SsangYong – A Very Intimate Immersion

The Return of the Double Dragon

SsangYong Special Feature

Words & Pictures: Kevin C. Limjoco

Opening my eyes after a very relaxing nap covering about half the distance from Seoul to Busan in South Korea, I came to the realization that the MPV I was in as a second row passenger was quite the long-distance cruiser. With the help of great road conditions, the all-new SsangYong Rodius (aka Stavic, aka Turismo) rides very smoothly, almost cosseting even. As I looked around and observed the scenic landscape, which was a very rare opportunity for me since I am almost always behind the steering wheel, I was reminded admirably how loyal and passionate the Koreans are to the products that they build. The vast majority of vehicles on the road are domestic products. And if you had any doubt of their reliability and build quality, you will certainly see a multitude of older models from the 1980’s still on the road.

With SsangYong’s big return to our market this year, it was great that our hosts, SsangYong/Berjaya Motor Philippines, Inc. (SBMP) Managing Director Dave Macasadia and his lovely Marketing and PR Manager Cherrey Villaester, organized a Philippine media trip to study the brand, its people, and its two manufacturing plants in a much more immersive program to fully appreciate how far they have persevered, to where the brand stands today, and where they intend to go in the near future.

The SsangYong Motor Company is currently the fourth largest South Korea-based automobile manufacturer following Hyundai, KIA, and Chevrolet respectively. Now, a healthy subsidiary of Mahindra & Mahindra Limited, they have the funding and collaborative engineering to embolden their goal to be the very best Korean automotive manufacturer.  SsangYong is actually the second oldest automotive brand in Korea having been established in 1954, a decade after KIA, followed by Hyundai in 1967. It will be a very difficult but not impossible challenge. In order to hasten the process, SsangYong has made the critical and decisive move to concentrate their efforts on their known strengths in the primarily SUV/Crossover markets.

Until now, aesthetic design has not been a strong feature that appeals to markets outside of Korea. Unlike Hyundai and KIA who definitely have a considerably more Western design philosophy, SsangYong has always embraced their country’s roots, which I now understand and appreciate more after this trip. Getting past design issues, which are relative, SsangYong vehicles are best known for their robustness and reliability. As long as they were maintained properly, most of their products are still functioning on the road wherever they were sold around the world. Even the once orphaned Philippine market models like the very popular MB100 (Istana) van, Actyon, Rodius, Rexton, and the Musso can still be seen regularly on our streets. I say once orphaned because one of the many bonuses of having SsangYong officially in our country is that all previously sold vehicles now have a home to go to for proper factory servicing.

We had a couple of C! Fastfleet MB100’s and a Musso until they were eventually sold off. The Musso was ridiculed for how it looked, but most people were not aware that it was actually designed by Briton Ken Greenley; it even won the Rallye des Pharaons (FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship event in Egypt. Cairo was both the starting and finishing point at the foot of the Pyramids of Giza, at a distance of approximately 3,100 kilometers) for 4WD vehicles back in 1994! Locally, our 220 bhp, 3.2-liter inline-6 flying-brick Mercedes-Benz-powered Musso was the swiftest SUV in the country in its day in the early 90’s. We would often take it to beaches where there were still no paved roads. It drove like a tank, albeit a fairly fast one, and even survived a huge accident versus a rogue commercial bus while fantastically protecting its occupants. We lovingly called our green Musso the “high-cut” rubber shoe that could kick a bus in the balls. SsangYong still has healthy ties with Mercedes-Benz beyond just brand-engineering strategies; currently these are the 7 and 5-speed automatic transmissions, the 3.2-liter engine for the Chairman flagship sedan (the only sedan that they make) and the chassis of the Rodius sourced from a late 90’s E-class.

Though there were some very light driving exercises at the Pyeongtaek Plant factory of the Korando, Rodius, Tivoli, and Tivoli XLV, my more comprehensive testing of the SsangYong cars was appropriately back in the Philippines. The Tivoli and its longer wheelbase AWD diesel-powered XLV variants are really solid products worth your hard earned money and attention. They both provide an extensive list of standard equipment, versatility, thoughtful features, fuel efficiency, and are definitely less common. These well-built crossovers should be taken seriously and they are good looking. They work very well with our Philippine road conditions.

In a nutshell, I can confidently tell you that SsangYong has what it takes to gain a genuine market share, not only in the Philippines but worldwide, with their more focused product lines. It is definitively a new beginning, but also a very strong one, offering tremendous customer values and capability. We have seen what is coming in the near future and the products will truly surprise you.

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Specification – 2016 SsangYong Tivoli XLV ELX AWD

Engine: Inline-4, 1597 cc, dohc 16V, CRDi Intercooled VNT Turbodiesel, 6-speed AT

Max power: 113 bhp @ 3400-4000 rpm

Max torque: 221 lb-ft @ 1500-2500 rpm

0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 11.5 sec.

Top Speed: 178 km/h (111 mph)

Fuel Mileage: 7.8 L/100 kms. City / 4.9 L/100 kms. Highway

Price as tested: PhP 1,245,000.00

C! RATING 9/10

+The catalyst for SsangYong’s road to success, value-packed, good looking, fuel efficient, and versatile.

-Audio quality not so great, meatier tires would do wonders, no cruise control.

 

Specification – 2016 SsangYong Tivoli Sport R

Engine: Inline-4, 1597 cc, dohc 16V, Dual Variable Valve Timing, 6-speed AT

Max power: 126 bhp @ 6000 rpm

Max torque: 118 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm

0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 10.8 sec.

Top Speed: 176 km/h (110 mph)

Fuel Mileage: 9.8 L/100 kms. City / 5.7 L/100 kms. Highway

Price as tested: PhP 1,080,000.00

C! RATING 8.5/10

+Way better than most think, quite nimble, full-featured, excellent value

-No cruise control, No HID headlights, save the extra P40k for the red leather seats and get the standard Sport.

 

Specification – 2016 SsangYong Korando ELX AWD

Engine: Inline-4, 1998 cc, dohc 16V, CRDi Intercooled VNT Turbodiesel, 6-speed AT

Max power: 146 bhp @ 4000 rpm

Max torque: 265 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm

0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 10.2 sec.

Top Speed: 174 km/h (108 mph)

Fuel Mileage: 8.3 L/100 kms. City / 5.2 L/100 kms. Highway

Price as tested: PhP 1,390,000.00

C! RATING 8.5/10

+A good alternative with little regret in its segment, capable, more traditional looking.

-We don’t get the 173 bhp diesel variant, no HID headlights, might be a little too intimate inside

 

Specification – 2016 SsangYong Rodius (Turismo) ELX AWD

Engine: Inline-4, 1998 cc, dohc 16V, CRDi Intercooled VNT Turbodiesel, 5-speed AT

Max power: 152 bhp @ 4000 rpm

Max torque: 265 lb-ft @ 2800 rpm

0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 11.2 sec.

Top Speed: 180 km/h (112 mph)

Fuel Mileage: 8.4 L/100 kms. City / 5.3 L/100 kms. Highway

Price as tested: PhP 1,590,000.00

C! RATING 8/10

+Comfortable, 5-speed automatic courtesy of Mercedes-Benz, spacious, infinitely better than its predecessor.

-Design and fitment still need improvement, the 2.2-liter 176bhp turbodiesel mated to the 7-speed would be better suited for this fairly large MPV.

mm
President / Editorial Director / Founding Editor