Fun fact first. Korando is a portmanteau of Korea Can Do. Anyway, my first exposure to this SsangYong was around the time of its Geneva Motor Show unveiling in March 2019, and, wow, what a change.
I’m coming out to state the bleedingly obvious here. This is a rectangularly proportioned SUV in the contemporary RAV4 mould, and a good-looking one to boot.
If you don’t agree – and few do from anecdotal experience – then maybe SsangYong’s terrifying styling phase of the mid-2000s has inflicted more long-term brand damage than one handsome model can undo.
But it’s true. Take those blinkers off, forget about the badge, and admire the Korando’s comparative elegance. Or at the very least, give it a chance.
A fair go is what this is all about.
Our 'Cherry Red' Korando (sadly, 'Orange Pop' wasn’t available) is the recently-released ELX 2WD grade, and it certainly offers plenty for your hard-earned, not least of all, space.
This thing is a big, tall SUV, with large doors to aid entry and egress, and a sense of vast cabin space.
My partner’s 200cm (6'6") tall and has no issue finding the right driving position. You sit high (or low if you like, but only the driver’s seat has a height-adjustable cushion) on soft cloth seats of reasonable comfort and support, behind a dashboard that is utterly conventional in layout but surprisingly classy in design and high quality in execution.
Vision out is fine. Storage is ample. The Bluetooth system connects every time. Ventilation seems adequate. And nothing squeaks or rattles. Good stuff.
It’s also commendably quiet on the move, which is unexpected because even the ELX misses out on a cargo cover, and the layer of noise insulation it brings.
And while I’m whingeing, there are no face-level air vents back there, or a centre armrest, though the backrest does recline a few degrees for added comfort.
Speaking of AWOL luggage blinds, the Korando mimics some mid-sized SUVs in being a bit like a wagon on stilts, and that’s reflected in the sizeable 551 litres of cargo space (less than longer RAV4’s 580L but greater than Mazda CX-5’s 442L).
But here, too, there’s something missing: no spare wheel or covering for the well it would live in, meaning the floor is uneven. It, along with that cargo cover, costs $305.36 and $194.04 extra respectively. And if you get a puncture, there’s a compressor and tyre repair kit to tax your handyperson skills.
That said, the ELX does actually tick lots of boxes.
On the safety front this includes Autonomous Emergency Braking, lane keep assist, lane change assist, blind spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, high beam assist, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, 'Front Vehicle Start Alarm', 'Safety Distance Alert', 'Driver Attention Alert', electronic stability control, traction control, hill descent control, front and rear parking sensors, seven airbags and hill start assist. All help Korando achieve a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Inside there's an 8.0-inch touchscreen, reverse camera, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, a sliding centre armrest, leather steering wheel, power windows, electric mirrors, keyless entry/start with walk-away auto locking, auto folding heated mirrors with puddle light, rain-sensing wipers and 18-inch alloys. Not bad.
No DAB+ digital radio (unavailable on any grade) is a glaring omission, however.
$495 metallic paint is the only option on our car.
So, in ELX trim, the Korando is well-specified for the money, but its value pitch doesn’t end there.
That’s more torque than in most, higher-spec medium SUV alternatives, let alone the base atmo grades like the Kia Sportage S' 2.0L that typically offer substantially fewer kilowatts as well.
While not huge on capacity, what the 1.5T powertrain provides is lively off-the-line acceleration, smooth auto upshifts and fairly muted noise levels.
Around town or out in the 'burbs, there’s more than adequate performance on tap for instant throttle response, without the wailing you sometimes find in small-displacement turbo applications. So far, so good.
The flipside here is that, in the wet, the 235/55R18 Kuhmo Crugen HP91s can lose their grip, as the front wheels scramble for traction. Also, the Korando calls for more-expensive premium unleaded petrol, though cheaper E10 is also recommended.
Now, at this juncture, we’d go on about how the SsangYong would perform out on the open road or on extended trips over the past month.
However, Melbourne’s Stage IV lockdown forced almost all our trips to be limited to inner-urban or freeway journeys only (my partner is deemed an essential worker).
Right now, then, all we can add is that the Korando’s turning circle is tight, the steering light and easy to manipulate around town or in tight parking scenarios, and the ride is firm but not harsh, and benefits from decent levels of suspension travel. Ideal for traversing Brunswick's endless speed humps.
That said, on a couple of occasions, while on family carer duties out in a remote part of Melbourne, an opportunity opened up to assess the real dynamic qualities of the otherwise impressive first taste of the Korando ELX.
Except, you'll have to return in a month’s time to find out about that, along with how living another four weeks in inner-urban lockdown with the SsangYong feels.
Whatever happens, one thing’s for certain. I still reckon this is one of Australia’s better-looking medium SUV options.
Acquired: August 2020
Distance travelled this month: 474km
Average fuel consumption for (Month): 9.7L/100 (measured at the pump)