The SsangYong Turismo is the kind of car to give new meaning to the phrase ‘a lot of metal for the money’. The artist formerly known as ‘Rodius’, this giant seven-seater is MPV, load-lugger and 4x4 all rolled into a package that is seriously cheap.
A fully loaded example will cost you less than a high-end Volkswagen Golf – and yet it’s longer than most large executive saloons, has the ground clearance to match many medium-sized SUVs, and even comes with a low-range transfer ‘box. An entry-level one will cost you only £19,250.
Now under the auspices of Indian car-industry power Mahindra, SsangYong has had a chequered recent corporate history, but its brand identity remains the same: this is Korea’s 4x4 specialist.
The Rexton SUV is probably its best-known export in the UK, followed by the smaller Korando, but expansion plans are moving along, and the most impressive Ssangyong to date is the Tivoli crossover, launched in 2015.
The manufacturer has taken the decision to drop the ‘Rodius’ name for this generation, understandably given that the outgoing car’s styling earned it a reputation as one of the most unfortunate-looking new cars on the road. The new version, however, is something of a dramatic improvement. It is still too large and high-sided a car to ever look attractive, but more conventional window and light treatments now at least make it look normal.
The car’s cabin is vast: big enough for two individual chairs in the second row, generously provided with head- and legroom, and a three-seater third-row bench that, even in place, leaves a boot the size of a small estate car’s: 870-litres up to the roof. The seats in the second and third rows are removable, so you can make more than 3000 litres of storage in the car if you need to. Meanwhile, up front, the driving position is comfortable, and the material quality robust, if a bit rudimentary.
The centrally placed instruments aren’t the easiest to read, and the row of warning lights immediately behind the large steering wheel has the potential to confuse. But apart from that, everything works fine, and can be found where you’d expect it.
As for standard equipment, there are three trims to spec your Turismo with – SE, EX, ELX. The entry-level model comes with keyless entry, quad-zone climate control, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, 16in steel wheels and heated door mirrors.
Upgrade to the EX trim and Turismo is adorned with leather upholstery, heated front seats, rear parking sensors, privacy glass and alloy wheels, while the range-topping ELX trim comes with auto lights and wipers, cruise control and heater front windscreen.
The Turismo’s platform survives from the Rodius. Acquired from Daimler Chrylser many moons ago, it originally served under a late 1990s Mercedes E-Class, and is also used for SsangYong’s flagship saloon the Chairman. Suspension is via steel coils, with double wishbones at the front and multi-links at the rear. For this generation, however, SsangYong has dumped the old Mercedes five-cylinder turbodiesel engine its own 2.2-litre 176bhp four-cylinder alternative. It mounts longitudinally and drives either the rear wheels, or, on the top-spec ELX, all four.
Transmissions are a choice of six-speed manuals for the bottom two models in the range, or a five-speed automatic for the top two.
This feels like an enormous car on the road: there’s never any getting away from that. Not only long but tall, the Turismo suffers with generous body roll and not-so-generous roadholding. Added to that, it steers very slowly and with a little inconsistency of weight at times that borders on the awkward.
But the driving experience here is still closer to that of a Land Rover Discovery than your average panel van. Soft suspension tuning makes for plenty of ride compliance, albeit won at the expense of much in the way of wheel control, and so as long as you drive the car as you’ll naturally be inclined to – ie gently and entirely without gusto – the Turismo performs its function well enough.
The transfer case for the transmission has modes for two and four-wheel drive in high-range, and four-wheel-drive low range. We didn’t get the chance to test the car’s performance off-road, but while the ramp angles are all below 20 degrees, it’s got more than 170mm of ground clearance. Which is as much as many so-called off-roaders, and more than enough to deal with farm tracks and the like.
Despite the effective visual makeover, nobody’s going to a buy a Turismo for any other reason than necessity. If you’ve no call in your life for seven adult-sized seats, luggage space to spare and occasional rough-road suitability at a cut price, this isn’t the car for you.
But those who do need any of the above have no longer to feel quite so sheepish about ownership of this car: it’s perfectly competent, functional and quite sensationally good value. The unlimited mileage, five-year warranty will even cover commercial use: good news for airport taxi drivers, that.