SsangYong is the third and least well-known (at least in the U.S.) of all South Korean automakers. The other two being Hyundai and Kia. The company’s relative obscurity is the equal result of making budget cars (yes, even more so than Kia and Hyundai) and making ugly cars. Conduct a SsangYong search online and you’ll be confronted with Aztek-ugliness. So you can imagine how much a leap forward the C200 is for the company trying to upgrade it’s image.
The C200 concept is the first of many vehicles SsangYong is marketing towards primarily European customers that demand a greater variety of vehicle options. This concept follows the South Korean manufacturer’s announcement earlier this year that it plans to introduce 20 new models on five different platforms between 2009 and 2014. To help reach that goal, the C200 was helped along by Giugiaro’s ItalDesign in Italy and is roughly the same size as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CRV or VW Tiguan. Like many crossover-type vehicles the C200 was designed to accommodate the versatile space needs and constraints of people living in the city, while simultaneously trying to appeal to a younger customer’s sense of style. Not only is the outward style a radical change for SsangYong, but the C200 is also a departure from current models in that it uses monocoque construction. The platform is adaptable, so while the C200 uses four-wheel drive, the chassis can also be used for a front-wheel drive passenger car that is certainly in the works. The C200 also employs a completely new drivetrain centered around a 2.0 litre diesel engine that is designed for lower noise levels and reduced vibration, and is mated to a six speed manual transmission. The engine produces 175 hp and complies with Euro V exhaust emissions requirements in producing lower CO2 levels. In an attempt to greater appeal to the European market the handling is enhanced by the use of an aluminum suspension that makes the vehicle lighter.
Not that anyone in North America will see it in showrooms, but when the third most important South Korean car maker can pull off such a makeover, there is reason to hope that the industry isn’t completely inept.