Ssangyong Kyron SX - The Verdict

Korean cars don't set the world alight but they are great value. David Wilkins and a team of readers put the latest import through its paces

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Price: £22,495
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Performance: 0-62 mph in 14.2 seconds, 33.6mpg
CO2: 217g/km
Worth considering: Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sorento

Almost every week brings the launch of another new Korean model, and the pattern is usually the same. In fact, you can write the script before you even try most of these cars. They always represent a substantial improvement over previous Korean efforts without quite reaching the standards of the posher European brands.

Interiors are generally much improved, although the plastics could usually do with being a bit softer and darker. Equipment levels are high, while prices are low. The cars are safe rather than exciting to drive but represent great value for money for mainstream buyers. Looks are typically neat but bland. In short, these cars leave the enthusiast unstirred but scare non-Korean mass car-makers stiff.

In most areas, SsangYong's Kyron fits the template. Prices start at £16,995, which means you get an awful lot of Korean four-wheel drive for your money - except that the cheapest Kyron, while it looks the part, doesn't actually have four-wheel drive. It may seem silly to have a car that's dressed up like a tough off-roader when it doesn't have four-wheel drive but on the other hand, four-wheel drive is a facility that most buyers will rarely use anyway, and users of the two-wheel drive version will still enjoy the other advantages of this type of vehicle such as generous space and a high seating position.

Our test car, an SX, came from the other end of the Kyron range, which meant that at £22,495, it was a bit shorter on value than the entry-level version but much longer on equipment, including selectable four-wheel drive. The SX also has a Mercedes-derived automatic transmission, which pairs fairly well with the Kyron's two-litre diesel engine. The main weakness of this combination, shared with SsangYong's Rodius, is a noticeable hesitation when stepping off from rest, which means that you have to exercise a bit of caution pulling out on to roundabouts or out of side roads into busy traffic.

The rest of the time, the Kyron moves along fairly smartly, if a little noisily, and is a relaxed cruiser. Its interior is roomy and ride comfort is generally fine too, although it has a slightly unsettled quality even on smooth roads. In corners, the Kyron lacks finesse but feels fundamentally sound.

Where SsangYongs depart from the Korean norm, of course, is in terms of their appearance, and the Kyron wouldn't be a SsangYong if its looks didn't upset some people. Personally I think SsangYong's distinctive styling is a plus; it may not be to everyone's taste but it certainly provides a bit of visual interest in an age where most other manufacturers are playing it safe.





David Wiltshire, 39, IT consultant from Hertfordshire
USUAL CAR: FORD FOCUS 2.0 GHIA

The initial impact of the Kyron is impressive - chunky design but not too macho. It looked both solid and safe. Once inside, the trim level was adequate, although perhaps a bit plastic looking. Storage space was excellent in the rear with good use made of underfloor storage boxes. The in-between seat console was neat and the fascia dials were simple in design. The sat-nav integrated into the radio was also a nice design touch. One annoying feature was the position of the handbrake, which was nearer the passenger's seat than the driver's! The driving position was excellent, with comfortable seats, although I did find the engine noise slightly aggravating.

Matt Banham, 34, managing director from Essex
USUAL CARS: SUBARU IMPREZA AND BMW 530

If this car were a pop act it would come 13th at Eurovision. It certainly wouldn't come last; it would garner points from a partisan neighbour in return for a favourable score for Latvia's entrant. If it were a biscuit it would be the Garibaldi at the bottom of Grandma's tin - quite nice when dunked in the over-brewed tea, but not the chocolate one that you were hoping for. I felt sorry for this car, it would never get picked first at football. It's not a pedigree, more a shaggy mutt, whose mixture of breeds seems too confusing to determine the origin. She drove well, trying really hard to impress me without quite hitting my spot.

Paul Cosker, 41, surveyor from Peterborough
USUAL CARS: HONDA ACCORD CDTI, PORSCHE 944 S2, FIAT CINQUECENTO SPORTING

It's massive. I certainly wasn't going to miss it as I pulled into the car-park. Climb up into it and first impressions are of a clear dashboard set out in a reasonably logical fashion, though further inspection

revealed hard plastics and several different textures throughout. The seats are firm but don't provide much lateral support on the move. Don't worry though, you won't be going round corners quickly anyway as the coarse-sounding diesel really struggles at times. Maybe a manual gearbox would be better - the automatic hunts between gears and using the manual override doesn't achieve a great deal either.

THE VERDICT

If you would like to take part, e-mail motoring@ indepen dent.co.uk or write to: The Verdict, Features Department, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your address, phone number and details of the car, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean licence.

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