SsangYong's Turismo offers impressive value in the largest segment of the MPV market. Now it gets an upgraded 2.2-litre Euro6 diesel engine and more up-to-date transmission for more efficient returns. The experts at Car & Driving check it out.
Ten Second Review
If you're after a really large People Carrier that can not only take seven people but all their luggage as well, you're probably thinking in terms of models like Ford's Galaxy and Volkswagen's Sharan - which require a £25,000 to £330,000 budget. In contrast, the vehicle under consideration here, SsangYong's Turismo, costs from around £19,000. When originally launched, this MPV's major real drawback lay in less than competitive running cost efficiency, but the Korean brand has now made moves to address that by replacing the original 2.0-litre diesel unit with an upgraded 2.2-litre Euro6 powerplant mated to a more modern Mercedes-sourced 7-speed auto gearbox.
SsangYong has long offered buyers a huge People Carrier but in times gone by, that role in the range was filled by their ungainly Rodius model. In 2014 though, the marque introduced the more acceptably-styled Turismo large MPV we're looking at here - a much more competitive and very well priced contender.
Despite that, sales of this model have been modest here, possibly because the original version's 2.0-litre diesel had an appetite for black pump fuel. Aware of this, SsangYong has updated the powerplant on offer and this current version's e-XDi220 unit looks a much more competitive offering.
This is where the biggest changes have come with this car. In place of the old tried and tested 155PS 2.0-litre diesel, Turismo buyers now get a 178PS 2.2-litre unit that has 15% more power. Naturally, with under 180PS powering such a big vehicle, you're not going to win too many traffic light grands prix, but the torque at hand (there's 400Nm of it) means that the Rodius Turismo will rarely struggle, even when fully loaded. You may have to work a little at the 6-speed manual transmission, and if we were fronting up our own money, we'd probably opt for the smooth shifting 7-speed Mercedes-Benz-sourced automatic option. That's a gearbox also fresh to this revised model and a big improvement over the previous five-speed unit.
As before, the Turismo utilises double wishbone front suspension and rear independent multi-link suspension for reasonable ride quality. This set-up offers a quiet and comfortable driving environment, yet with decent body control, a flat ride and acceptable stability for what remains a very high-sided vehicle. The transmission directs drive to the rear wheels as standard but you can also choose a top EX four-wheel drive variant for added security in bad weather and off road. It even features a low ratio gearbox for additional grip. You'll have to be mindful of ground clearance and overhangs, but in bad weather this is a real advantage.
Design and Build
We could talk millimetres of headroom, wheelbase and such like, but in order to really get a handle on the size of the Turismo's body, consider this. In some world markets, this design can be sold as an eleven-seater! Therefore, when you 'only' try to accommodate seven people, you have a fairly unconfined amount of breathing space. In case you're interested, the wheelbase measures 3,000mm, which is about the same as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but the huge rear overhang means this SangYong is significantly longer than something like the latest Range Rover.
This helps solve that problem inherent in most seven-seat MPV-style vehicles. Namely of having no luggage space available when all the seats are in use. In fact, there's more room in the back of the Turismo with all the seats in place than you'd get if, in the same configuration, you combined the luggage capacities of a Ford Galaxy, a Vauxhall Zafira Tourer and a SEAT Alhambra. There are three rows of seats as well as a large load area which can be further increased by removing the third row completely. The second row of seats can be folded individually and used as tables and there is still sufficient room to accommodate airline-style seat back folding tables.
Market and Model
Prices are way below other super-large People Carriers of a similar size, meaning that the base 'SE' variant starts at just £19,000. That includes a comprehensive five year warranty and features like air conditioning, electrically operated & heated door mirrors, a leather-covered steering wheel and gear knob and an MP3 CD & RDS radio with a USB & auxiliary port and Bluetooth connectivity. You'll need to upgrade to the 'EX' model (around £21,000) if you want the £1,500 option of automatic transmission that we'd recommend. At the top of the line-up is an 'ELX' model that comes only with 4WD and automatic transmission. Here, niceties like leather upholstery, an electrically adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats and rear parking sensors are standard.
SsangYong have also gone large on safety gear, including in this car Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Active Roll over Protection (ARP) and a Brake Assist System (BAS). There are dual front and side air bags, while ISO-Fix and tether anchorage points for child seats are fitted on the second row. Passive safety is further increased thanks to two high strength sub-frames fitted to the front and rear of the car. These help to disperse any impact shocks from a frontal or off set collision and protect passengers by minimising cabin distortion.
Cost of Ownership
An MPV this large is never going to be massively cheap to run - which is why no brand in this segment offers petrol power any more. For SsangYong, efficiency has taken a decent step forward with the adoption of this model's 2.2-litre Euro6 diesel. Combined cycle fuel consumption is rated at 39.2mpg on the manual model (a couple of mpg better than before), while CO2 emissions are now rated at 189g/km (10g/km better than before). Go for the auto gearbox and the respective figures are 37.7mpg and 196g/km. Opt for the flagship 4x4 variant and you can expect 36.2mpg and 205g/km. True, SsangYong still has a way to go in this respect - the figures of, say, a Ford Galaxy or a Volkswagen Sharan are much better - but of course you're paying much less up-front for a slightly bigger vehicle here.
In rough terms, you're looking at running costs that are pretty much the same as those you'd get from comparable big van-based MPVs like Hyundai's i800 and Volkswagen's Caravelle.
Improving this Turismo model was never going to need rocket science. It just required a more modern engine and transmission combination. Now that it has exactly that, we can fully recommend it if you've a restricted budget but still need a properly large seven-seat People mover. True, other rivals offer more efficient running costs and more car-like driving dynamics but you could be paying up to £10,000 more for them; that's a big difference when you've a family of mouths to feed.
From being a bit of an automotive in-joke, SsangYong's big MPV has suddenly become a vehicle that attracts the smart money. From big family owners to minicab operators, this Korean contender suddenly pops up on the radar as something you can't afford to overlook. Check it out. It's been fully rehabilitated.