SsangYong Actyon SUV Hatchback & Sports twin-cab

24 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on SsangYong Actyon SUV Hatchback & Sports twin-cab

SsangYong Actyon SUV Hatchback Sports twin-cab (May 2007)

Central NSW

What we liked

Frugal, powerful diesel engine

Extra rear axle location, tough chassis

Ute’s rear seat comfort and increased payload

Not so much

Vague manual transmission shift

SUV’s poor luggage space

Oddball front styling

Overall rating (Sports twin-cab): 2.5/5.0

Engine, drivetrain and chassis: 2.5/5.0

X-factor: 2.0/5.0

Overall rating (SUV hatch): 2.0/5.0

Engine, drivetrain and chassis: 2.5/5.0

Packaging and practicality: 2.0/5.0

Safety: 2.5/5.0

Behind the wheel: 3.0/5.0

X-factor: 2.0/5.0

It is refreshing to find that there is still room for new precedents in today’s crowded market. For the first time, SsangYong has derived an SUV hatchback — which looks like a giant previous generation Ford Festiva from some angles — from a heavy-duty one-tonne twin-cab ute.

The close relationship between the two delivers a more rugged SUV than usual and a more refined and comfortable twin-cab ute than expected. Both body styles start from $29,990.

The badging of the range can be confusing. Both are called Actyon but it is the twin-cab ute that wears the Sports badge, not the ‘sportier’ looking hatchback. For the purpose of this discussion, we will refer to the Actyon as the Actyon SUV hatch and the Sports as the Sports ute.

Although the Actyon SUV hatch has a wide range of small sub-$30,000 AWD Japanese models in its sights, its full chassis, rear-drive/part-time 4WD, extra width and ruggedness couldn’t be further removed from its rivals which are traditionally based on small front-drive passenger cars.

For certain owners who need a compact city runabout with serious rough road durability, better than average offroad capabilities and diesel grunt and economy, there are no alternatives to the Actyon SUV hatchback this side of the larger Mitsubishi Pajero, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Prado.

The Actyon Sports ute is far closer to its rivals in layout and concept than its SUV derivative. However, its approach to rear seat comfort including a more relaxed rear seat angle than usual (plus a huge boost in payload and load area over the outgoing Musso) delivers several distinct advantages.

Its well-located five-link coil spring rear suspension also delivers more stable handling over broken surfaces and a more progressive ride than virtually all of its leaf-sprung rivals.

The main obstacle to the new range’s acceptance is the big jump from the ageing Musso models and the lack of cohesion in the appearance.

The poor brand equity and undeveloped marketing stance of the SsangYong brand is also a handicap. Each of these factors has lagged behind the vehicles themselves which have improved rapidly.

Until recently, styling has been outsourced, most notably to UK’s Ken Greenley and Giugiaro’s ItalDesign for the Rexton. SsangYong has now established its own design studio and the tweaking of styling has already commenced for a more mainstream corporate look although local SsangYong executives maintain the company is committed to maintaining an distinctive edge.

PRICE AND EQUIPMENT

Although a starter $29,990 pricetag for both models is sure to get buyer attention, the reality is that you can quickly spend close to $40,000 on either. Actyon equipment and drivetrain combinations are quite different for the SUV Hatch and Sports ute in response to their equally different markets.

Actyon SUV Hatch: All models feature part-time dual-range four-wheel drive with ‘on the fly’ electronic engagement and there is a choice of diesel or petrol engines.

Although the base petrol model starts at $29,990, the base diesel demands a $4000 premium. Even with the petrol’s combined fuel figure of 11.3lt/100km compared to the diesel’s 7.8, it will take some time to recover this gap via fuel savings (unless you had a specific application for the extra torque of the diesel such as towing). That said, the refinement of the diesel makes the extra spend worthwhile.

A 2300kg braked towing capacity is exceptional for this type of vehicle but it may not be realistic with the petrol engine.

A petrol engined Limited is available at $36,990 but there is no diesel version. When it would cross the $40,000 barrier, it is hard to imagine a market for it. Automatic is a $2000 option on all models and brings cruise control as standard, a feature not available on manual models — even as an option.

For a base model, the SUV is not a bad deal and includes all-wheel disc brakes, 18-inch alloys, engine immobiliser, alarm, keyless entry, front and rear fog lights, reverse parking sensors, electric windows, power mirrors, cloth seat trim, height-adjustable front seat belts, leather-bound steering wheel with remote controls for the six speaker sound system (with MP3 compatibility), climate control air conditioning with rear ducting, split-folding rear seat, dual front reading lights, overhead sunglass holder and reasonable in-cabin storage.

For the extra $7000, the Limited SUV adds ABS, extra airbags, ESP, hill descent control, electrically-adjustable heated front seats, leather trim, sunroof, rain sensitive wipers and headlight-levelling but the sound system remains the same single-disc system.

Actyon Sports Ute: Unlike the Actyon SUV, the utes are all diesel with two grades, base and Limited available as rear-wheel drive only or part-time 4WD/rear-drive. All boast a 2300kg braked towing capacity and five-link coil spring rear suspension.

At $29,990, the base 4X2 is a price stripper with drum rear brakes and 16-inch steel wheels but its standard poly tray liner, immobiliser, keyless entry, alarm, front and rear mudflaps, front and rear fog lamps, full-size spare, electric windows, power mirrors, woven cloth seat trim, four-speaker CD sound system with steering wheel controls and air-conditioning are better than usual.

The 4X4 version adds $3000 to the price.

ABS is an option but it’s not cheap. Automatic transmission is a $2000 option but brings standard cruise control to all levels — again not available on the manual models.

The Limited starts at $36,990 plus another $3000 for the 4X4 version. It brings ABS, rear disc brakes, 18-inch alloys, climate control with rear ducting, electrically-adjustable heated front seats, reverse parking sensors, power folding mirrors, rain sensitive wipers and headlight-levelling and leather-bound steering wheel.

MECHANICAL

Both the petrol and diesel engine have Mercedes-Benz ancestry.

The A230 petrol engine is a 2.3-litre four cylinder inline design with twin overhead camshafts that delivers 110kW/5500rpm and 214Nm/3500. It is offered only in the Actyon SUV Hatch which is just as well when it hits the scales at 1870/1892kg as a base/Limited manual and 1892/1903kg as a base/Limited auto. In other words — about the same as the heaviest versions of the current top-shelf Fairmont Ghia or Holden Calais models.

This goes some way to account for the six-cylinder thirst of 11.3 and 11.9lt/100km for the manual and auto respectively.

The A200 Xdi diesel is from the latest SsangYong diesel family based on a 2.0-litre Mercedes-Benz block. It is a common-rail design running 1600bar injection pressure with a variable geometry turbocharger and delivers a healthy 104kW/4000rpm and 310Nm/1800rpm.

This engine generates combined fuel figures of 7.8 and 8.5lt/100km for the manual and auto SUV Hatch. Figures rise to 8.0 and 8.7 for the manual and auto versions of the Sports ute which is approx 40-50kg heavier than the SUV.

Transmissions include the standard five-speed manual — a Korean-built version of the old Borg-Warner T5 seen locally on older Commodores and Falcons.

In this application, it is remarkably smooth and quiet (thanks in part to the dual mass flywheel) but the shift mechanism is dreadful — even in gear, it has almost the same sideways play as the neutral gate of a quality modern manual transmission. Finding the right gear takes a combination of luck and patience, both of which are in short supply in modern traffic especially while trying to row the struggling petrol engine along.

The automatic transmission is the same Australian four-speed auto as fitted to the local base Falcon. After years of development, it is about the best of its type. Overhaul should be cheap.

It is smooth and intuitive and even the squiggly European-style selector gate works well.

With the torque of the diesel, the lack of ratios is not a big issue. Alas when the petrol engine needs all the help it can get there are just not enough ratios if some extra urge is required. Its six-speed replacement (which will be built in the same casing as the current four-speed) is due and can’t get here soon enough.

There are several other notable features. The platform chassis feels and looks very strong. It has a proper heavy-duty part-time four-wheel-drive system with high and low range in all SUV Hatch models and Sports ute 4X4 models (operated by a dash-mounted switch).

However, there is no rear limited slip diff.

The double wishbone front suspension has an additional strut and arm that locates the coil spring away from the wishbones for extra travel. Steering is by the more accurate rack and pinion system. The rear suspension features a substantial live axle suspended under hefty coil springs and located by long lower trailing arms and short upper arms.

A full-width Panhard rod provides further location.

The fitment of rear disc brakes and ABS on all levels except the base Actyon Sports ute is unusual for this type of vehicle where rear drum brakes still rule.

While the Actyon’s ride height is not as high as some, there is plenty of clearance and most components are surrounded by hefty chassis members. The underbonnet view and structure of the vehicle from underneath is one of its most impressive aspects although some operators might require extra skid plates.

PACKAGING

In the Actyon SUV’s case, its styling and packaging leave it as the only one of its type with the choice of a powerful diesel, a heavy-duty dual-range four-wheel-drive system and full platform chassis.

It also delivers tight overhangs for better offroad clearance but this has left no space for a spare wheel and tyre between the rear axle and rear bumper. In other markets, a spare wheel is not supplied but in Australia, the addition of a temporary (but almost full size) spare has forced SsangYong to locate it above the rear axle line, lifting the luggage compartment floor height to almost chest level for shorter drivers. This leaves a large volume of wasted space below the floor behind the rear axle and generates the impression that it was all too hard to resolve.

The SUV Hatch’s appearance is unusual enough to support a continental style spare-wheel housing pressed into the rear tailgate, for a similar effect to the Renault Scenic RX4. This would add vital luggage space which is currently too heavily compromised for many family applications.

By contrast, the utilisation of space in the Actyon Sports is as good as its SUV stablemate is bad. A strong deep load bed with hefty tailgate, outstanding rear seat comfort for this type of vehicle and extra width make it a better combination work and family vehicle than most.

Actyon SUV Hatch: The key to the Actyon range is its light truck starting point and a generous 1880mm width when most of its compact SUV rivals are tailored to Japan’s 1700mm maximum width. Its turning circle is 11.2m, not bad for such a wide vehicle with a driven front axle. It is built on a wheelbase of 2740mm with short overhangs for outstanding approach and departure angles.

This means you can drive in and out of a steep gully without catching the front or rear body sections. A running clearance of 202mm is generous for this type of vehicle.

There is a price to pay. Because the body is mounted above a heavy duty chassis, the floor and seat heights are higher than usual which may be an advantage for some. The optional side steps may be useful.

As noted above, the spare wheel location is a problem. Although the rear seats fold 60:40 to maximise the load platform, loading a bicycle or similar bulky object requires serious lifting.

The Actyon SUV is not without charm, however, with its commanding view of the road, stable wide-track stance and relatively compact dimensions given its enormous strength and large passenger area. The dash design is less utilitarian than expected with well laid-out controls and gauges.

There is the usual selection of centre cupholders, overhead sunglass holder, door bins, seatback pocket storage, centre console bin and hidden side and underfloor compartments in the luggage area.

Actyon Sports ute: The twin-cab ute’s new load bed is 1275mm long, 1600mm wide and 525mm deep. This is 100mm longer, 135mm wider, 30mm deeper and 20 per cent bigger overall than the outgoing Musso. Its load capacity is now 830kg or 200 more than the Musso.

These upgrades place the Actyon Sports in the middle of its Japanese rivals and no longer leave it as a compromise between cabin space and load carrying.

When fitted with one of SsangYong’s locally developed drop-side tray tops, it offers the widest tray of its type at 1900mm wide, or 60mm wider than its largest competition. This is an advantage to some though not to those who must negotiate tight driveways and parking spaces.

The standard poly liner in the ute bed with its four tie-down points is also a step forward.

The big news is the stretch in chassis over the SUV Hatch which leaves ample room for a full-size spare and extra load area while a wheelbase of 3060mm preserves the five-seater cabin space and rear seat comfort, which is more like that of passenger car than most of its type.

At 4965mm long and 1900mm wide it is a big vehicle hence a turning circle of 12.4 metres.

Light commercial vehicles with separate chassis like the Actyon are tough in the bump and grind of the city and the bush but traditionally don’t show up well in crash testing when they don’t collapse as progressively as more integrated designs. It remains to be seen how SsangYong has addressed this issue but the company is not making any big claims in this area.

In hatch form, the Actyon offers twin front airbags, ABS, lap-sash seatbelts for all seating positions (including the centre rear), door impact beams, seatbelt pre-tensioners and load limiters, and front seatbelt height adjustment as standard.

The Limited adds side curtain airbags for front and rear passengers, ESP (Electronic Stability Program), Active Rollover Protection (ARP), Brake Assist System (BAS), Hill Descent Control (HDC) and Traction Control (TCS).

The Actyon Sports Ute gets twin front airbags, door impact beams, seatbelt pre-tensioners and load limiters, and front seatbelt height adjustment standard on all levels.

The Limited adds ABS and rear disc brakes. For such a family-friendly vehicle, it’s a pity that the Sports doesn’t get the SUV’s centre rear lap-sash seat belt.

COMPETITORS

SsangYong lists the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Nissan X-Trail as the segment leaders and targets of the Actyon SUV Hatch. To this you need to add the Mitsubishi Outlander, Mazda Tribute/Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and Suzuki Grand Vitara Wagon.

The Toyota RAV4 is the pricey and bulky mainstream city all-rounder with a modicum of offroad ability; the CR-V is now half-family carry-all, half SUV; the Subaru Forester is the highway king with its concealed spare and low centre of gravity and the Mitsubishi Outlander, while quite robust and spacious, also leans towards the highway.

The Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute twins come closest with their more rugged construction (and underpowered four-cylinder versions!) while the Koreans can feel crude by comparison without the Actyon’s toughness. The Suzuki Grand Vitara is a more sophisticated on road/offroad compromise these days but still not as rugged as the Actyon.

All look like chubby little family wagons compared to the Actyon’s sports hatch styling which means they all offer better luggage space if not the same stretching room for five passengers.

In choosing any of these vehicles, the spare wheel location is critical when not every parking space will allow you to access or lift a side opening rear door with a spare wheel attached to it. The Actyon SUV trades off cargo space for compact hatch access and convenience without compromising rear clearance or adding extra rear overhang.

The coming Nissan Dualis is worth watching when it appears to offer similar packaging and sports hatch styling but a different approach again to drivetrain and body structure.

The Actyon’s slogger of a petrol engine cannot deliver performance or economy to match any of these. Yet none can compete with the Actyon diesel version which delivers quite a combination of grunt, ruggedness, economy and style.

A serious diesel Actyon SUV Hatch rival might be found in vehicles like the new Mitsubishi Pajero SWB three-door.

Actyon Sports Ute: Because the relatively small capacity diesel in the Actyon Sports punches well above its weight, the Actyon Sports 4X2 ute is quite a good deal, starting under $30,000. The Ford Ranger/Mazda BT50 twins have more horsepower and torque but not so much to justify the price premium. Nor can they close the gap in cabin space and unladen handling sophistication on poor surfaces.

The Holden Rodeo still feels crude by comparison even if its new diesel has extra grunt while the Toyota HiLux is expensive and still feels truck-like in comparison. It is also bigger in several areas than the Actyon without offering any real advantage in the cabin.

There is no direct diesel rival in the Mitsubishi Triton range at 4X2 level but the new 2.4 petrol models offer outstanding value for the price conscious buyer.

The Nissan Navara is a formidable rival except there is no diesel 4X2 and the only V6 petrol engine version is known to be quite thirsty. At a 4X4 level, the diesel Navara is superior in most areas but the price premium is quite high.

If it wasn’t for the Actyon Sport’s controversial styling, which is a big factor in these purchases, the top-level Actyon Limited 4X4 would hold its own in this company with its extra width, better axle location, spacious cabin, economy and refined diesel engine and a price advantage of up to $10,000 in some cases.

ON THE ROAD

We reckon at least some of the inspiration for the SsangYong Actyon must come from the 1938-39 Willys Overland — an avantgarde looker of its time. Less historically sensitive observers might see some of Chrysler’s PT Cruiser.

Where the Actyon SUV Hatch clears a new path at the price is the way it drives over any surface. It can be belted over bad roads and not much phases it. Reverting to the 1938 Willys comparison again, it has the ground clearance, cabin architecture and rear-drive bias of the indestructible historic with the refinement and composure of a modern car.

For those who keep declaring that they don’t make them like they used to, SsangYong might. The petrol engine does struggle with the weight around town yet on rural roads, combined with the four-speed auto, it works well — something that can’t be said for the five-speed manual anywhere. Indeed, the five-speed manual’s shift is so sloppy, so vague that finding a gear is a random exercise in frustration — and this is when the vehicle is new!

SsangYong needs an urgent linkage rectification program especially when the ratios and refinement of the transmission itself are better than they have ever been.

The diesel, however, is worth every cent for the refinement and unstoppable feel.

The Actyon SUV Hatch has quite an agile feel and while the ride control can be a little vague at times, it can be forgiven when it absorbs bone-jarring rocky outcrops on tracks that would destroy a normal car. It is also capable on rough, loose surfaces when its rear axle doesn’t dance around and leave the road.

When pushed beyond common sense, it will break into a progressive slide, ready for a nice nip of opposite lock. The Limited’s ESP adds another dimension when it covers the lack of a rear limited slip diff and provides an important safety net in these conditions. It was good to be able to enjoy rear drive in a compact vehicle again; especially one that will take a belting like this one on rough Australian roads.

Although the drive program featured some of the roughest tracks imaginable, there wasn’t any serious offroad work. Nonetheless both Actyon models felt ready to take whatever was thrown at them.

As expected, the Sports ute wasn’t quite as agile as the SUV. Even if the extra length had to be taken into account, the rear-end grip was especially impressive.

Compared to typical one-tonners that are tail happy at the slightest provocation when unladen, the SsangYong Actyon was in another league.

It could be driven like a passenger car, a comparison that several rear passengers also made when it came to the rear space, rear seat back angle and the ride in the rear seat.

From the driver’s perspective, the dash featured the usual hard plastics that are the norm for this type of vehicle but the centre vents didn’t freeze your hands, the front seat was big and supportive, the leather-bound wheel standard on most models was pleasant. The driving position, despite the omission of steering wheel reach adjustment, was comfortable with good vision.

SsangYong chose the test route well to highlight the Actyon’s depth of abilities and the return leg into Sydney traffic was not as clumsy as expected.

There is a refreshing honesty about the Actyon SUV Hatch that’s missing from its segment — it’s definitely not a flimsy family wagon pretending to be something else. As for the Sports ute, the extra car-like refinement in the rear seat is the way of the future.

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