SsangYong to show convertible crossover at Geneva

ssangyong xiv-2Does anyone need a convertible SUV? Korean automaker SsangYong apparently thinks so; its XIV-2 (eXciting User Interface Vehicle 2) concept has the tall body of a crossover, but also a folding roof. The concept will be debut next month at the Geneva Motor Show. Company spokespeople said Ssangyong was trying to “blend the characteristics of a robust and powerful SUV with the dynamic style of an open-top sports coupe.”

The XIV-2 is based on the XIV-1 concept SsangYong showed at the Frankfurt show, so it gets a steeply raked windshield and low roof, not unlike the Range Rover Evoque’s, and large alloy wheels. The rear diffuser and centered exhaust outlet give the XIV-2 performance credentials it probably doesn’t deserve. Power comes from 1.6-liter gas or diesel engines.

The top borrows its design from the Fiat 500C. Like the tiny Fiat, the XIV-2’s top slides back between fixed roof rails and folds into a stack on top of the tailgate, blocking rear visibility.

Never heard of SsangYong? It’s a Korean company that primarily builds SUVs and vans. It sells them in its home market and others, including Europe, but not the United States. That is probably a good thing, because SsangYongs are pretty ugly; Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson said the cars looked like they were designed by someone who had lost their glasses.

Sometimes it takes a fringe element to come up with a wacky idea like this, and it might even be a marketable one. Buyers of new convertibles, believe it or not, have very little choice. There are small convertibles (Mini Cooper, Fiat 500C), sporty convertibles (Ford Mustang, Mazda Miata), and luxury convertibles (BMW 3 Series, Audi A5). But if someone wants a normally-priced car that isn’t a sports car, but is a convertible, there are only two choices: the Chrysler 200 and the Volkswagen Eos.

When you factor in people’s tendency to abandon normal cars for the high driving position of SUVs, you can see the potential a convertible crossover would have. That’s probably why Nissan decided to build the Murano Cross Cabriolet, which is about as daft as a car can be.

The XIV-2 is 164.0 inches long, much shorter than the 190.1-inch long Murano. That puts the concept car in the compact crossover class with the Toyota RAV4 and Nissan’s Rogue.

Of course, the odds of a convertible crossover from an obscure carmaker becoming a success in the American market are pretty long; Nissan is having trouble selling Murano Cross Cabriolets, despite its projections. SsangYong does deserve some points for originality. If companies didn’t try some crazy ideas once in awhile, cars would be pretty boring.