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by Ewan Kennedy

SsangYong Motors has launched new versions of its Actyon and Rexton range for 2010. The South Korean maker has just scrambled back from the brink of disaster. It already looked like going out of business completely when the GFC of 2008 and 2009 hit and almost caused it to fold up altogether. It looked as though SsangYong would be taken over by Hyundai or Kia.

But the government of South Korea chose instead to use SsangYong as a test case in its battle against extremely militant unions and SsangYong is living to fight another day. In fact the term ‘battering ram’ rather than ‘test case’ has been used by some describing the conflict between the government and the unions.

Nowadays, SsangYongs are imported to Australia by Sime Derby, the company better known here for its management of Peugeot’s affairs. Sime Darby managed supremely bad timing by taking over the business late in 2008.

SsangYong models remain strongly Korean in their lines, at least for the time being; that’s because the designers haven’t been slavishly following European themes. However, that’s likely to change with the next generation of vehicles as SsangYong looks like going mainstream along with everyone else. This is a shame in some ways, because we do admit to admiring the fact that the SsangYong guys are doing their own thing instead of merely playing it safe.

OK, so SsangYong’s own way has resulted in controversial shapes that frighten off conservative buyers, but that’s the name of the game when it comes to designing outside the square.

SsangYong Rexton was always less challenging to the visual senses than others in the SsangYong range. It now has a tidier front end with a radiator grille that ties in nicely with the strength of the original Rexton’s lines. At the same time the designers have dome away the standard side steps for our local variant. The Australian importer feels this gives it a more Euro look, but we will leave that to your judgement, to us it still looks very much on the Korean side.

Rexton is a real 4WD as it comes with a full chassis and a dual-range transfer case. These important 4WD features are combined with some modern electronic traction controls to give Rexton plenty of off-road ability. These are two important factors to anyone who actually wants to go off-road in an off-road vehicle, which is something not all that common.

These days it comes as a seven-seater with decent interior space and reasonable comfort in all of the seats, provided that is that a couple of them are child-sized.

SsangYong Actyon is a serious ute/pickup that makes its own statement in its shape. This has been toned down slightly in its latest iteration. Like the Rexton, the Actyon has a new design of grille, though the overall shape really does remain much the same as before. The front has a distinctive bonnet that comes to a shapely 1950’s blunt-point when viewed from above. But it slopes slightly forward from the vertical when seen in profile. Now that’s different.

As is becoming increasingly common in the light-commercial and, to a lesser extent, the SUV field, the latest SsangYongs are powered only by turbo-diesel engines. Rexton comes with a 2.7-litre five-cylinder powerplant producing up to 121 kilowatts and 340 Newton metres. Actyon has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit with 104 kW and 310 Nm.

Still to come, probably in the fourth quarter of this year, is an all-new vehicle, the SsangYong Korando C. A crossover between a hatch and an SUV the Korando C (SsangYong Australia says that the ‘C’ can stand for Compact, or Crossover, or Capable, or Convenient, perhaps more). It also will be diesel powered, this time by an engine from a European manufacturer that is yet to be named.

Styling for the Korando C is also aimed very much at the European buyer. At this stage all that SsangYong has released are concept drawing and photos. It seems likely the concept will be toned down before it reaches the street. But as we have remarked before, the company’s not afraid to try extreme ideas so this interesting shape may well become a reality.




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