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Ssangyong Kyron - the budget alternative. Image by Trevor Nicosia.

Ssangyong Kyron - the budget alternative
Ssangyong Kyron; that's not a name that trips off the British tongue that easily, and Ssangyong is even more difficult to spell.


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Ssangyong Kyron; that's not a name that trips off the British tongue that easily, and Ssangyong is even more difficult to spell. But this will change if the Kyron is anything to go by. Ssangyong is a Korean company that first came to our shores in the form of the Musso off-roader, previously badged as a Daewoo. The Musso was alright; cheap and a bit 'old school' but even old technology isn't too bad when it's based on Mercedes-Benz's old technology.

The last couple of years have seen an upswing in Ssangyong's fortunes in the UK, and this must be attributable to more European-friendly styling. While the Rodius MPV seems to top most people's list of ugly/bizarre looking cars, the introduction of the seven-seat 4x4 Rexton has made the Ssangyong badge a more common sight on our roads. The Kyron follows in the tradition of the Rexton by being less controversial in its looks; in fact, it's quite smart looking. Our black test vehicle looked great from most angles, though I wasn't too sure about the aluminium finish strip across the rear, but otherwise there was little to jar the senses and little to give away the low price. It looks even better in silver.

Prices start at just 16,995 for a two-wheel drive version, rising to 22,495 for the top of the range automatic four-wheel drive Kyron SX. So how can Ssangyong make a car this big so cheaply? The first clue is under the bonnet. No thumping great V8 up front here, not even a six. Just a four-cylinder diesel engine, two litres in size. Now this had me more than a little worried. Ssangyong had been kind enough to supply the Kyron for test to coincide with my needs to tow my racecar up to Cadwell Park, which is about 150 miles each way. A quick look at the specification sheet did little to allay my fears; 139bhp is OK, but no more, and my car trailer adds 2000kg to the Kyron's own 2000kg. A lot of weight to pull then. A further check showed 0-62mph appeared to be glacial, taking 16.2 seconds - bizarrely the automatic model is claimed to be two seconds quicker!

Time to stop worrying and get aboard. At first I thought the next saving came with the dashboard. The seats were all trimmed in leather in the SE trim of 'our' car and looked fine, but the dashboard itself offended. It looked cheap and haphazard. I didn't like it. Just little things like non-matching shades of different plastics, and a large rotary bank of switches containing really necessary stuff like the odometer trip - I've never seen one so big before. I wasn't too sure about the gear knob either; it just didn't feel right, like a box with too many sharp edges. We're not off to the best of starts here.

The good news is that it all got better. First off, round town the Kyron seemed pretty brisk. The 0-62mph time might seem slow on paper, but there's not much wrong with the 0-30mph performance. The Kyron was more than holding its own in an urban setting. Turning into junctions in too high a gear showed that not much really happened below 1500rpm, but with that kept in mind response was always good. It seems Ssangyong is aware of this too, as I noted that the engine seemed to hunt on idle in traffic before realising that it is set to increase idle speed to 1200rpm as the clutch pedal starts moving up making pulling away smoothly so much easier. This feature should be fitted to every car, especially the ones used by learner drivers as it would end 'kangaroo' starts for ever.

As is typical of the 4x4 genre, and surely what makes them so popular on the school run, the driving position is set high giving a commanding view of all around you. This made the Kyron easy to place in traffic despite its size, and make no mistake here, it's a big vehicle. The gear change took some getting used to, the gate for the gears being wider than anything I've driven since the Austin Maxi, but in time I got used to this and for the movement needed, never once missed a gear in 500 miles of testing.

Now, as luck would have it, I was unable to race at Cadwell Park, so drove up there in the Kyron without the race car and trailer. This gave me the chance to check what the Kyron was like on a longer run, and I have to say it was pretty good. Cruising at 80mph showed only 3000rpm and for a big four-wheel drive it was relatively quiet too, insulated from wind, road and engine noise. It took a little while to gain lost momentum, but was more than capable of maintaining its cruising speed up hills.

When we got off the trunk roads, another pleasant surprise was in store. For a big 4x4 the Kyron handles better than expected. At sensible speeds it doesn't even roll that much and passengers wouldn't feel the driver was pressing on. At elevated speeds, such as when I did the last few miles approaching Cadwell Park (purely in the interests of research you'll understand) I was amazed. Now I'm not going to claim the Kyron would stay with a BMW X5 round the Nurburgring or anything like that, but I had expected it to seriously complain once the going got hilly and twisty with a vengeance. I wouldn't have wanted to be a passenger though, as the roll angles increased dramatically, but it stayed in control, never fell into any form of lurching, and this at cornering speeds that few customers would ever expect to try in this kind of vehicle. This was all the more impressive given that our test Kyron came on the standard 16-inch wheels (looking woefully undersized) rather then the optional 18-inch rims.

Arriving at my destination after three hours of driving I was impressed to find that I felt completely fresh, not at all tired or uncomfortable. After a long journey like that I have felt much more fatigued driving most vehicles, but I had found the journey in the Kyron to be completely relaxing. Ssangyong fits a proprietary solution to satnav, in this case the optional Blaupunkt Rome combined CD-tuner/satnav system (standard in SX trim), and on the whole it worked really well. I treat satnav as a guarantee of arrival at a selected destination and accept it will not always take quite the best route. Save for one small disagreement about a cross country short cut I take, the Blaupunkt system here worked well, and when later asked to find its way round urban problems, coped admirably there too.

With more urban use, and a few short journeys, there was time to take in some of the Kyron's other attributes and foibles. On an exceedingly hot summer's day I was almost thankful for the air conditioning system being a little keen, if anything I was in danger of getting frostbite it was so powerful, although easier fine tuning of the temperature would have improved it. As a town vehicle I found the Kyron rather disconcerting in that it applied the central locking automatically, but not until you reached 30mph. Most vehicles that do this do so at 10mph, but with the Kyron it was possible to travel quite a distance, especially if your journey started and remained within the confines of urban speed limit.

Anyway, one of the reasons Ssangyong loaned us the Kyron was so that we could test its towing ability. So later in the week I hooked up my trailer and loaded up my road car (about 2300kg in total), right on the Kyron's 2300kg towing capacity. Now while I can hardly state that the Kyron pulled the extra weight without even noticing, what I can state is that it pulled all that weight in total security and with just a few more revs needed to get going. Once moving I found it better to hold on to the lower gears again a few revs further, but we kept up with traffic, cruised down the dual carriageway at 60mph in as relaxed a fashion as we had driven without the trailer behind. A big plus with the Kyron is that it is simply huge inside; there is no pretence at being an occasional seven-seater although it must have been tempting to fit an extra row of seats in such a large boot. But the Kyron is all the better for having just five seats and one of the largest load spaces I've seen in a long time.

All in all this is a lot of vehicle for not much money; it looks good, even to the school mums. It's well equipped and enormous inside. I didn't really get on with the manual gearchange but you do get used to it. I suggest the automatic version might be the best choice. The Ssangyong Kyron deserves to become a common sight on our roads.
Ssangyong Kyron UK range overview

- Ssangyong Kyron S manual 2WD: 16,995
- Ssangyong Kyron S manual 4WD: 17,995
- Ssangyong Kyron SE manual 4WD: 18,995
- Ssangyong Kyron S auto 4WD: 19,495
- Ssangyong Kyron SE auto 4WD: 20,495
- Ssangyong Kyron SX auto 4WD: 22,495

Trevor Nicosia - 16 Aug 2006

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2006 Ssangyong Kyron specifications: (SE manual 4WD)
Price: 18,995 on-the-road (optional extras were fitted to test car).
0-62mph: 16.2 seconds
Top speed: 104mph
Combined economy: 36.7mpg
Emissions: 197g/km
Kerb weight: 2001kg

2006 Ssangyong Kyron. Image by Trevor Nicosia.2006 Ssangyong Kyron. Image by Trevor Nicosia.2006 Ssangyong Kyron. Image by Trevor Nicosia.2006 Ssangyong Kyron. Image by Trevor Nicosia.2006 Ssangyong Kyron. Image by Trevor Nicosia.

2006 Ssangyong Kyron. Image by Trevor Nicosia.2006 Ssangyong Kyron. Image by Trevor Nicosia.2006 Ssangyong Kyron. Image by Trevor Nicosia.    

2006 Ssangyong Kyron. Image by Trevor Nicosia.

2006 Ssangyong Kyron. Image by Trevor Nicosia.

2006 Ssangyong Kyron. Image by Trevor Nicosia.

2006 Ssangyong Kyron. Image by Trevor Nicosia.

2006 Ssangyong Kyron. Image by Trevor Nicosia.

2006 Ssangyong Kyron. Image by Trevor Nicosia.


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