You’ve got to hand it to SsangYong. In just a few years South Korea’s oldest vehicle manufacturer and “only 4×4 and SUV specialist”, has transformed its range from the left-field to the mainstream.
Starting with the Tivoli compact SUV, followed by its big brother, the Rexton, and the new Musso pick-up, the brand is on the move – and in the right direction.
The latest vehicle to join the line-up is the all-new fourth-generation Korando, which slots in between the Tivoli and Rexton and competes against the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage, Volkswagen Tiguan and Toyota RAV4.
It’s a big step up from the model it replaces, and it has to be, because it faces formidable rivals.
Competitively priced from £19,995, boasting a market-leading seven-year/ 150,000-mile warranty and generously equipped, the Korando has a lot going for it on paper – and it looks the part too.
SsangYong’s designers have produced a sharply-styled, well proportioned SUV with an attractive, modern interior and boasting plenty of tech.
Initially only available with a diesel engine, a petrol and 100% electric version will follow soon.
In the meantime, the new Korando is a welcome addition to the mid-sized SUV sector and will definitely appeal to its traditional customers, who up until now have tended to be the budget conscious seeking a solid 4×4 with peace of mind, and/or those who regularly tow trailers and caravans.
First impressions are good because it’s handsome and well put together. Step inside and the Korando has a generic SUV feel, which is no bad thing. There’s a commanding driving position, comfortable seats, bags of space and some soft-touch plastics.
There’s room for three adults in the rear, while the boot is a useful 551 litres (or 407 litres with a full-sized spare wheel), and up to 1,248 litres with the back seats folded.
Depending on your choice of trim level (initially Pioneer or Ultimate), the infotainment touchscreen is 8.0 or 9.0 inches (with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility), while top models get a slick 10.25-inch driver’s digital display.
The Korando is well equipped. The Pioneer model, starting at £26,495, features heated front seats, front and rear parking sensors, heated steering wheel, full sized spare wheel, reversing camera and all-weather tyres.
The flagship Ultimate (£31,995) brings leather seats, keyless start, LED headlights, a power tailgate, two-zone air conditioning and mood lighting.
I tested the Pioneer and Ultimate versions, both fitted with the 134bhp 1.6-litre diesel and available in two-wheel drive and 4×4, and manual or automatic.
The diesel unit seems faster than its 12-second 0-62mph time might suggest, while fuel economy is up to 48.7mpg (though I managed closer to 35mpg) and CO2 emissions are as low as 129g/km.
A tad noisy on start-up, it soon settles down and cruises well. More importantly, there’s plenty of pulling power with plenty of low-down torque – not just during normal driving, but it’s also capable of towing up to two tonnes.
The ride is on the firm side and it’s not as sophisticated as some rivals, but it will bowl along quite happily and body roll is well controlled.
Unless you need the added traction of four-wheel drive, the 2WD will do just fine, plus it’s a little lighter on the road. The 4×4 provides ample grip and is worth the extra investment if your Korando doubles as a workhorse.
The steering is direct and light enough for manoeuvring in town, while the six-speed automatic gearbox shifts well (a manual transmission was not available to test).
The Korando is safe too. Autonomous Emergency Brakes (AEB), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane keeping Assist (LKA), Driver Attention Alert (DAA) and Emergency Stop Signal (ESS) are available.
Verdict: The all-new SsangYong Korando is a bit of a revelation. A real step-up; it’s good-looking, well equipped, offers an enjoyable drive, serious value for money and is backed up by a generous warranty.