How excited are you by the SsangYong Korando? Probably not very, if youve read the reviews on carwow; according to the motoring journalists who have driven it, the Korando is one of the least capable new cars on sale in the UK today – and a carwow score of 5 is one of the lowest weve ever seen.
And yet, if you speak to owners they tell a different story. While none of them pretend that the Korando is the last word in style and conspicuous consumerism, they are loyal to the marque. We drove one, albeit briefly, last year and werent completely disappointed. So we arranged to borrow one for a week to see if the Korandos charms are better explored at a more leisurely pace than the average test drive allows.
Besides, how bad can it be?
You know what, I quite like the way the Korando looks. Touting it round the school-run mums and dads they like it too. Like a Volvo XC90
, said one, while another asked if it was a Lexus. Sneer, if you like, but these are exactly the sort of people who might consider buying one: rural dwellers who cant afford to be stranded when it snows but not wealthy enough to buy a new Discovery.
Styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Korando looks cohesive, complete, and purposeful. Its not brash, but it is confident, something that pays off on a motorway run when people move over and let you past. This might be a small point but it is an important one when it comes to living with a car; the SsangYong doesnt engender rabid jealousy and a bloody minded attitude, and as a consequence people pull over or let you out of junctions. Dont underestimate the effect this has on your mental wellbeing. Or your journey times.
Things are less pleasant inside. Yes, there is plenty of space, yes, the puddle lamps (mounted on the door mirrors) are excellent, and yes, the seats are covered with leather and heated front and rear (ES and EX models only, if you buy an S and SX youll have to make do with fabric and cold familial bums) but other than that its not brilliant.
The stereo-cum-sat nav is very slow to boot up and awkward to use. Turning on the ignition presents a huge black screen that takes eons wake up; seriously, my teenage son is quicker to life in the mornings. And more user friendly to get information out of.
Not so the seat belt warning chime, which sounds as soon as you turn on the ignition, giving you information you dont need before you need it; this is extraordinarily annoying when you are programming the sat nav, or setting the stereo, or doing any one of a number of jobs that demand the ignition be turned on. And, finally, the outside temperature is in degrees Fahrenheit, which might be OK when it gets hot (we all like to see that magic 100, dont we?) but isnt very user friendly when you want to see just how cold it is. (Freezing is 32, if youre interested.)
It is comfy though, and roomy, and easy to keep clean, attributes that the average family will appreciate more than cutting edge styling or more luxurious materials. It does feel cheap though.
Shall I write as a motoring journalist or as a dad? As a journalist I can tell you that the ride is good, but roly-poly and the steering is too light but weights up quickly in the bends making the whole car feel ponderous and awkward.
As a dad, though, I can tell you that it rides well, and feels safe, something that the tall driving position and sheer mass helps reinforce. Large diameter wheels and high-profile rubber absorb most of the harshness youll encounter and the brakes and steering are fine. Really, its fine. I covered 400-miles and never once felt that anything was missing from the experience.
The ES and EX models come with part-time four-wheel-drive; predominately front-wheel-drive, the Korando shifts torque to the rear axle when conditions demand, although it can be locked to give true four-wheel-drive.
This is a welcome boon and adds another layer to the Korandos charms. Ive driven it previously off-road and was reasonably impressed; it has enough mud-plugging ability for the majority of owners and more than enough to keep you mobile in snow and ice. Well worth paying extra for, in my opinion. (And you dont get a cold backside, either)
The Korando comes with just one engine, a 2.0-litre diesel that produces 175bhp and 265 lb/ft of torque and honesty compels me to admit that it feels like less.
SsangYong claim that it takes 9.9 seconds to get from rest to 62mph, which feels about right; the Korando is capable of a decent turn of speed but you need to work it hard. Flick up and down the six-speed gearbox (dont bother with the automatic, the manual is much better and gives you more control) and you can maintain a decent average speed. What you can never do is to relax and rely on the diesel engines torque to pull you along in a surge of torque in a higher gear.
If you want to tow a caravan youll appreciate its 2-tonne towing capacity (or 750kg if the trailer doesnt have brakes) and the stability that the wheelbase and height gives.
Fuel economy is average; I got 39mpg, which is a long way short of the official average of 44.1 but should be representative of what the majority of owners can expect to get. CO2 emissions are 169 g/km, so forget about cheap car tax.
Value for Money
There are two ways to look at the Korandos value for money. Buy an S and you can get behind the wheel for an OTR price of around 17,000. But youll have no toys and, crucially, no four-wheel-drive. An EX, the cheapest way to get all four wheels driven, costs 21,445 PLUS the cost of the stereo/sat nav, which is a grand. This makes the Korando less of a bargain.
However, that is cheaper than the Hyundai ix35
or the Mitsubishi ASX
(although both do get much better reviews) and you do get a five-year warranty.
The Korando caused me more than a little angst. On the one hand I quite liked it. Heck, I liked it a lot more than the carwow score of 5 suggested I would. I used it for a week and found that, for the majority of journeys, it was fine. Absolutely fine.
And yet, when I asked myself if I would buy one with my own money I was less convinced. Given my own money, Id splash out on a Skoda Yeti
, no question. It might be a little bit more to buy, but its in a different league to drive and own.
Its not that the SsangYong Korando is a bad car. Its just not a good one.