Korean auto brand, SsangYong, isn’t a household name yet in the country, not by any stretch of imagination, but they’ve silently made huge strides since their return in 2016.
SsangYong Berjaya Motor Philippines, the brand’s exclusive importer and distributor, reports that sales last year went up by a whopping 140-percent.
Don’t raise your eyebrow just yet. Their modest target was only 500 units for their first year so doubling that the next year is already a feat considering they only have three models in the market. The Tivoli, priced at just a shade above a million, accounts for 43-percent of its total sales, but coming in a close second is the larger XLV.
It’s larger and more expensive at P1.245 million, but let me detail some notable features that will soon make you remember the name.
With an unconventional shape — the sharp angle from the windscreen, the flat roof, a grille that’s barely there and the muscly fenders — it looks almost like a model that’s just a few years removed from its ‘concept’ phase. Almost two years in the market already and people still ogling it (on the street, in traffic and even the ones walking up to MIAS 2018).
Its virtual anonymity is the main key to its standout styling for sure. The more Tivolis you see out there, the less unique its design will obviously be, so relish its look for now because it surely won’t be that unknown for very long.
Powertrain and layout
While most compact SUVs use petrol and a front-wheel drive system, what sets the XLV apart is its relatively small diesel engine and all-wheel drive (AWD) layout.
Using a four-cylinder 1.6L e-XDi160, powered by a turbocharger from American engineering company Honeywell, the XLV gets a pedestrian 115-PS but with a healthy amount of pull from 300-Nm of torque.
The gearbox is a six-speed AT from Japanese transmissions maker, Aisin Seiki, with artificial intelligence that anticipates gear shifts based on driver input and vehicle operation.
As an extended version of the Tivoli, the XLV is longer behind the rear wheels by 245mm. So even if the wheelbase remains the same, the boot space goes up by almost half. The interior of the standard Tivoli already feels roomy so you can just imagine how much bigger it now feels in the cabin with the extra 297 liters of boot space.
Despite the increase in length and cargo space, there was barely any effect on how it handled in everyday driving scenarios.
I did notice that the climate control system had to work a little harder to lower the cabin temp faster and to keep it cool.
Even with a price that undercuts a vast majority of the competition, the XLV already comes with plenty of modern features to improve aesthetics and functionality.
Its cool-looking exterior is complemented with high-intensity discharge headlamps with daytime running lamps, plus it comes with fog lamps.
Amenities in the cabin include a six-speaker system, and a seven-inch high-definition LCD touchscreen that controls the infotainment system and the Bluetooth/USB/Aux-in connections.
All of the above is good and dandy but the best part is when it all comes together. There’s barely any clatter from under the hood after the engine is fired up using a Start/Stop button.
Of the three drive modes, Eco is where you’ll spend maybe 99-percent of your drive. It’s extremely efficient with an average of 9.7 kilometers per liter during seven days in pure city driving. SsangYong can do away with the Winter mode but Power will come in handy if the XLV is fully laden or when it’s hauling cargo.
Designed to sit lower to the ground, getting in and out is easy, plus its stance gives it better mobility around corners with higher rollover resistance. The length didn’t present any disadvantages whether it was squeezing into a parking slot, passing through a tight alley or even when executing a U-turn. As an AWD, it feels fairly heavy, but it gains momentum quickly because of the high amount of torque, and you don’t have to floor it to get it.
The D-cut steering wheel’s smart system offers Normal, Comfort (light) and Sport (heavy) mode to enhance the feel, so choose your own and what suits you. I stayed in Normal majority of the time.
The diesel and the details
An argument can be made about the brand being a new player that’s largely untested and currently working on building a reputation. But if I were to use this vehicle as a basis, I’d say SsangYong Berjaya Motor Philippines is off to a good start.
This engine is good — efficient, powerful enough for what it needs to do, pleasant and works smoothly with the transmission and the chassis to provide a comfortable ride. The 18s though seem too big for the roughness of EDSA.
The cabin does its best to stay relevant and while it uses a third-party operating system, it still has the tools to connect with your devices and play your media.
Its logo may still be unfamiliar but if you give the 2018 SsangYong XLV ELX 1.6L AWD a very close look, you’ll notice that the devil is in the details and in its diesel engine.
Text and photos by Eric Tipan