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When it comes to Korean cars, there's no doubt they've now matched, and on some numbers, surpassed their Japanese rivals.
We know that story though, which is why this time we're looking at a different one. It's a name from the past that hopes to reignite some of that Korean success... SsangYong.
After a less than ideal start for the brand during the '90s, where its design and quality couldn't quite match the standards of even its Korean rivals, it's back, bigger and better than before.
Can its latest model, the Korando mid-size SUV, be the car that changes Australia's mind on the brand?
We took a mid-spec ELX for a week to find out.
|Ssangyong Korando 2020: ELX|
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Like most SsangYongs the Korando isn't going to be for everyone. It still looks a bit weird. To say the brand's catalogue is still 'controversially' styled is an understatement.
The problem isn't so much up front, where the Korando has a tough ,muscular stance, accentuated by its angular grille and light fittings.
Nor is it in the side profile, where the Korando has a VW-esque beltline running down its doors, to a tough looking bump over the rear wheelarches.
No, it's around the back where SsangYong will potentially lose the sell. It's like the rear-end was designed by a completely different team. One which couldn't put down the pen, adding line upon contour, upon detail to the bootlid. Sometimes less truly is more.
Still, I'm a fan of its LED light clusters and little spoiler jutting out. The whole package is still one of the most resolved and pleasant looking in SsangYong's line-up.
Inside things have been taken up a notch by the Korean manufacturer. The Korando has a consistent design language, with a slotted feature panel running across the top, matching door cards (which the design runs into), and a significant upgrade in materials from previous models.
I love how unapologetically foreign the whole thing feels. There's not a single piece of switchgear in the interior that is shared with other cars on the road.
I also love the chunky wheel, bizarre function stalks with big dials on them, diamond-patterned adjustment knobs for the air-con and multimedia system, and the awesome seats which are clad in a strange grey swimsuit material.
It's wonderfully weird, and definitely set apart from many of its competitors. It's also super well built, with uniform shutlines and solid construction. We didn't hear so much as a creak out of the cabin during our test.
While the design is quite nice, there are some materials in there that somewhat unnecessarily date the interior.
It's probably a design disconnect between what's desirable in Korea and what's desirable in our market. Piano black filler panel overkill, for example, just doesn't cut it, and the dash looks a tad old-school with its dials and dot matrix display. The higher-spec Ultimate addresses this with a digital dash cluster.
SsangYong is here to play when it comes to its car's value offering. The Korando ELX is the mid-spec model, wearing an MSRP of $30,990. That's around the price of entry-level variants of its main rivals, and it comes packed with an unprecedented level of equipment, too.
Size-wise it's a tad smaller than mainstream mid-sizers like the Kia Sportage (S petrol 2WD - $30,190) and Honda CR-V (Vi - $30,990), competing more directly with segment-benders like the Nissan Qashqai (ST - $28,990) or Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross (ES - $29,990).
Included features are 18-inch alloys, an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, halogen headlights, dot-matrix display in the instrument binnacle, rain-sensing wipers, heated auto-folding wing-mirrors, as well as push-start and keyless entry.
You'll net even more equipment on the Ultimate. Things like leather interior trim, a digital dash cluster, sunroof, LED headlights, and a powered tailgate. Still the ELX is excellent value, even without those items.
Thankfully, it also gains the full suite of active safety inclusions. More on that in the safety section of this review. Value is also recouped in the ownership and engine categories, so it's worth referring to those, too.
Notable large rivals fall short on the equipment contest at this price, while the Qashqai and Mitsubishi can't compete on the warranty front either, making the Korando a superb offering at this price.
The only option available on the ELX is premium paint. The 'Cherry Red' shade worn by this car will set you back an additional $495.
Despite its smaller visage than many mid-size rivals, the Korando has brilliant packaging that gives it competitive interior space.
The entire cabin is a big airy space thanks to the large window apertures, and front passengers benefit from big storage bins in the doors, as well as large cupholders in the doors and centre console.
There's a small binnacle under the air con controls that's suitable for slotting a phone into, but won't fit anything else. There's also a small armrest console with no amenities inside, and a decently-sized glove box.
Connectivity-wise, there's a 12-volt power outlet and a single USB port. The seats are comfortable with the odd swimsuit-style trim. Dials for everything is a big plus, and once you're used to the weird turnstiles embedded in the control stalks, they're handy, too.
The back seat offers massive amounts of legroom. Much more than I expected and is on par, if not even larger than, the Sportage I had on test the week before. The seats are comfy and recline in two stages.
Rear occupants get pockets on the back of the front seats, a small bottle holder in the doors and a 12-volt outlet. There are no USB ports or directional air-vents, which is a real let-down.
The boot is massive, too, at 550 litres (VDA). That's larger than a lot of fully fledged mid-size SUVs, but there's a catch. The Korando has no spare wheel, just an inflator kit, and to top it off the finish of the boot is a bit basic.
Unlike many of its entry-level competitors, the SsangYong delivers under the hood with a small capacity turbocharged engine that's far better than the outdated 2.0-litre options most used by the competition.
It's a 1.5-litre engine producing 120kW/280Nm. That's more than enough in this size bracket and outclasses both the turbo Eclipse Cross (110kW/250Nm) and non-turbo Qashqai (106kW/200Nm).
In this particular layout, claimed combined cycle fuel consumption for the Korando is 7.7L/100km. This sounds about right for a turbo engine, but our week of testing produced a result of 10.1L/100km, and we did spend a little while on the freeway to help balance the result.
The Korando requires a minimum of 95 RON premium unleaded petrol to fill its 47 litre tank.
SsangYong isn't exactly a brand known for its drive experience, but that impression should change once you hop behind the wheel of this new Korando.
It's by far the best drive experience the brand has conjured up thus far, with its turbo engine proving punchy, responsive, and even quiet under load.
The torque converter auto is predictable and linear, although occasionally jerks a small amount when shifting down. Still miles better than a CVT, though.
The steering is an odd one. It is incredibly light. This is great for maneuvering around tight city streets and performing reverse parks, but can be unsettling at higher speeds.
It does seem to give you some feedback over bumps and corners though, which is a refreshing reminder that it's not totally lifeless.
The suspension is mostly great. It has an odd characteristic of being fiddly, overactive and sudden over smaller bumps, but deals with the larger stuff incredibly well.
It sails over potholes and even speed bumps, making for a mostly comfortable ride on the worst urban roads we could throw at it.
This is especially impressive given that the Korando doesn't have a localized suspension tune.
It's good in the corners, too, and the whole package feels light and springy giving it an engaging, hatch-like feel.
7 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The Korando ELX has an active safety suite consisting of auto emergency braking (AEB – high speed with pedestrian detection), lane keep assist with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, and rear-cross traffic alert with reverse auto emergency braking.
It's a great suite, especially at this price, with the only major omission being active cruise control which comes standard on the top-spec Ultimate version.
Unsurprisingly the Korando has been awarded a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating against the most recent and stringent requirements.
The only thing we'd love to see here is a spare wheel for long-distance drivers.
SsangYong indicates that it's here to play with what it calls the '777' warranty, which means a seven year/unlimited kilometre warranty, seven years of roadside assist, and seven years of capped price servicing.
Every model in SsangYong's range has a service interval of 12 months/15,000km, whichever occurs first.
The services are incredibly well priced, too. They are fixed for just $295 for each visit over the seven-year period.
There's a long list of extras, although SsangYong is entirely transparent about which ones will be required and when. Not only that, the brand breaks down each cost by part and labor charge to give you peace of mind that you're not being ripped off. Excellent.
The Korando might not be for everyone, with its strong Korean personality and zany styling, but those willing to take a chance on something a little different will be rewarded with excellent value and a great drive experience.
|ELX||1.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$30,990||2020 Ssangyong Korando 2020 ELX Pricing and Specs|
|ELX LE||1.6L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$32,990||2020 Ssangyong Korando 2020 ELX LE Pricing and Specs|
|EX||1.5L, ULP, 6 SP MAN||$26,990||2020 Ssangyong Korando 2020 EX Pricing and Specs|
|Ultimate||1.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$36,990||2020 Ssangyong Korando 2020 Ultimate Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||8|