When a country like Israel makes the jump to private vehicles with the voracious pace usually reserved for when I’m scarfing down donuts, options open up for automakers looking to undercut the big players. That’s basically what Ssangyong did and this Actyon is evidence.
Welcome to Little Car in the Big City, where we highlight fascinating cars we found walking around a town that is known for being uh... more prickly..? than everything else, but where every car is fighting to stand out:
New York, New York. Tel Aviv, Israel.
For years, SsangYong has been something of a plucky upstart alongside the bigger Korean Automakers. Before cars like the Actyon made it to market featuring unique styling, the brand sold a lot of cars that might have looked familiar to you.
At the very beginning, the company assembled Jeeps for the local market. Later, SsangYong hooked up with Mercedes, building the brand’s Spanish-designed forward-control MB100 van with both Mercedes and SsangYong badges. After that, the S-Class-based Ssang Yong Chairman came around too.
Other models from Ssang Yong continued to use Mercedes components while the designs themselves began to diverge quite significantly from what was going on with their partners back in Germany. The Rexton SUV took the ML-Class drivetrain and put it under a body that looks like a store-brand SUV.
The Actyon featured here (and its pickup brother, the Actyon Sports) doesn’t look quite as generic, but the gamble on a unique appearance doesn’t seem to have paid off. The front end is a mess of angles going in all directions. That said, SsangYong did seem to beat the competition to the SUV coupe craze with the deeply sloped rear roofline.
Here at Jalopnik, SsangYong has always attracted just a little bit more attention than it deserved. Looking back, I see an awful lot of coverage under the tag, which doesn’t really make sense for a manufacturer of economy cars we basically never see in America. I think it has to do with the brand’s challenging relationship with styling norms, not just when it comes to the Actyon. You might remember the brand’s Rodius minivan from a few years ago. I’m not going to sugarcoat things. It was horrible. No. It was [R]odious.
These days, Ssang Yong is owned by Indian automaker Mahindra, another company that got its start assembling Jeeps for local consumption. Since then, the company’s designs have become a lot easier on the eyes, even if they aren’t quite as distinctive. Maybe that has to do with all the money Mahinda is pumping into their new Korean brand.
Mahindra also has made a lot of noise about entering the American market for real but still has yet to actually pull the trigger. Mahindra does sell its off-road-only Roxor over here, though, so maybe it’s not too late to see some more SsangYongs over in North America sometime soon.