Every car company has a defining moment that changes everything. Steve Vermeulen thinks for SsangYong, that moment may be the Korando.
The Corolla won over detractors of Japanese vehicle manufacturing, Quattro changed Audi forever and, of course, the Model T started it all. Look back into the history of any car company and you’ll find at least one iconic reference point that changed everything. The current Korando could be that car for SsangYong.
For a start it’s the first SsangYong that doesn’t sting to look at; quite the opposite, now free from the oddball design direction of Ken Greenly (responsible for the first Korando, Stavic, Kyron, etc), the brand’s best yet foray into compact, urban-friendly motoring looks smart from most angles.
It’s also the first SsangYong under new Mahindra and Mahindra co-ownership and it, more than any SsangYong before it, finally brings essential current technology to market with a full compliment of safety features, including six airbags and stability control and a modern Euro five diesel engine.
Sure, Hyundai paved the way for Korean brand acceptance, but the Korando marks where SsangYong suitably strengthen that case rather than exist in the shadow of Korea’s number one brand, and momentum is building after receiving praise for the Actyon replacement (SUT-1) ute and XIV-1 SUV concept shown at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show in September.
Korando’s worth a look for consumers too; unlike past SsangYong product this has a unibody construction, making it much more composed on the road. My top of the range SPR-specification tester boasted a six speed auto and a lockable AWD system, leather upholstery, electrically adjustable, heated seats, climate air, Bluetooth hands free and usb audio connectivity controllable from the steering wheel, cruise control, a sunroof, parking assist and 18 inch wheels.
Equipment you now pay handsomely for with Kia and Hyundai, but the SPR retains true on-a- budget appeal at $47,990. If you can live without the all-wheel drive, auto box and few creature comforts, the entry point of $34,990 represents impressive buying. Remember, we’re still talking about a diesel-powered model too.
You’ll have to forgive the Korando a few cut-price foibles. Interior plastics are harsh and the brand has some catching up to do here, and for all its benefits, the drivetrain still has room for further finessing.
It’s a little shy on grunt when comparing with Hyundai’s popular ix35, but with 129kW and 360Nm, the difference is hard to notice on the road. Despite the lower output figures Korando maintains SsangYong’s traditional class-leading tow capacity (750kg braked and 2000kg unbraked). Perhaps the biggest hindrance to performance is the new transmission. Even flipping through the steering wheel mounted buttons for sequential manual operation (a novelty that’s just not needed), the calibration errs toward smooth, not responsive operation. To be fair, that’s very much a Korean thing; perhaps as more export markets express more global preferences, quicker shifting protocol will infiltrate the vehicle’s software. I’m told the six speed manual versions are an improvement, shame few ever buy manuals these days.
The lighter chassis affords newfound agility for the brand that’s on par with any of its countrymen though, so the overall drive is surprisingly enjoyable and all the while much needed safety gains by way of ISOFIX child restraints, front, side and curtain airbags and standard stability control / roll over mitigation opens doors for the Korando with young families. There’s a lot to be said for providing an SUV that’s attractive, safe and affordable to buy / run – less and less manage to get that mix right.
The cabin offers all the space these consumers are looking for with supportive, roomy front seating arrangements and easily accessible 60/40 rear seats that also fold flat to best utilise the generous 486 litre boot.
More than an affordable, efficient and practical new competitor in the popular soft roader segment, the Korando is the clean slate that will be remembered for heralding a new beginning for SsangYong.
See the SsangYong Korando for sale.
Brief Specs SsangYong Korando SPR
Engine 1998 cc inline four turbo diesel
Power 129kW @ 4000 rpm
Torque 360Nm @ 2000 rpm
Fuel Economy 7.5 l/100km
Kerb Weight 1747kg
Front Suspension MacPherson strut
Rear Suspension Multilink
Luggage capacity 486 litres