Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Kelvin Christian Go | posted May 31, 2016 14:45
SsangYong is back in the country, and in a big way.
SsangYong is back, and the same company behind the resurgence of Mazda in the Philippines is taking charge of it.
SsangYong Berjaya Motor Philippines (SBMP) is the new distributor of the automaker in the country, taking over the reins from previous distributor/dealer, Wheels, Incorporated. With Managing Director David Macasadia at the helm, SBMP looks to re-enter the market in a strong way.
After our recent drive of all of SsangYong Philippines's models, here are some of our thoughts at the Korean brand's comeback effort in the market.
Much better styling, especially for Rodius
Many of us remember how ugly SsangYongs were. Such was the case for the Stavic and Actyon, two vehicles that begged the question: "What soju were they drinking when they designed these?"
Of course progress was inevitable, and thankfully SsangYong's new range of models are far better looking than their predecessors. Really, the comparison between the look of the current models compared to the previous generation is like day and night.
The Tivoli looks properly young and funky, and has quite a few shades of Mini Countryman in the design. The Korando is no longer a Jeep knockoff and looks properly modern, thanks to Italdesign Giugaro. The Stavic has likewise been heavily restyled for the better, and they've abandoned the old name and used Rodius instead.
Thankfully, they don't offer the Actyon.
Android-based entertainment units
We particularly enjoyed the entertainment units on the new SsangYong range. Instead of opting for the standard integrated audio system that most manufacturers have on their models' dashboards, SsangYong chose to fit 2-DIN, widescreen head units on theirs.
The audio systems on these cars are actually locally installed, and use Android operating systems. Yes, for those of us who are used to Android, this will be a cinch to get acclimatized to.
Generous space all around
Another great factor of the new SsangYong range is space. There's just plenty of it to go around.
The Korando is nicely proportioned with loads of legroom for front and rear passengers. The Tivoli is also surprisingly spacious and has decent headroom. Even the SsangYong XLV was thrown in the mix; it's basically a bigger Tivoli, one that has its dimensions stretched by 300mm for more trunk space. They're not offering this yet, and it's the first unit in the country.
The Rodius likewise has good space, for the first three rows, but the passengers on the fourth row will be left a bit wanting for leg and knee room. Still, the ability to carry seven, nine or eleven passengers is a great quality to have in a place with no distinction between immediate and extended families.
Good diesel power and torque
We in the motoring press remember how the previous SsangYong dealer highlighted their Mercedes-Benz connection so strongly that they would rather have you believe that their cars were made in Germany and not South Korea. The connection really was in terms of their diesel engines, but now the connection is stronger with their new owners: Mahindra & Mahindra.
Based on our drive of the new Korando and Rodius, their new turbodiesel engine line-up offers very good power and torque given their size. We thoroughly enjoyed their performance on the fast roads in and around Bataan. We'll get more in depth with them later.
The return of SsangYong was timed to coincide with the recently activated ASEAN-Korea Free Trade Agreement, thereby opening the doors for the Korean automaker because of reduced tariffs through SBMP.
As such, the Tivoli starts at PhP 785,000 up to PhP 1,080,000. The larger Korando is available from PhP 1,090,000 to PhP 1,390,000. The Sta.. er.. Rodius is available in three seating arrangements, and is priced from PhP 1,290,000 up to PhP 1,590,000.
Mr. Macasadia says the key to SBMP's strategy is to focus more on provincial sales alongside NCR operations given their pricing and positioning. The company is already starting to set up dealerships at key provincial cities around the country.