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BYD power and outdoorsy styling for Ssangyong successor's debut EV

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BYD, Fisker, Nio, IM, Omoda, Jaecoo, Seres, Skywell, Lucid, Ora… How many more new brands can the UK car market take before it bursts at the seams? 

And now there's another: KGM. But at least this is something of a known entity, having sold cars here for two decades in its previous life as Ssangyong. The company's new owners, though – while keen to leverage the value-focused SUV heritage of its predecessor – are keen to kick the brand firmly into the mainstream, with an ambitious ploy to nearly triple its global volumes to 320,000 in 2026.

In line with that pledge, it is introducing a whole new range of chunky, 4x4-flavoured SUVs – in varying shapes and sizes – with a view to substantially broadening its market reach and injecting some panache and desirability into its cars. 

It all begins with the KGM Torres, a 4700mm-long family SUV that sits roughly between the Korando and Rexton, which both remain on sale with Ssangyong badges until their KGM-engineered replacements arrive. We've driven it with a 1.5-litre petrol engine, and now it's the turn of the electric EVX, which goes after the Skoda Enyaq, Volkswagen ID 4, Ford Explorer et al with a front-mounted motor and 73.4kWh battery supplied by KGM's new technical partner, BYD. 

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DESIGN & STYLING

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kgm torress evx review 2024 02

You can tell the EV from the combustion car primarily by its more overtly 'futuristic' front end, which does away with the ICE variant's heavy-browed and slightly angry face in favour of a sleeker, cleaner arrangement crowned by a distinctive six-slot illuminated grille. If KGM needs to build its brand identity anew, you see, it must ensure its cars look as distinctive at night as they do in the cold light of day.

It leans less heavily on the whole 'spirit of adventure' ethos that defines the petrol car, perhaps in recognition that electric, front-driven crossovers are hardly the preserve of the mud-plugging elite, dropping the faux front tow hook and beefy skid plate, but the mock tie-down handles, chunky roof bars and mock rear tyre carrier remain. 

Next to rivals, it cuts a distinctive and quite attractive figure, with its sharp edges and purposeful proportions giving it a certain superficial cachet that some of the more anonymous, blobby electric crossovers on offer can't quite attain. 

There are elements where it seems the designers have been rather too overt in taking influence from existing designs – the slanting C-pillar is unmistakably a nod to the Ford Explorer, there's a hint of Range Rover in the rear lights and the front grille will inevitably draw comparisons with the trademark motif of a certain US 4x4 marque – but as a whole it succeeds in carving out a cohesive and largely agreeable new look for Ssangyong's new era.

INTERIOR

As with its petrol-powered sibling, the Torres EVX stands as an embodiment of KGM's ploy to wipe the less salubrious elements of Ssangyong's reputation from collective memory. The dashboard, centre console and door cards are shaped in a brutalist, clean-cut style that's a far cry from the characterless and somewhat unwelcoming Ssangyong interiors of old. 

It's decorated much more enticingly, too, with convincing metal-effect trim and faux leather topping every main touch point, and a choice of suitably upmarket materials and colours for the upholstery. 

Rap your knuckles on the surfaces and touch points and the hollow, tinny soundtrack will shatter the illusion of quality somewhat. Nor do the thin-rimmed steering wheel and overly firm seat base exactly make for a welcoming environment in which to while away the miles, and the switchgear doesn't feel of a quality that screams £45,000.  

But there's a slick, Kia-style wraparound digital panel atop the dashboard that hosts a graphically impressive infotainment touchscreen and driver display, which on the surface is the equal of anything you'd find in any other car at this price. It's pretty slow to react to inputs and easily overwhelmed, but in outright functionality terms it just about does what you'd need of it, and its interfaces and menus are arranged much more logically than in many an over-digitised rival.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

BYD supplies the single front-mounted motor and the 'Blade' battery that powers it, which – based on our experience of the Seal and Atto 3 – means we're inclined to believe the EVX wouldn't fall too far short of its 287-mile claimed range in daily use, though the conditions of our test didn't facilitate a proper economy run.

Maximum charging speed is put at a claimed 145kW, which is about in line with rivals, but KGM touts the resilience of the battery's LFP (lithium-iron-phosphate) chemistry, which is far more receptive to repeated fast charges than other chemistries, as a particular advantage. After 2000 fast-charge cycles, the company says, it would expect usable capacity to remain at more than 70%. 

In raw performance terms, the EVX doesn't land any massive blows on the likes of the Enyaq and Ioniq 5, with just 204bhp to call upon and a fairly sedate 0-62mph time of 8.1sec, but its reserves are metered out smoothly and predictably, so long as you're judicious enough with your throttle inputs to avoid lighting up the front wheels. 

We called out the petrol car for high levels of wind noise and tyre roar, and had expected these attributes to be exacerbated in the engine-less EVX, but pleasingly that's not the case: the cockpit feels far better insulated – perhaps another happy by-product of the under-floor battery – at a high-speed cruise. 

RIDE & HANDLING

Having tried the petrol-powered Torres in the UK, we found the suspension to be rather too crashy and stiffly sprung to cement its appeal as a competent, everyday all-rounder. Happily, though, it seems the extra weight of a chunky 73.4kWh battery has gone some way to improving the rolling refinement in the EV.

It's far less jittery, even on the appallingly finished rural back roads of our Turkish test route, and makes much less of a fuss about bumps and potholes. It's quieter too, and not just in the obvious sense. Wind noise and tyre roar at a cruise seem greatly diminished - even without the thrash of the four-banger to drown them out. 

There's a fair bit more wallowing to contend with over rolling roads, but overall it feels much more composed in a straight line, and – though the steering is fairly vague and unresponsive – the roll is impressively kept in check even in hard corners. 

Not that you'd be taking many corners enthusiastically on the Nexen Roadian tyres fitted to our car, which were liable to spin up for some distance from a standstill, and at least once when exiting a bend at barely more than half throttle - making for the worst Torres slide I've seen since… erm, that infamous Chelsea game. You know the one. Here's hoping the UK shipment is fitted with some stickier rubber.

VERDICT

Time was that your average prospective family crossover buyer would have baulked at the prospect of plumping for the outsider. You'd have your Qashqai, your RAV4, your Tiguan, and that'd do nicely. 

In that environment, the Torres would barely have stood a chance, and even in the context of today's more diverse SUV market, the petrol version of this rugged crossover will be about as disruptive as a sneeze in the next town over. 

But the increasing diversity of the electric crossover parc, expanding as it is with a seemingly endless wave of new entrants from China, Vietnam and the US, means the EVX should put up a tougher fight. Clearly, EV buyers are more willing to consider new brands - and if KGM is successful in presenting itself as such, rather than merely as Ssangyong Mk2, then why can't the electric Torres have just as much of a chance as the Fisker Ocean or Omoda 5?

It certainly holds its own in terms of carrying capacity, interior space and equipment - and even if it's found wanting dynamically, it has range and charging specifications that should cater effectively to the needs of its buyers, who you'd imagine won't be overly troubled by such trivialities as cornering performance. Still, though, we'd not fancy tackling a wet M25 on those Nexens.

Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: News and features editor

Felix is Autocar's news editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years.