low ratio and hill descent control. Simple and easy and just what most rural folk or people who tow trailers, boats or caravans want — and exactly what the boss of the UK importer says about the new SsangYongs: "vehicles fit for purpose".

So what do you get for your money with the Kyron EX? The main items are cruise control, electric windows front and rear, electrically-operated door mirrors, leather upholstery and trim, heated windscreen, 18-inch alloy wheels, anti-lock braking, stability control, hill descent control, front fog lights, alarm, climate control air conditioning, stereo radio and sound system with six speakers and 60:40 folding rear seats.

The cheaper S models — my financial choice — have most of the important things from the list above, including air conditioning but not the leather upholstery and trim. Kyron S models have 16-inch alloy wheels, so that will improve the handling as well.

It's a fact of life that 'money talks', so paying less is good advice. At present there are too few dealers but this is being addressed (there are currently just 35 of them in the UK but a recruitment programme is underway and 60 dealers should be in place by the end of 2008). On-road handling is lazy, the engine noisy when worked and there are annoying warning buzzers when the ignition is first switched on. That said, there's no denying that the Kyron is fit for purpose.

Other major strengths are its price, size and high specification and the fact that it's durable, tows heavy loads (the braked towing capacity is 2,300kg), has a large 1,085-litre load area and is good off-road. So if you are willing to take a small risk on future residual values — which SsangYong UK are working on improving — and you need a budget priced, tough, family 4x4 workhorse, the Kyron 2.0 S is certainly worth considering. — David Miles

SsangYong Kyron 2.0 EX Auto | 19,495
Maximum speed: 103mph | 0-62mph: 15.8 seconds
Overall test MPG: 32.5mpg | Power: 139bhp | Torque: 229lb ft
CO2 222g/km | VED Band F 210 | Insurance group 13E