SsangYong Turismo review: gentle giant lumbers on unchallenged
The SsangYong Turismo is the biggest of the budget cars.
Optimised for seven occupants and with a starting price of less than £20,000, its easy to see the appeal of this wafty family barge, but its dated interior, clumsy handling and total lack of badge appeal might push buyers towards the second-hand market.
A new 2.2-litre diesel engine brings the Turismo into the 21st Century (and Euro 6 compliance). At the top of the range is a four-wheel-drive version with enough off-road ability for most ad-hoc mud-plugging – combined with winter tyres, the £25,000 4x4 Turismo finds itself in an arena dominated by much more expensive players.
Bigger than it looks, which is remarkable
The SsangYong Turismo is an enormous car. Its gargantuan exterior dimensions disguise an even more enormous cabin, though, with unparalleled levels of space for middle seat passengers and fairly roomy quarters for everyone else. Boot space goes from ‘huge’ to ‘massive’ as soon as you fold down the Turismo’s many seats – you’d really need to buy a van if you wanted to carry much more cargo.
The unusual two-two-three format is a flexible one, too. As well as creating a sense of roominess that you don’t get with a middle bench seat, it allows for (slightly) more dignified access to the back row. Sitting on that rear bench is definitely the short straw as far as passenger experience is concerned, but SsangYong’s interpretation of the setup goes a long way to improve life for regular tailgunners.
Good up to a point
Because of all this space, the Turismo is a comfortable space to occupy. What stands out is the elbow room, especially in the middle row where the “captain’s seats” allow for two adults to sit abreast in comfort. The very back seat presents less space for passengers, but the Turismo is still among the best for enabling adults to use that very rear row. At any rate, the back seat is more comfortable than the middle seat of any other rear bench.
Taller passengers may find headroom limited. A 6’4” driver will be surprised to use the full extent of the Turismo’s head- and legroom, especially given the van-like height of the vehicle. The driving position is slightly awkward to anyone accustomed to conventional cars, leading to a rather old-fashioned driving experience.
Heated seats and other creature comforts are available at certain trim levels, but with a budget car like this it’s easy to price yourself out of the value band. We’ll address that issue later.
Dashboard layout 6/10
Pretty messed up
If you’d never been in a car before, you’d be forgiven for laying out a dashboard like that of the Turismo. Behind the steering wheel, where in every other vehicle the manufacturer has placed the main instrument binnacle, is a simple display that shows what gear you’re in. This isn’t very useful at all, and certainly doesn’t merit pride of place in the prime ‘at-a-glance’ real estate of your field of vision.
The speedometer is all the way over in the middle of the dashboard. Again, anyone who’s driven a car before will not only be surprised to see it there, but will repeatedly bamboozle themselves
SsangYong Turismo review: gentle giant lumbers on unchallenged
8th December 2016
every time they look down to check their speed. It takes some serious getting used to, and the display itself is awkward to look at from an angle.
On top of that, the touchscreen is among the worst for this size of vehicle and the handbrake is uniquely inconvenient. You can overcome these issues by not ordering the (optional) Kenwood infotainment system, and by using the ‘Park’ gear of the automatic gearbox.
Easy to drive 5/10
Any bigger and you’d need a pilot boat
The SsangYong Turismo is more car-like than many similar-sized vehicles, and arguably an improvement on its predecessor, the Rodius. But that’s because similar-sized vehicles are mostly vans, and the Rodius was really pretty bad.
Navigating the Turismo around town takes some skill. Rear visibility is especially limited, so the rear parking sensors are an essential extra for anyone expecting to spend a lot of time on congested roads or in tight carparks.
Good forward visibility helps the Turismo’s case, however, and the steering is light enough for urban traffic. The seven-speed automatic gearbox pulls consistently enough for all road types and the car never feels breathless under acceleration. The 4x4 options – too expensive to buy on a whim, but recommended for those who need them – are easy to operate.
Fun to drive 4/10
Driving pleasure has never been a big part of the Turismo’s identity, even in its earlier Rodius form. It’s a massive machine designed to carry seven adults around in reasonable comfort over long distances and varied road conditions. It delivers a smooth, inoffensive ride, without any real excitement whatsoever.
If you start to drive the Turismo expressively, physics immediately asks you to stop. The body roll is remarkable, thanks to the high centre of gravity and fundamentally yielding suspension. It’s possible to find yourself hanging onto the steering wheel if you try to tackle a roundabout with injudicious amounts of speed – funny, perhaps, but not fun.
The basic Turismo is a simple car with a ladder chassis and rear-wheel-drive. On a slippery track, it is possible to coax some oversteer out of this configuration. If you and six passengers like to go drifting, you’re really limited to this or the Hyundai i800.
SsangYong offers a five-year unlimited mileage warranty on their Turismo. This is one of the most generous in the business, rivalled only by the likes of Kia and Hyundai. A paucity of SsangYong dealerships means that service provision is patchy in places, but the strong warranty nevertheless adds peace-of-mind. While SsangYong hasn’t featured on many dependability surveys, and anecdotal evidence is thin in the ground, the company is renowned for making rugged (if somewhat crude) SUVs that survive into old age.
Fuel economy 7/10
Not bad, considering its sheer heft
You can expect fuel economy of between 25mpg and 35mpg depending on how
heavy your right foot is and whether you’ve chosen a four-wheel-drive model. While choosing that added versatility of 4x4 only dents the official fuel consumption figure by about 5mpg, the cost of that equipment is still too high to be a ‘might as well’ purchase for most buyers.
Harsh acceleration will bring that figure down further, and isn’t in keeping with the laid-back nature of the car anyway. Sensible driving should result in fuel efficiency of around 30 miles per gallon, which is pretty impressive considering the Turismo’s playload.
The cheapest in its class
The SsangYong wins by default here, by virtue of the fact that it has no real competition. If you need to carry six adults around but can’t spend more than £20,000, the Turismo is the only car you can have that isn’t second-hand. The Hyundai i800 offers one more seat (at the expense of that passenger’s comfort) but costs more.
Finance offers aren’t particularly generous here, so you’re better off buying the Turismo outright if you can. SsangYongs suffer from precipitous depreciation so it’s worth having a look at the classifieds for a nearly-new example, but while you’re there you might as well see what else is on the market – models like the Seat Alhambra and Ford Galaxy offer a premium second hand option for less than a new Turismo.
No Euro NCAP results
Standard safety equipment across the range includes front and side airbags, a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS), speed-sensing door locks and other fairly ordinary equipment. Active Rollover Protection (ARP) detects when the Turismo is about to flip over and selectively applies brakes on the individual corners in an attempt to prevent the car from ending up on its roof. In something as tall as the Turismo, this is a useful standard feature.
Standard equipment 7/10
Lowest spec might be best value
The Turismo SE is the cheapest version you can buy, weighing in at less than £20,000 for a massive car. For that you get a leather steering wheel, air conditioning, Bluetooth, electric heated wing mirrors – all niceties that cost extra on a lot of more expensive cars. In fact, buyers of the SE trim level only miss out on the upgraded (heated, leather, adjustable) seats, as everything else on the options list (rain-sensing wipers, privacy glass, cruise control) can easily be written off as frivolities.
However, the Turismo EX – one trim level up – still represents sensible money. Leather seats with more adjustability and, crucially, electric heaters in the front make the cabin feel merely old-fashioned rather than cheap. A full-sized spare wheel comes as standard in the Turismo EX, which is a must-have for many drivers. Rear parking sensors make reversing this beast easier (though still not exactly easy) and the privacy glass might deter the most lackadaisical thieves. Combined, these improvements are arguably worth the money.
The problem is, this pushes the SsangYong Turismo well over the £20,000 mark and into hotly disputed territory. It’s worth exploring second-hand options, as well as stretching your budget to accommodate more mainstream cars. Finance deals elsewhere are likely to lure budget buyers upmarket, and the top-of-the-range Turismo is brilliant in such a specific way that it’ll only ever be a niche purchase.
Oh, and many buyers will want to avoid the third-party touchscreen infotainment system – while it’s useful to have a reversing camera, that and the screen combined will cost you over a grand.
The clear winner of a one-horse race
You don’t see the SsangYong Turismo very often, and the reason for that is simple – there isn’t a huge demand for a £20k seven-seater, even less so for one with four-wheel-drive. But for the handful of people who need precisely this setup, the Turismo has no real competitors. The only way to get more functionality for your money is on the second-hand market, and even then the SsangYong – with its five-year warranty, heated seats and spacious cabin – still might be the better buy.
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