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The first SsangYong I drove was a Musso ute, back when the then distributor’s idea of a road test was a couple of hours.
Naturally, I refused his terms, insisting on at least a morning-to-following-morning chance to assess whether this thing was any good. After all, if you’re keen, you can log up hundreds of city and country kilometres in a 24-hour period.
It was a weird-looking truck with duckbill front end styling and significant gaps between major components like the rear of the cab and the wellside load tray. It all looked kind of disconnected.
But it didn’t drive all that badly, and the Mercedes-derived engine was lusty; today that awkward Musso has morphed, through at least one also odd-looking derivative, into the well-regarded if now a little dated, Actyon.
The Actyon is nearing the end of its production life and a new variant is about to burst on to the world scene.
My second vivid recollection of the SsangYong brand was at a Sydney motor show where, in a backwater inhabited mainly by motorbikes, a colleague and I came upon a vehicle such as we had never seen before.
It was an oddly-styled MPV with a cabin section topped at the rear by an incongruous angular section which, we were told later, was intended to suggest the rear of the superstructure of a cabin cruiser motor launch. Really and why?
This weird vehicle bore the moniker Stavic which led me to remark in typical foot-in-mouth style: “what the goodness is this, something out of Eastern Europe?” – or words to that effect.
The legacy of the Skodas and Russian Lada Nivas lingered on, you see.
Remember the Lada Niva SUV with its usually out-of-harmony driveshaft which made driving in one at speed feel like you were in the bowl of an old agitator washing-machine? You don’t remember the Niva? Probably best not to.
“Hello guys,” came a voice from the shadows – the SsangYong distributor who told us he was going to bring this oddball vehicle to New Zealand.
Not, he said, in the 11-seat version SsangYong was showing at Sydney but in a more Kiwi frame-friendly seven-seater.
We never drove it but by all accounts the Stavic was pretty good with plenty of power, good cabin space and good on-road dynamics. You just had to ignore the open-mouthed stares of people who saw you driving it or getting out of it...
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