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Ssangyong Korando Reviews

Performance
Equipment
Handling
Economy
Comfort
Depreciation
Space
Insurance

SsangYong has given its latest Korando SUV a good polish. Does it make the grade in a tough marketplace? Andy Enright reports.

The SsangYong Korando's problems used to be easy to quantify. It cost too much for what it offered and it lacked refinement. The latest car drops the prices and improves the look and feel significantly. Is it enough to earn it a recommendation? If you're looking for a budget compact SUV, this one's certainly worth a spot on your shortlist.

Ask people what they know of the SsangYong brand and you'll probably either be met with blank looks or draw comments regarding the weird styling of the company's first wave of cars. Neither have any bearing on the merits of its latest products, at the forefront of which is its Korando compact 4x4. While there may be a few who bemoan the fact that SsangYong has become a lot less extreme in its design direction, it's undoubtedly good news for people who want their SUVs to look like cars rather than conservatories, wombats or anvils. The Korando was rehabilitated back in 2011, bringing a neat Giugiaro-designed body and a punchy diesel engine. We tested it back then and praised it for its space, economy and acceleration but were less enamoured of its interior fit and finish, the refinement of its diesel powerplant and the price SsangYong were asking for it. Fast forward to today and the Koreans have developed a refreshed version of the Korando that looks to address these three key concerns. Do the Hyundai ix35, Kia Sportage and Nissan Qashqai have something to worry about?

Where the original Korando launched with just a 175PS 2.0-litre diesel, this was subsequently joined by a 149PS version of much the same engine. We're usually advocates of the 'more is better' approach when it comes to diesel engine torque and power, but in this instance less is more. The 175PS engine - only available with a 6-speed auto gearbox on the top ELX4 variant - can feel thrashy when extended. Do yourself a favour, save your money and look instead to the 149PS engine. This is a sweeter thing and here the benefits of SsangYong's revised engine mounts and improved soundproofing around the engine bay are more apparent. It's still not the most hushed powerplant in its class by a long chalk, but it's perfectly acceptable, especially at this price point. With a manual 'box, it'll get to 62mph in less than ten seconds, registering exactly the same time as the 175PS diesel. All models are now quieter with NVH improvements that SsangYong claim have enhanced refinement by nearly 10%. All models except the entry-level variant feature an on-demand four-wheel-drive system. There's a manually operated differential lock if you find yourself in a really sticky situation, allowing a higher percentage of torque to be sent to the rear wheels at low speeds. Ground clearance isn't too bad and front and rear overhangs are both tight, lending this Korando more than a modicum of off-road ability. On road, it's a fairly tidy handler, with acceptable body control and strong brakes. The steering takes a bit of getting used to, with a rather light feel about the straight ahead before weighting up sharply off centre. The ride quality is fine on the 17-inch wheels although it will become a bit more brittle on the 18-inch alloys.

Normally I'm the first to rail against generic car styling, but in SsangYong's case, a big dose of generic was exactly what the doctor ordered. The Korando doesn't stand out in a crowd of compact SUVs and perhaps that's a good thing. Cover the badge on the front, and most people would probably think it was the latest Suzuki Grand Vitara or Toyota RAV4. Given the fact that the Korando undercuts these cars quite markedly, perhaps that's no bad thing. The styling has been tidied up a little in the latest version with a slimmed down, black mesh radiator grille, more contemporary headlights and a wider, low level air intake. The sleeker headlight units now include projection lamps and LED daytime running lights. At the rear, there are detail tweaks to the rear light cluster, which now includes LED lights for improved visibility. Inside, there's a redesigned dashboard featuring soft-touch materials and natural matt wood grain inserts. Plus there are larger cupholders and space to store mobile phones and sunglasses. As before, there are still a few scratchy plastics here and there but it all looks agreeably modern and it's hard to fault the basic ergonomics, something that all too often gets forgotten in the chase for ever flashier control systems. There's still loads of space on board too, with plenty of rear legroom and fold flat rear seats. The 486-litre luggage bay offers a respectable capacity for a car of this size and extends to 1,312-litres when the rear bench is folded.

It's hard to take exception with the Korando's opening price - around £15,000. Yes, that does buy you a front-wheel drive version, with all-wheel drive models setting you back from around £16,500, but we need a little perspective here. After all, a front-wheel drive entry-level Hyundai ix35 retails at about £17,000, the equivalent Toyota RAV4 is around £22,500 and even the cheapest diesel Skoda Yeti is some way north of £18,000. Suddenly the Korando starts to make a serious case of itself - on the balance sheet at the very least. It gets hill start control as standard (the brakes hold the car momentarily as you move off, without the need for the handbrake), though there is no hill-descent control function. This is a little odd for a car that proclaims its off-road ability, SsangYong quoting approach, departure and breakover angles to underscore its all-terrain versatility. The centre console now houses a Bluetooth-compatible audio system with USB and AUX-in sockets, while if you ascend the range, you get features such as heated leather seats, bigger alloys, privacy glass and an electric sunroof.

We'll cover the 175PS 2.0-litre automatic first. It gets 37.7mpg and emits 199g/km. Bear in mind that a 313PS Audi SQ5 averages 41.5mpg and chugs out 179g/km and you'll appreciate quite how far off the pace this engine is. The 149PS motor is a whole lot better. Here you get 45.6mpg and emissions of 157g/km in 4WD form and 47.1mpg and 147g/km in front-driven guise, which is really quite respectable. A Hyundai ix35 in front-wheel drive form manages 41.5mpg and 158g/km, so the Korando aces that quite easily. Where the Korando runs into trickier territory is in the area of residual values. With its limited dealer network and almost non-existent promotional budget, there's no getting away from the fact that public awareness of this vehicle is virtually nil. That can only have a detrimental effect on residual values which will never be as punchy as big name vehicles like the Nissan Qashqai, the Skoda Yeti or the Toyota RAV4. Some recompense comes with modest insurance ratings and the five year limitless warranty.

SsangYong is getting there so fast it's scary. From a company that used to just cause bafflement amongst the car-buying public to something that showed real promise to a manufacturer that is now there or thereabouts has taken but a few short years. I'm not in any way awarding the Korando a best in class award, but being able to punch well above its weight is an achievement that earns serious kudos. If you're in the market for an SUV and your budget won't stretch too far, here's a vehicle that can answer the call. The one caveat would be to choose the lower power engine of the two, but other than that, there's not too much to worry about. The cars are rugged, emissions and economy are good, and you get plenty of space. SsangYong have improved interior ambience and refinement a bit, although more work in that direction would certainly be welcomed. Best of all, they've slashed prices quite markedly. The Korando is now a contender.

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Overview

The name Korando is a contraction of "Korea Can Do" and if you look at the quality motors the country has shipped in recent years, they certainly can. Believe it or not the Ssangyong Korando is now in its third generation and looks and feels very close to its competitors such as iX35, Sportage and the Kuga. Have a look at the Ssangyong Korando if you want something a little different. 

Key Ssangyong Korando Points

The key point to make with the Ssangyong Korando is that it is a relatively unknown brand is a very competitive market and is quite rare. It is also rather quick for a large SUV. Dissapointingly however that the choice of trims and engines is rather slim, there is just a 2.0 diesel available to lease with either a 6-speed manual or automatic to choose from. Trims available are SE4 and ELX4. You can also choose between 2 and 4 wheel drive. The Korando is also relatively cheap to lease despite its rarity and would be a good choice if you can get over that the only reason people would turn their heads is to ask "What IS that?". 

Why Lease a Ssangyong Korando

The Korando is a well made car, looks great, has a decent engine and is fairly cheap. Lease a Ssangyong Korando if you are after something a little different but will perform just as well for you. The Korando has had its interior space reviewed with very positive feedback and was heralded as the vehicle that would bring Ssangyong more into the public eye. Make no mistake, you may not have heard of them but they are a good manufacturer and this a good vehicle. If you remember, at one point Kia was unheard of and look at them now.

Five reasons to lease a Ssangyong Korando

  • Vast interior space
  • Cheap 4x4 options
  • Strong looks
  • Rare model
  • Looks modern

Conclusion

To conclude, the Ssangyong Korando is a brilliantly well made car with modern SUV good looks, massive interior space and big diesel engines. The Korando is an option to take if you want the full 4x4 capabilities on the cheap. Although a lack of engines let it down at least the important one is there which is the 2.0 diesel. Have a look around the Ssangyong Korando car leasing hub today if you are still unsure.