New Year, new order?

SsangYong and MG have had a very successful 2012 if increases in registrations is anything to go by. The South Korean firm, relying almost exclusively on their Korando SUV, saw sales increase by an impressive 351% over 2011 and there’s good reason for that.CHAL Banner

While the Rodius and Rexton continue untouched and unloved (although remaining very good value for money), it was the introduction of the third generation Korando that really started things moving again for SsangYong.

I have just spent a week behind the wheel of top of the range Korando, the EX. Fitted with the automatic gearbox mine had, the price comes out at just under £23,000. Look lower down the list and a base spec ‘S’ will set you back just £17,000 and still come powered by a 2.0 litre engine.

For that you actually get a pretty good car. Alright, there is little chance that it will draw people away from their Range Rover Evoque but for a regular sized SUV that competes head on with the likes of the Hyundai ix35 and Nissan Qashqai, you could do a lot worse.

SsangYong Korando 2012 FrontThe Korando is not an unattractive proposition. Designed by Gigaioro, the bodywork is modern and stylish, if lacking flair. The bold grille divides opinion, perhaps drawing too much attention to the badge, but the designers haven’t kicked back and phoned in a Friday afternoon design.

Inside it’s all very spacious and practical, although some of the plastics used are a little brittle and shiny. Out on the road it behaves itself too, just getting a little bouncy at times on some of the rougher country roads around Cambridgeshire.

Some of the more budget aspects are made up for by a high level of equipment too. There’s sat nav, climate control, heated seats and plenty more toys to keep you occupied.

Over at MG, their charge is being led by the MG6, mostly because that’s the only model they produce. Sales were up in 2012 by 117%.

Without a diesel engine, the sensible sized family car failed to find many buyers here, although that’s probably down to the lack of marketing for the brand than any perceived shortage of engine options.

Addressing the former, the MG6 Diesel now exists and it is actually another pretty good car.

There is quite a degree of generic ‘car’ about the exterior, but the car itself is deceptive. Not much bigger than a Vauxhall Astra on the outside, the inside is larger than that of a Vauxhall Insignia. It’s not quite TARDIS like, but it is far more useable than you might think.

If you do get out on the road in one, you will also be surprised at just how well it drives. The MG6 is damped very well, soaking up most bumps and undulations with ease, but without affecting the sportiness you expect from an MG.

Three digit speeds on motorways are far too easy to achieve, but that is a mark of how far MG have come with the car. Build quality is very good, handling and ride are class leading, while costs are low.

MG SsangYong 2013 Rexton Concept
Image courtesy of AROnline.co.uk

You might think that linking MG and SsangYong together in one column might be a bit odd but, as an aside, they did work together a few years ago. Before the collapse of MG Rover, a new 4×4 SUV was proposed by the MG top brass, based on the SsangYong Rexton. The end result was not pretty.

Keeping them apart, with sales increases of 351% and 117%, surely world domination is only a matter of months away? No, not quite.

You see SsangYong were starting from a base of just 194 cars in 2011, while MG started out at 360 registrations. Note the word registrations instead of sales, as the two can be quite different. You also need to bear in mind that 300 of MG’s sales were to Avis as hire cars.

So it’s not exactly the huge success the numbers make it sound.

But SsangYong are trying to change that. Introducing more models and special editions to drip feed in to the car magazines and websites, while spending just enough on television advertising, gets some recognition for the name. There might only be a small budget available at SsangYong, but they do appear to making full use of it.

Over at MG it appears as if their Chinese paymasters, SAIC, simply don’t understand the UK market. There’s a good product that they can’t advertise on television. They nearly won the British Touring Car Championship on their first attempt but nobody knows. The marketing budget appears to be limited to simply parking two cars in Birmingham city centre and hoping there’s some buzz generated from that.

They’re not even utilising social media well, the one place they can work hard on limited funds.

Perhaps SAIC assume that the MG brand alone will guarantee sales, or perhaps they simply don’t care whether the marque makes money here just so long as Chinese sales go well.

A new model, a smaller MG3 is meant to arrive soon, so expect it in 2014, but again if there’s no money to tell people about it then who is going to buy it?

So here are a couple of New Year requests.

If you’re after a new car, take a look at the offerings from these two manufacturers. You’d not considered them before, but they might just have the right vehicle for you.

If you’re MG, let me handle your UK marketing for you. It can’t get any worse.

[button link=”http://www.contracthireandleasing.com/car-leasing-news/new-year-new-order/” rel=”nofollow” color=”orange”]This article was first published at ContractHireAndLeasing.com on 8 January 2013.[/button]

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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, DAD.info and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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