If SsangYong's small New Zealand team has anything to do with it, Actyon utes will overtake established players. Colin "Pine Tree" Meads will replace Crump in ute-owning lore. And every farm and school gate in the country will be familiar with the brand.
What's new An all-new and handsome body replaces Actyon's frankly uglypredecessor. It sits on a full ladder chassis with double wishbone suspension up front and five-link coil sprung rear. This is the only ute to eschew leaf springs out back and use four disc brakes. The load tray is a whisker bigger at 2.04cu m and the gate is now 11kg to heft instead of 22kg.
There's a 114kW/360Nm 2lt variable-valve turbo diesel engine, with the lowest emissions of the bracket at 196g/100km, and matched to auto or manual six-speed transmissions in four- or two-wheel drive.
Oh yes - and a new ad campaign fronted by Meads, who took on the job in exchange for SsangYong support for King Country Junior rugby.
The company line Managing director Deon Cooper is full of enthusiasm. His sales increased over 300 per cent last year to 445 and in this year he aims for 750. He and chairman of distributorship, his dad Rick, have a long-term plan: they want to grow their $30 million investment to $50m in the next two years with 1000 sales. They've priced the range to compete. It opens at $36,990 for the 2WD manual and tops out at $47,990, including heated leather seats with electric adjustment, 18-inch alloys, auto wipers and headlights, reverse sensors and climate control air con. And what about discounts? The Coopers say, "We believe in gentle pruning, not mass amputation".
What we say Standard spec includes stability control, two airbags, 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, heated seats and cruise control. Two isofix and three child-seat tether points are standard, but there's only a centre rear lap belt - families might want to await independent crash tests to check results are robust.
On the road SsangYong's Actyon has impressive road manners bar some jiggling over the small hits with an empty load tray. The steering is a tad light and uncommunicative. What does impress is how quiet this ute is, and how flexible the engine - with peak torque on tap from 1500-2800rpm and plenty of pull until 3500rpm.
Off road? We tackled only farm tracks. A dial flicks you from two, to four, to four-low, with the six-speed manual or auto transmissions both well matched to this powerplant.
Why you'll buy one You can't afford Ford's Ranger, yet need a workday ute that can double as a family car, without breaking the budget. Why you won'tDisc brakes more likely to fade than traditional drum. Ground clearance is only 188mm. Centre rear lap belt; after-market option undergoing approval and likely to cost $700.