SsangYong's SUV trio - the ever-faithful Musso, now available only as a double cab pickup, in 4x2 and 4x4 versions; the short wheelbase 4x4 Corrando, and the luxurious Rexton - are well known and well respected in South Africa, despite having gone through a number of management and ownership phases.
The current setup sees the vehicles imported through Imperial's Associated Motor Holdings, and the end result is a diversity of product starting to come through, the first of which is the new Stavic MPV, with more to follow - possibly including small cars made in China.
Reason is that SsangYong internationally is now owned by Shanghai Automotive, one of China's largest carmakers, although the SsangYong SUV and MPV models will continue to be made in Korea.
The Stavic is big and bold, though certainly not beautiful. "Strong and masculine" would be one way of describing it, although there are some who might be less kind.
For my money, it's certainly not boring, and it has some exterior design features which are certainly interesting, such as the cutaway at the back and the sweeping window lines that make it seem more coupe-like than MPV.
At the front there's a big exaggerated "smiley face" grille that certainly ensures you won't mistake the Stavic for anything else.
The grille is flanked by large high intensity head lamps. The large swing doors provide easy access to the second and third row seats
By the way, "Stavic" means "Rising star" in Korean, and SsangYong SA will be making great play on that in the next few months in its advertising.
Big and bold
One thing you CAN'T say about the Stavic is that it's small. At over 5 metres long, 1.9 metres wide and 1.8 metres high the Stavic has a powerful presence, and this is also reflected in its interior space, defintely among the best in its class.
At the launch only a few cars were available, so this resulted in having to share at five to a car. And this wasn't necessarilly a bad thing, for it ensured we tried out all the seats.
I started out right at the back, in the third single bench seat, and firstly, I found access easy by climbing in past the second row.
Then getting comfortable - the rear seat, as with all the others, reclines, so I could get the backrest just right. And I could also adjust the fore-aft movement so that both I and the guy in front of me in the second row seat had enough legroom.
The Stavic has quite a sophisticated suspension, with double wishbones at the front and a 10-link setup at the back, and this resulted in ride quality far better than I had expected.
You noticed some of the harder bumps right in the back, but they didn't transfer through to your derriere!
It was interesteing to note, too, that there are separate air outlet vents in the back so you get air conditioned air right in your face, with your own controller for air flow.
Later I transferred to the driver's seat, and here things were a lot more comfortable, with superb ride quality and a great driving position.
The Stavic is powered by the latest version of the Mercedes-Benz 2.7-litre 5-cylinder common rail turbo diesel (built under licence) and it pushes out a lusty 121 kW of power with a healthy 340 Nm of torque, so even at the power-sapping Johannesburg altitude there was lots of wooma.
The engine is linked to a 5-speed Mercedes tiptronic-type gearbox which offers either full auto or sequential manual functions, and this gives a quick and smooth response.
Initial pullaway - the first few metres - reflected the Stavic's hefty two tons kerb weight, plus the five journos aboard, but once rolling the car had remarkably able pickup and easy overtaking ability.
SsangYong claims a top speed of 174 km/h and 0-100 km/h acceleration in 13.5 seconds, and I have no reason to doubt those figures.
Claimed fuel economy ranges between 12.4 litres/100 km in urban conditions to 8.6 litres/100 km on the open road.
The centre cluster consists of speedometer, rev counter, fuel and heat gauge while the warning and operation lamps have been placed in front of the driver.
The middle seats have dual armrests to for added comfort. Middle and rear seats slide forward or back for increased leg room or packing space and boot space is 620 litres BEFORE theseats have been folded.
A multi-meter is mounted overhead and provides useful information such as travel time, average speed, date and time as well as featuring a compass, barometric pressure as well as an altimeter.
A large dual centre console has ample space for CDs and so on.
The leather clad steering wheel has paddle style audio and remote controls for the audio system which features front loader CD player, tape deck, equaliser and a six speaker sound system.
The Stavic features electronically controlled air conditioning which includes an air quality control system.
Driver and passenger airbags are standard and the Stavic also features front, side and roof protection.
ABS brakes with EBD are standard as well as an automatic light switch and headlamp height adjusters.
The STAVIC is priced from R299 900 for the SV 270 A/T which includes a 3 year 100 000 km warranty and a 3 year 60 000 km maintenance plan.
Length: 5 125 mm
Width: 1 915 mm
Height: 1 820 mm
Wheel base: 3 000 mm
Front track: 1 590 mm
Rear track: 1 580 mm
Gross vehicle weight: 2 750 kg
Kerb weight: 2 034 kg
Gross trailer weight
Braked: 2 500 kg
Un-braked: 750 kg
Size: 2 696 cc
Number of cylinders: 5
Max Power: 121 kW at 4 000 r/min
Max Torque: 342 Nm at 2 400 r/min
Max Speed: 174km/h
0-100km/h: 13.5 secs.
Urban: 12.4 litres/100km
Highway: 8.6 litres/100km
Combined: 9.9 litres/100km
Fuel tank capacity: 80 litres
Drive wheels: rear