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New car review

SsangYong Korando review

Is the new SsangYong Korando more than a budget SUV?

Would you like to be kept up to date with the latest from The Car Expert?

Design
7
Comfort
8
Driving Experience
6.5
Value for Money
8
Safety
9
 

60-second summary

What is it?
The new SsangYong Korando is the latest, all-new version of the Korean brand’s mid-sized SUV.

Key features
Interior space, new engines, more technology

Our view
The SsangYong Korando remains the budget compact SUV option, but no longer feels that budget.

Major improvements in looks, refinement, build quality and particularly equipment levels mean that the Korando is no longer just for those who want an SUV but can’t really afford one.


Full review

Introduction

SsangYong is the acknowledged budget member of the Korean brands, one that has focused on offering no-nonsense SUVs and pick-ups, but in recent times has been gaining a wider audience for its now more ‘normal’ cars.

Once credited in marketing one of the ugliest cars ever built in the Rodius, SsangYong’s recently-launched models, such as the new Tivoli and the latest Rexton, are cars that owners no longer feel embarrassed to be seen in.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the latest Korando – the fourth generation of a model that dates back to the early 1980s. This is a completely new Korando, with thoroughly modern visuals, new drivetrains and a plentiful smattering of the technology that is new to SsangYong owners but familiar in more mainstream SUVs.

Such updates are necessary, for the Korando sits in one of the most competitive sectors of the whole market. So is the Mk4 version a worthy alternative to such as the Kia Sportage, Volkswagen Tiguan or that vehicle that created the whole SUV boom, the Nissan Qashqai?

Buying and owning a SsangYong Korando

The Korando is the most critical model to SsangYong’s hopes of becoming a more familiar brand to UK buyers and it shows. This all-new fourth-generation version strikes a contemporary pose with agreeable visuals, most notably the brand’s signature ‘birds-wing’ front end.

What will most resonate, however, particularly with previous buyers, is the improved general quality of the car and especially the levels of equipment it now offers. Nowhere is this more true than in the safety package.

As well as a higher-strength body shell than previously, thanks to more extensive use of high-strength steels in the construction, the new Korando offers a host of active safety features as standard, topped by autonomous emergency braking but also including lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist functions. The car goes on sale with the bonus of a newly announced five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

Initially the Korando is available with a 1.6-litre diesel engine (with petrol and eventually all-electric versions to come), a two-wheel-drive standard format but with 4×4 versions too, and four grades.

 
 

Entry level will be the ELX at £19,995, followed by the Ventura at £22,995. We say “will be” because they both come only in 2WD form with the 1.5 petrol engine and a manual gearbox, so are not here yet.

Available from launch is the Pioneer, matched to the diesel engine and a seven-speed auto transmission, and on sale in two or four-wheel-drive format, from £26,495 or £28,495 respectively. The £26,495 price will also apply to 2WD manual versions of the range-topping Ultimate with the petrol engine. It can be bought now with the diesel, in 4WD and auto only at £31,995.

ELX should really only be on the shopping list if the budget is really tight. While it includes some niceties, keyless entry, leather on the steering wheel for example, the lack of even touchscreen infotainment makes paying a bit more for the Ventura more tempting. Additions include pretend leather on the seats, heated front seats, bigger alloy wheels, an electronic parking brake, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, using the screen of the eight-inch infotainment system.

Pioneer grade is aimed firmly at those who tow things, which is why it only comes with the diesel engine and auto transmission. This ups the towing weight from 1,500kg to 2,000kg – rivals can match such ability, but only by going a long way up their trim levels and therefore price lists. Pioneers also come with a full-sized spare wheel which is useful but takes a chunk from the boot space.

Range-topping Ultimate models boast the biggest infotainment screen with navigation, while among other specification highlights are the largest, 19-inch, alloy wheels, proper leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, LED headlamps, keyless start and even a powered tailgate.

Worth pointing out too is that SsangYong offers a full seven-year, 150,000-mile warranty across all its cars – just like the best-known Korean brand, Kia, and an extra not to be under-estimated.

Inside the SsangYong Korando

  • SsangYong Korando front cabin The Car Expert
  • SsangYong Korando dash The Car Expert
  • SsangYong Korando rear seats The Car Expert
  • SsangYong Korando boot The Car Expert

Any Korando owner updating from the previous model will likely feel the biggest changes once they get into it. The totally new interior design is a world apart from what has gone before and crucially can hold its own amongst mainstream rivals, unless you start spending lots of money for range-topping versions of those rivals.

The basics first – while looking quite substantial from the outside the new Korando is not that big an SUV – only around 40mm longer than its predecessor and about the length of say a Focus or Astra hatchback. But inside there is loads of room, especially for rear-seat passengers. Boot space is good too, 551 litres (without the full-size spare wheel) rising to 1,248 litres with the rear seats folded.

There are more soft-touch surfaces than we have ever seen in a SsangYong, which adds a more upmarket feel to the cabin. The design of the driver’s controls is functional, ranging up to a 10-inch digital instrument cluster ahead of the steering wheel on top-specification Ultimate models.

What you get in the centre console depends on the trim level. We would avoid the entry-level ELX which only comes with a radio, though it does include DAB and iPod connectivity. No nice touchscreen though, just an LCD display.

Ventura and Pioneer variants get an upgrade to an eight-inch colour touchscreen system, which also provides a screen for the reversing camera. There is no navigation, but that doesn’t really matter as the system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration and therefore direct access to such as Google Maps.

Buy the top-spec Ultimate and the touchscreen basically grows by an inch and adds navigation, which can be operated in ‘dual-map’ format combining with the digital cluster ahead of the driver.

Driving the SsangYong Korando

SsangYong Korando rear dynamic The Car Expert

Currently the only engine available for the new Korando is the 1.6-litre diesel. A 1.5-litre petrol version is set to join the range in December 2019 with 164hp, but most anticipated is the full electric model due around the end of 2020, with we are told a range between charges of more than 200 miles.

SsangYong calls this a new diesel engine but the Korando unit is not as refined as say that of a Tiguan or Sportage – but it’s no longer a league behind them either. Some rattle at start up soon turns into a reasonably smooth tone that only really becomes intrusive if the unit is being worked very hard.

On which note, 12.1 seconds to 62mph is not as swift as some rivals but adequate in this market. The seven-speed auto transmission is smooth in its changes if not exactly rapid shifting.

Adequate is also an appropriate description of the Korando’s road manners, perhaps trending to the comfortable. It generally does a good job of smothering road imperfections, though at lower speeds the 19-inch wheels of Ultimate models are good at seeking out and transmitting bumps into the cabin.

More enthusiastic motoring does not really suit the Korando. While body roll is kept to a minimum when cornering, woolly steering does not encourage precise placement of the car, making it feel larger and more barge-like than it actually is. Generally, however the Korando offers an on-the-road performance much closer to more expensive rivals than previously.

SsangYong Korando side dynamic The Car Expert

Verdict

SsangYong’s core market has always been those who haul things behind their cars, principally caravanners and equestrian fans not wealthy enough to buy a Range Rover. They will love the new Korando, as it loses none of the budget qualities of its predecessors but gains a host of stuff previous owners had to do without, such as modern infotainment tech and a bang up-to-date safety package.

Equally these qualities should see the Korando appeal to a much wider audience, so long as SsangYong can convince them not to dismiss it without looking at it due to its keen pricing.

Remember when Kia and Hyundai were the almost secret, value-for-money Korean brands? That’s just about what SsangYong is now, and for someone wanting a solid but uncompromised SUV for not too much money, the SsangYong Korando is worth checking out.

Good points

  • Interior space
  • Towing ability
  • Equipment for cost, especially safety package

Bad points

  • Diesel not quite as refined as rivals
  • On-the-road dynamics not quite so either
  • Entry-level infotainment too basic

Similar cars

Citroën C5 Aircross | Ford Kuga | Honda CR-V | Hyundai Tucson | Jeep Compass | Kia Sportage | Mazda CX-5 | Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross | Nissan QashqaiPeugeot 3008 | Renault Kadjar | SEAT Ateca | Skoda Karoq | Subaru XV | Toyota RAV4 | Vauxhall Grandland X | Volkswagen Tiguan

Key specifications

Make & modelSsangYong KorandoKia SportageNissan Qashqai
SpecificationPioneer2Acenta Premium
Price (on-road)£26,495£25,850£25,950
Engine1.6-litre diesel1.6-litre diesel1.5-litre diesel
Gearbox6-speed auto, FWD 7-speed auto, FWD7-speed auto/manual, FWD
Power136 hp134 hp115 hp
Torque324 Nm320 Nm285 Nm
0-62mph12.1 sec11.4 sec13.0 sec
Top speed112 mph112 mph114 mph
Fuel economy (combined) 48.7 mpg (WLTP)47.1 mpg (WLTP)51.8-53.3 mpg (WLTP)
CO2 emissions152 g/km (WLTP)158 g/km (WLTP)106 g/km (NEDC)
Insurance groupTBC1817E
Euro NCAP rating5 stars (2019)5 stars (2015)5 stars (2014)
Design
7
Comfort
8
Driving Experience
6.5
Value for Money
8
Safety
9
Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is the News and Road Test Editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.

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