SsangYong is the oldest car brand in Korea, and it has big plans to expand its line-up of cheap and functional SUVs and carve itself a niche in the UK.
Sales of the current SsangYong Korando crossover have been fairly steady until now, but the company is hoping that this facelifted car can help it to really gain a foothold.
And with prices starting at just £14,995 for the entry-level 2.0-litre diesel model we tested, it’s sure to grab the attention of a few prospective Dacia Duster buyers.
It’s certainly more practical than a Duster, with 486 litres of luggage space behind the back seats and plenty of head and legroom in the spacious interior. You get a surprising amount of performance for the money, too, with the large-capacity diesel producing 147bhp and a decent 360Nm of torque – a crucial factor given the SsangYong’s positioning as a tough and rugged towing vehicle.
The brand claims 0-62mph in 9.9 seconds, but on the road the Korando feels slower than that. The coarse engine is hamstrung by its narrow powerband and the poorly spaced ratios of the six-speed gearbox. There is a large flat spot in the performance below 1,500rpm – not ideal when you’re going uphill.
One of the few mechanical changes for the facelift is the addition of new engine mounts to help reduce unwanted noise and vibration. While the Korando is a bit more civilised once you’re up to cruising speed, road and wind noise are still intrusive.
Despite the minor tweaks, the car is still years behind rivals in terms of dynamic set-up. The rubbery steering is inconsistently weighted and there is a large ‘dead zone’ around the straight-ahead that makes it twitchy and unstable at higher speeds.
Plus, while the upright stance and high-up driving position is good for visibility and ground clearance off-road, the poor body control means the Korando pitches and leans heavily into corners. The ESP light flashes worryingly even at low speeds and on dry roads, and even the four-wheel-drive version has a disturbing lack of grip from either axle.
These handling weaknesses would be less of an issue if the Korando was more comfortable, but despite the multi-link rear axle, any broken surfaces soon expose a lack of composure as the wheels thump over potholes and expansion joints.
Inside, the tall centre stack – flanked by large air vents – is similar to the design in the Hyundai Santa Fe, and the armrest cubby and push buttons feel tough and solid. But there is also plenty of evidence of cost-cutting, with cheap, hard plastics and a poor level of finish that makes the aspirational wood-effect dash trim look sadly out of place.