Not so long ago, SsangYong’s stock in trade was building ugly, low-cost 4x4s largely based on old Mercedes technology which it sold to a handful of people looking for cheap rugged transport.
But in recent years the brand has enjoyed a significant shift away from its bargain basement beginnings. Its focus is still largely on 4x4s and they’re still at the lower end of the price spectrum but it no longer raids the Merc parts bin and (Tivoli XLV aside) its range is as good looking as any other mainstream SUV maker.
It’s a move exemplified by the Korando, which has gone from an awkward looking also-ran to a handsome and viable competitor in the C-SUV segment.
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Starting at just shy of £20,000 the Korando handily undercuts most of its rivals on entry price and, even once you get up to the near-£30,000 Ultimate spec still offers remarkable value given the amount of equipment that comes as standard.
SsangYong Korando Ultimate
Price: £28,345Engine: 1.5-litre, four cylinder, turbo, petrolPower: 161bhpTorque: 207lb ftTransmission: Six-speed automaticTop speed: 117mph0-62mph: 12 secondsEconomy: 35.8mpgCO2 emissions: 180g/km
Fancy features such as heated and ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, leather upholstery, 19-inch alloys, a digital instrument display, reversing camera and dual-zone automatic climate control are standard, as well as driver aids such as lane keep assist, high beam assist, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking.
With so much equipment it would be easy to assume that savings have been found elsewhere yet the Korando doesn’t feel like it has been built to a budget.
Externally, it’s a fairly generic SUV shape, but its chunky squared off design fits in nicely to the general landscape of the segment and doesn’t scream “budget option” the way its predecessor did.
Inside, it’s a fairly simple affair with decent hard-wearing plastics brightened up by some metal-effect bezels and finishes to the controls. Some gloss black plastics and a neat 3D lighting effect on the doors and dashboard give it a little lift and to my eye it’s simpler and classier than the segment-leading Nissan Qashqai.
Interior space is fairly average for the class - four will fit fine, five will find it a bit of a squeeze, and as the driver you feel perched high up even with the seat fully adjusted down. The boot is a relatively good 551 litres, with a useful adjustable floor and a powered, gesture-controlled tailgate.
On the road the Korando is nicely refined, with impressive sound insulation and a comfortable ride. It’s very much set up for comfort rather than dynamism so there’s a degree of body roll and not much in the way of feedback but the same could be said of any of the comfort-oriented cars in the segment.
Its biggest weakness is under the bonnet. The Korando comes with a choice of just two engines - a 1.5-litre petrol or a 1.6-litre diesel. The petrol is smoother, more refined and also feels more lively thanks to its 161bhp. However, with an official economy of 35.8mpg, it’s some way behind the best of its rivals in running costs.
The diesel fares just as badly against competitors, with average economy in the mid-40s in two-wheel-drive guise and just 41.5mpg in all-wheel-drive spec. However, if you want the Korando’s maximum towing capacity of two tonnes or four-wheel-drive it’s the only option.
Those relatively high running costs close the gap between the Korando and some of its more expensive rivals but for drivers who do low mileages it still represents a good-value alternative to the mainstream models, backed by an unrivalled seven-year warranty.
A version of this article originally appeared on our sister site The Scotsman