FIRST DRIVE: SsangYong Actyon Sports

Saying that the new SsangYong Actyon Sports is a vast visual improvement over the old model is an understatement on par with Neville Chamberlin deciding that that chap with the funny moustache in charge of Germany in 1938 wasn’t actually that bad a bloke.

Which is an historically-referenced way of saying that while the Actyon was a fine ute, it was uglier than a box of broken arses. This is thankfully no longer the case with the introduction of the new model.

What is it?

Basically it is the “other” Korean manufacturer’s latest entrant in the current hot segment – the utility market.

With the big boys all literally getting bigger (Ranger, BT-50, Colorado, Navara and, more than likely next-gen Hilux) the Actyon has remained in the “smaller” ute category. This is largely because it is still basically the same ute behind it’s pretty new face.

But don’t take that in the wrong way, because unlike in the Hilux sense of the phrase, the “proven technology” under the Actyon was actually very good to begin with. And still relatively up to date as well.

Essentially an extensive facelift, the “new” Actyon features a new nose, new tail, new side skirts, a revamped interior, but most significantly a new 2.0-litre diesel engine. Hooked up to the new 114kW/360Nm engine is a choice of either a six-speed automatic or a new six-speed manual transmission.

The Actyon comes in 2WD and 4WD guise, with the 4WD also being available in high-spec SPR guise. All models come with a choice of either the manual or auto transmission.

The standard model, in either 2WD or 4WD guise, comes standard with an impressive amount of kit, including stability control, two airbags, hill start assist, air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth phone connectivity, heated seats and cruise control, while the SPR adds climate control air con, 18-inch alloy wheels, electric seat adjustments (8-way drivers, 4-way passengers), leather trim, auto wipers and headlights and backing sensors.

What’s it Like?

To say that the Actyon’s ride is car-like would be a bare-faced lie, but it’s remarkably not far off the mark for a ute. It’s multi-link rear suspension, while still obviously set up to carry a decent load in the remarkably wide – but still short – tray offers a far more car-like experience that the majority of its segment brethren, with the possible exception of the remarkable Amarok and the Ranger/BT-50 twins.

The Actyon remains composed through corners with minimal body roll for such a high vehicle. The 2.0-litre diesel engine pulls willingly, only occasionally showing it’s lack of cubic capacity – mainly up in the revs – with its only real downside coming in the manual transmission-equipped vehicles, where it is all too easy to run into the rev-limiter when attempting a passing maneuver or a quick sprint through the gears.

Off the road the last Actyon was limited by its relatively poor ground clearance and it is still unfortunately an issue here. With 188mm of frontal ground clearance and 212mm at the rear, it is the frontal clearance that holds the Actyon back. Approach and departure angles of 25 degrees are more than acceptable, however, as with the last model a 50mm lift kit is available that makes the Actyon a far more formidable bush basher.

On and off road the Actyon is a remarkably comfortable and quiet proposition, with supportive seats and extremely good sound deadening.

The interior is basically a refinement of the previous model, with new vents, stereo and gauges, but it works well in modernising what was always a pretty good interior to begin with. Most of the plastics are pretty hard, but the quality is generally good, especially when you consider the price. Which is the Actyon’s king-hit.

Starting at $36,990 for the 2WD manual, the Actyon rises to $47,990 for the fully-loaded 4WD SPR automatic, making it look particularly impressive against everything apart from the Chinese offerings. But in terms of quality, the Chinese utes simply cannot compete, making the SsangYong easily the best value-for-money proposition in the New Zealand ute market.

What’s good about it?

The price, and specifically what you get for it, for a start. Even ignoring the massive price advantage the Actyon has over the equivalently-specced opposition, the basic package is still startlingly impressive.

The engine is strong and the auto transmission is particularly impressive, but possibly the most impressive aspect of the new Actyon is its startling transformation from the ugly duckling of the ute segment to one of the better-lookers.

Then there is the fact that the Actyon hasn’t ballooned up to the truly massive proportions of others in the ute market, making it one of the easier utes to get around town in – not to mention off the road.

What’s not so good?

The engine has a tendency to run out of breath slightly when higher up in the rev range as well as the aforementioned ease of finding the rev limiter when passing in the manual. The manual also misses out on the footrest present in the auto.

The tray, while especially deep and wide, is on the short side, making for a slightly awkward load space, but dropping the tailgate goes a long way to make up for this.

And two airbags really isn’t enough these days, even in a ute and the lap-only centre rear seat belt is simply unforgivable.

First Impressions?

These unfortunate lapses aside, driving the Actyon around Taupo on the recent launch showed it to be in impressive package both on and off the road. Ride quality is impressive, as is handling, while the spec level for the money is remarkable, not to mention unique in the ute segment.

While a 2.0-litre ute may not be the best for heavy towing work, the Actyon will do pretty much anything else the bigger-engined competition does, and for a lot less money too.

The icing on the cake just happens to be the massively improved looks, which now make the Actyon something that is truly desirable. Something that sure couldn’t be said of its unfortunate predecessor, no matter how capable it was.

Specifications

Models/prices

Sports 2WD (man) – $36,990
Sports 2WD (auto) – $38,990
Sports 4WD (man) – $39,990
Sports 4WD (auto) – $41,990
SPR 4WD (man) – $45,990
SPR 4WD (auto) – $47,990

Powertrain

2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel producing 114kW/360Nm; six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission; rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive
Fuel consumption: 7.5L/100km (2WD/man); 7.8L/100km (2WD/auto); 7.6L/100km (4WD/man); 8.1L/100km (4WD/auto)
CO2 emissions: 196g/km(2WD/man); 204g/km (2WD/auto); 199g/km (4WD/man); 212g/km (4WD/auto)

Safety

ANCAP/EuroNCAP rating: Not tested yet
Air bags: 2
Stability control: Yes
Lap/diagonal belts: 4

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  • Denis Vitry

    Hi,

    I am buying the new ssangyong actyon sports and would like to know where I can buy the 50 mm lift kit.

    Thanks for your help,

    Denis

    • Hi Denis, I sent you an email about this – I hope you got it! Your nearest SsangYong dealer will be able to help.

      • Denis Vitry

        Hi Damien, thks a lot for your help. Our local Ssangyong ditributor does not import the lift kit for the moment, I will get it directly from the NZ distributor. By the way I am from Mauritius Island.

        Best regards.

  • Andrew

    Hi. Does the two wheel drivehave a llimited slip diff?