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Never heard of the Ssangyong Actyon? You’re not alone. Even some of the team in the offices at CarAdvice had no idea this vehicle existed.
A little history, then. It used to have the name Actyon Sports - maybe that's why you don't recognise it, or maybe that just confused you even more (and we don't know why it still has Actyon Sports on the badges). Further, Actyon was the name of the coupe-like SUV that was sold here before the BMW X6 was considered cool.
What is it, then, this weird-named contraption?
It’s a dual-cab utility that is based upon the same platform as the South Korean brand’s Actyon SUV (which is not sold here anymore). As such, the Ssangyong Actyon uses a coil spring suspension setup in lieu of a more hardcore leaf spring rear layout that the majority of utes on the market use.
The result is a pick-up that, according to Ssangyong, appeals to buyers who aren’t going to put their truck through the rigours of tradie life. And the model we have here – the SX diesel automatic, priced from just $32,990 driveaway – is the most popular in the range.
Just how softcore is the Ssangyong? It has a payload of just 705 kilograms, and the cargo area is only set up to cop 370kg of that. You could feasibly load more in some station wagons or SUVs. Its braked towing capacity of 2.3 tonnes also falls short of the true ute contingent.
So it’s not a proper ute. Does it stack up as a marginally more practical alternative to an SUV, then?
Sure, the boot – oh, the tray, that’s what I meant – has more space than pretty much any SUV you can buy. The tub has a standard liner – bonus! – and four tie down points, and it spans 1600 millimetres wide, 1275mm long and 525mm deep.
That’s smaller than most of the dual-cab utes from big-name makers, but it’s worth noting that the Actyon itself is about 300mm shorter than the dual-cab establishment, which means it’s easier to find parking spots that’ll fit it.
However, the downside is that the space on offer in the Actyon is tighter than bigger dual cabs, with limited leg room for adults and tight toeroom while headroom is adequate.
Further, the Ssangyong can’t match the dearer utes on the market for safety. It does get dual front airbags, electronic stability control and ISOFIX outboard rear seat anchor points, but the lack of any side or curtain airbag protection, and the unpardonable lap-only middle seatbelt is well out of date.
Up front the accommodation is acceptable, with a nice high seating position with excellent base adjustment, and the chairs themselves are quite comfortable for distance driving. They’re nicely finished with orange stitching front and back, too, and the material finishes are of a high standard, complemented by soft plastics on the dashboard and door tops.
The media system dulls the ambience somewhat, proving a bit fiddly to operate. It has Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, though oddly you have to press the CD button to play tunes over the air.
There are some ergonomics quibbles, too, including a weird two-tier digital clock and odd button positioning for the trip computer button – which is close to the button for the side mirror defoggers, a nice touch missing from the $60K ute brigade.
Further, there’s only tilt adjustment for the steering (four presets).
Up front there’s a covered armrest, cupholders, a stowage point on the centre console alongside the USB and auxiliary inputs, and small door pockets. In the back there are mesh map pockets on both seatbacks, and a flip-down armrest, while the door pockets are slim.
As for the drive experience, there were a few surprises.
Powering the Actyon is a 2.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine with 114kW of power (at 4000rpm) and 360Nm of torque (at 2800rpm). Those outputs are pretty healthy for a four-cylinder diesel engine, but as you may be able to tell, the peak pulling power is lacking low in the rev range. And there’s some turbo lag to contend with, too.
The Actyon has a five-speed automatic transmission which generally behaves quite well, with smooth shifts and a terrific intelligence when it comes to knowing when to grab a lower gear for hill climbs and the like.
We found, however, that the gearbox would struggle with quick shifts between D and R during parking or three-point turns. Our car even had some unlikeable shuddering in those instances.
On the open road the diesel engine is amazingly quiet. Having just spent a week pawing over all the big-selling utes in this class, it would be fair to suggest that the Ssangyong is quieter than the lot of them.
At freeway speeds there’s barely any engine noise noticeable unless you plant the throttle, and even then it’s never intrusive. The level of sound deadening in the cabin is good, too, with a slight amount of road roar and wing-mirror noise intruding. The top-spec SX gets cruise control, too.
It is very quiet for a ute. So much so that when I said exactly that to one of my passengers – who didn't pay attention to what vehicle they were getting in to, because some people apparently don’t care about cars – they turned around to check that it was a ute, before saying: “Wow, I thought this would have been an SUV – it’s pretty nice in here”.
Part of that comes down to the unique suspension tune, which is soft over most surfaces, but sharp edges really upset the situation badly. The front end bangs over road joins and the impact is felt through the steering wheel, which jostles in the driver’s hands. The back end is marginally more settled, but body control is not a strong suit of the Ssangyong.
Over larger undulating bumps it is generally quite comfortable though, and the lower the speed, the better the reaction.
While the Actyon may be small enough to slot in to city parking spots with theoretical ease, the steering makes it harder work than it should be. Sure, it’s light enough to twirl the wheel easily at low speeds, but there’s a lot of turning to be done because the rack is quite slow.
At higher speeds the steering isn’t much better, though on the straight-ahead position on the freeway there’s not too much twitchiness or play at the tiller.
While our time was confined to sealed roads, the Actyon has a shift-on-the-fly 4WD system with low-range.
Fuel use for the engine is rated at 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres, and after about 300km of highway and urban driving our readout was a bit higher 10.0L/100km.
Ownership for the Actyon is nothing outstanding, with a three-year/100,000km warranty and the same duration of roadside assistance.
As budget utes go, the Ssangyong Actyon isn’t really comparable to the likes of the Foton Tunland, which is impressive in its workmanlike approach. And it’s dearer than that Chinese model.
As a result, the Ssangyong Actyon doesn’t score very well. It isn’t a good ute, and nor is it a great lifestyle vehicle despite some impressive attributes. If you really want a Ssangyong, you’d be better served with a Rexton.
Click the Photos tab above for more images by Sam Venn.