What is it?
Ssangyong has been a peripheral figure in the world of car manufacturing since its inauguration in 1954. However, its fortunes turned around in 2004 when SAIC, the company that also resurrected MG Rover from the ashes, bought a 49% stake in it. Since then, the Ssangyong range has been updated and extended, and it appears to be finding some form with the recently launched Tivoli.
Now, the range-topping Turismo has been revised for 2016 and given a new 176bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine (in place of the old 2.0-litre) with either a six-speed manual or a Mercedes-Benz sourced seven-speed automatic gearbox, and selectable four-wheel drive as well. However, there is an elephant in the room, and it's no metaphorical one; the Turismo is massive. It’s not only 131mm longer than a Range Rover, it is also taller and 85kg heavier, registering a portly 2245kg kerb weight.
The Turismo has been on sale in the UK since 2013. It replaced the unpopular Rodius, a car considered by some as one of the ugliest of all time. The Turismo is certainly an improvement, if still unlikely to win many beauty pageants. From the back, it could be mistaken for a Ford Galaxy, but the side profile is very metal heavy so the wheels look lost, and from the front, well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
However, the real selling point of this car is its price - it undercuts equivalent rivals by many thousands of pounds. Here we're testing the range-topping ELX, which gets the aforementioned auto 'box and four-wheel drive as standard. It also comes with front heated seats, cruise control, parking sensors and 17in alloy wheels. The optional touch-screen sat nav had been added to our test car.
What's it like?
Big. Climb into the cabin and you’ll find acres of space. The dash is dominated by a centrally positioned instrument cluster, which (despite being large and clear) seems a long way from you, and requires quite a glance away from the road to check your speed. Otherwise, there's a lot of graphite coloured plastic, akin to a budget fridge from Argos, and some squidgy plastics around the top of the dash and along the doors.
There’s plenty of storage. The central armrest doubles as a usefully deep compartment and there are numerous cupholders and map holders in the doors. The standard leather seats are too firm at the mid to upper back regions, the squabs are a little on the short side and the driver’s seat doesn’t lower enough. All this contributes to an unavoidably high-set driving position that feels similar to that of a van or minibus. Unhelpfully, the steering wheel isn’t reach adjustable, either. Visibility, however, is excellent all-round, although the over-the-shoulder view is hindered by the thick C-pillar and rear headrest. An overhead digital clock brings memories of Ford Orions from the 1990s.
The middle row consists of two comfortable, individual armchairs, which can slide and recline and have plenty of room around them, and even get roof-mounted air vents and a USB charging point.
There are two ways of getting to the third row of seats, but neither is perfect. The traditional way of sliding and tilting the middle seats forward is awkward, requiring two separate actions, so many will find it easier to climb through the cabin and between the middle row of seats. The rear bench, if used for three, is best limited to children; head room is excellent and leg room is good, but three adults would struggle for shoulder room.
The boot is a good size, with a large square opening, low lip and flat floor, so it'll easily take four suitcases. If that's not enough space, all the passenger seats can be folded or removed for weekend van duties.
When driving the Turismo, it’s best to think of it as a van or minibus because it’s never going to engage a keen driver. When pushing on, there is plenty of understeer and bodyroll through the corners, and on the odd occasion you’ll get a snap of oversteer as the weight from the rear makes its presence known. The steering is vague at best, with no feel or feedback, leaving you to question whether it is attached to anything other than the dashboard. Constant steering adjustments are required on the motorway, which can become tedious.
The 2.2-litre engine is surprisingly eager off the mark, although much of the usable power arrives in a lump between 2000-3000rpm. That hefty weight shows at higher speeds, too, where an increase of speed either requires patience or a manual downshift.
While not perfect, the ride is decent and the Mercedes gearbox is smooth provided you don't ask it for rapid responses. The engine is relatively hushed when cruising, but it becomes really audible under hard acceleration, with road, wind and suspension noise always prevalent. More brake feel would be welcome, too.
Should I buy one?
The Turismo is a bit of a dinosaur compared with the latest large MPVs. It is, however, the size of a Diplodocus, so if you're looking for the cheapest way into a large, spacious seven-seater, there is little competition for the Turismo. Its 2.2-litre diesel engine and seven-speed Mercedes automatic gearbox make it easy to drive, and, for a car of this size, it’s also quite easy to manoeuvre at low speeds.
Private buyers will appreciate the abundance of kit, standard five-year warranty and low asking price, although residuals are forecast to be poor with around only a third of its value being retained after three years. Company car buyers, however, are unlikely to be tempted as the Turismo falls into the highest possible tax band, at 37%.
Ultimately, a Ford S-Max with seven seats is a much better option; it is smaller than the Turismo, and you'd be sacrificing some kit, but you can get it for a similar price. Alternatively, you could opt for a nearly-new MPV instead. The Ssangyong's kit, four-wheel drive and warranty give it clear appeal, but we'd spend our money on a nearly-new Ford Galaxy or VW Sharan.
Ssangyong Turismo 2.2 e-XDi ELX auto
Location Surrey; On sale now; Price £24,995; Engine 4 cyl, 2157cc, diesel; Power 176bhp; Torque 295lb ft; Gearbox 7-spd automatic; Kerb weight 2245kg; 0-62mph N/A; Top speed 108mph; Economy 36.2mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 205g/km, 37%