First drive: The SsangYong Turismo is far better than its looks suggest
Need a big people carrier for a bargain price? Tom Wiltshire tests the SsangYong Turismo, which could be the answer
What is it?
The demise of the MPV means that seven-seaters are becoming more limited. Put simply, three-row crossovers tend to be five-seaters with two very tiny rear seats – unsuitable for all but the smallest of children.
Enter the SsangYong Turismo – an unashamedly old-school MPV with genuine space for seven adults and a bargain price tag. But what compromises have to be made to sell a car the size of a small country for the price of a family hatchback?
We’re driving the recently facelifted Turismo, which gains a new-look front fascia including LED daytime running lights. The front of the car is now in line with the rest of SsangYong’s range, and it’s bolstered by new 16-inch alloy wheels, which do look a bit tiny against the Turismo’s mile-high flanks.
Inside, there’s a new infotainment system, which is a massive improvement over the old third-party unit.
What’s under the bonnet?
There’s only one engine available in the Turismo range and it’s an old Mercedes unit – a hefty 2.2-litre diesel lump producing 178bhp and mated to a seven-speed automatic gearbox. The combination is certainly well proven but its age shows – though it’s fully compliant with the latest Euro 6d emissions regulations.
The diesel is raucous when revved and has an unpleasant metallic note, while performance is rather lacking in the mid-range – though that’s possibly to be expected from a car that’s about as heavy as a baby whale.
Perhaps surprisingly, we found fuel economy to be decent during our time with it. Achieving 38mpg on a run isn’t anything special, but it’s no less than you’d get from a VW Caravelle or Land Rover Discovery.
What’s it like to drive?
Just one look at the SsangYong Turismo ought to let you know that this is not a sporty or dynamic car to drive – but then, how many supertankers do you see lapping the Nürburgring?
Head into a corner and the Turismo leans drastically, with the comparatively tiny tyres easily overwhelmed. Unfortunately, this isn’t backed up with the cushioned ride that you might expect.
The Turismo manages to be too soft when cornering while being too firm over potholes – it thuds over imperfections in the road and doesn’t iron out potholes as well as a Citroen Grand C4 Spacetourer does.
The steering is light, but you’ll be doing plenty of arm-twirling – there are four turns from lock to lock. It’s worth mentioning that the Turismo does offer selectable four-wheel drive with a proper low-range gearbox, as well as a 2.7-tonne towing capacity – making it considerably more useful for big loads than many SUVs.
How does it look?
All credit to the Turismo, it’s vastly better looking than its predecessor, the Rodius. However, given that MPV’s legendary status as one of the biggest crimes against automotive styling of all time, that’s not saying much.
The Turismo’s proportions and size are impossible to hide, and from many angles, especially the rear three-quarter, it just looks awkward. The front is slightly better, with a smart upright corporate grille and imposing front end. Old-fashioned halogen headlights do spoil the effect, though.
We can’t help but feel SsangYong tried a little too hard with the design of the Turismo. A plainer yet simpler design along the lines of the VW Caravelle may have made those Brobdingnagian proportions a little easier to swallow.
What’s it like inside?
Size matters, especially when passenger space is a priority. It should come as no surprise then that the oil-rig-sized Turismo offers seven supremely spacious seats in a 2-2-3 layout. There aren’t any sliding doors as in a Ford Galaxy, so access isn’t as easy as it could be, but the massive rear doors have huge windows, giving rear passengers a great view out.
The seats aren’t especially clever, though – they don’t fold into the floor as in a Grand C4 Picasso, and if you want to turn the Turismo into a van you’ll need to remove them completely. That’s a difficult chore, and one that requires at least two people.
Up front, the Turismo shows its age once more. The centre console is a symphony of cheap plastics, with ugly analogue dials arranged in the middle of the dashboard. The new infotainment system is a big improvement and easy to use, but it’s mounted too low on the dashboard and is difficult to see on the move.
What’s the spec like?
The basic SsangYong Turismo starts from just over £20,000. You might be expecting a spartan equipment list for that but it’s surprisingly generous. All cars get seven seats, a leather steering wheel, remote locking, four electric windows, dual-zone climate control and electric mirrors.
Mid-spec EX, for £22,745 adds privacy glass, electric and heated front seats, leather upholstery and rear parking sensors, while top-spec ELX is decked out with a touchscreen infotainment system and selectable four-wheel drive – and it’s still cheaper than even a basic Volkswagen Sharan at £26,995. An automatic gearbox is standard with ELX and optional on EX.
If what you need from a car is a ballroom-sized interior then step forward – the SsangYong Turismo offers the space of a van wrapped up in an MPV-shaped package, then slaps a supermini price tag on it. We’d recommend a test drive to ensure you can handle the old-fashioned driving dynamics and Poundland interior though – we suspect this car will be cross-shopped with lightly used examples of far more comfortable and talented MPVs. Whether the allure of a bargain price tag and impressive five-year warranty wins out over a premium badge and smoother drive will be a point of contention.
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