A couple of years ago I saw Robin Williams live at the New York Metropolitan. In the show he suggested that our Creator must have partaken of an illegal substance on the day that he created the Duck Billed Platypus!
I am relieved its only Ken Greenley, Ssangyong's designer, that I have to wonder the same of, this time for the design of the Kyron.
While from some angles the Kyron is distinctly attractive, it is when moving around the back that you can't help but wonder what Greenley was thinking.
However, had Williams continued, he may have said that the Platypus has the benefit of being good in both the wet and the dry.
The Kyron is as well.
The pricing puts it up against soft roaders like the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage.
It might be argued that they are prettier than the Kyron, but few are as capable.
The Kyron is not a soft roader but rather a large and capable 4x4 with low range and a grippy and sorted chassis.
Interior space is always a practical consideration in a lifestyle vehicle and the Kyron certainly has more than enough of that.
Perhaps tall back seat passengers could do with a little more legroom but it's the 625 litres of packing space in the rear that really wins the day.
Dashboard and interior plastics seem to be constructed from high quality materials and the detailing is quite impressive.
At the price it's also well stocked.
Even the base models have air conditioning, locally fitted CD, and electric windows, while the higher spec models add climate control and leather interior.
Other features include dual front airbags, front seatbelt pre-tensioners, anti-lock brakes, disc brakes, foglights, rear three-point centre seat belt, 18-inch alloys, leather steering wheel, steering wheel audio controls, two 12-volt outlets, electric folding mirrors, 60/40-split fold rear seat, cruise control, as well as electric windows and mirrors.
Manual models offer a five speed gearbox, while there's also a Mercedes sourced five speed auto T-Tronic gearbox with manual override.
A leftover from its left-hand drive design is the handbrake that's a stretch across the central arm.
Despite the fact that I am height challenged; I am pleased to report that, in spite of its positioning, there is little difficulty in reaching it.
Overall the interior impresses with a sense of quality and build integrity that belies its quite low price tag.
On and off the road
Unlike the early Mussos, this new Kyron has an "unofficially designed by Mercedes", 2-litre diesel engine that produces a maximum output of 104kW and delivers 310Nm of torque.
The 2 ton weight of the Kyron somewhat dulls the acceleration but competently picks up the slack in the mid-range.
For a diesel 4x4 it is remarkably quiet. Turn the key and it's almost difficult to tell whether you are in a diesel or petrol. Accelerate away and you notice a brief moment of turbo lag followed by ample pull.
The launch took place at Entambeni Lodge, three hours north of Johannesburg.
We began our 4x4 route at the cliff edge of an extraordinary escarpment where we had enjoyed breakfast and the view.
It was from here that we embarked on a moderately taxing 4x4 route through the Polokwane bushveld.
Driving the Kyron through the rough is a luxurious affair.
Surrounded by swaths of leather, air-conditioning and background music could almost lull you into a sense of forgetting where you are.
One quickly remembers when suddenly faced with a rocky incline.
Engaging low range (Hill descent control will be optional) and slipping the auto box into first I gingerly traversed the obstacle.
The Kyron did well.
Unfortunately it does have an Achilles Heel?ground clearance.
The official stats give the front clearance as 210mm and the rear as 199mm. That may not seem too bad but it's the weight and the springing of the vehicle that causes the trouble.
With the 4x4 route completed it was off to Johannesburg along the N1 highway.
Since most Kyrons are probably going to spend the vast majority of their lives on tar; I am pleased to say that they are very quiet and comfortable highway cruisers.
I travelled at very comfortable speeds around the limit for most of the drive back to Johannesburg.
The only slight irritation was the refusal of the T-Tronic auto box to manually kick down to third at speed. While this compromised overtaking ability (and individual freedom), the Kyron managed to sprint with sufficient gusto to get past most highway traffic.
At first the car seems to have soft suspension that results in body roll, but more experience with the vehicle teaches you that damping is actually well judged and steering both alert and crisp.
The use of a Landrover Defender style separate chassis might not be conducive to ride quality and some road surfaces result in a shimmering feel, as if the body and chassis were "dancing" to a different tune to that of the suspension!
The funny thing is that, despite the spongy suspension and the squiggly body, when you are belting along at speed it surprises with relative accuracy and pretty keen steering.
The manual gearbox is a gem as it is crisp and the clutch is light, while the five speed auto with "learning function" is as good as you would expect from Mercedes.
The workhorse engine, plus Defender style underpinnings with switchable four wheel drive, makes the Kyron quite a tough broad off road.
Possibly the only thing that gets in the way of the Kyron being a full on gung-ho 4x4 is the ground clearance.
Other than that, the traction, ability and suppleness all impress.
Styling apart, the Kyron offers a stack of equipment, decent interior, value for money and most of all, a certain honesty that may catch on and make it a successful seller.
PS: For those who want the look, but not the cost and extra weight of a 4x4, there's also a 4x2 version.
- SsangYong Kyron 2.0 diesel 4x2 manual R249 995
- SsangYong Kyron 2.0 diesel 4x4 manual R269 995
- SsangYong Kyron 2.0 diesel 4x4 automatic R289 995.