First Drive: Ssangyong Korando Sports

When is a Ssangyong Korando not a Ssangyong Korando?

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-charged diesel

Transmission: six-speed manual

Power: 155 PS

Torque: 360 Nm between 1,500 and 2,800 rpm

Fuel consumption (combined cycle): 31.4 mpg

CO2 emissions: 199g/km

Top speed: 107mph

Acceleration (0-62 mph): N/A

Price: TBA (see text)

When is a Ssangyong Korando not a Ssangyong Korando? That’s not the most obviously gripping question of the day but it’s one you might soon find yourself pondering if you’re in the market for a value-for-money 4x4.

On the one hand, there’s the Korando with which you may already be familiar, the “real” Korando, so to speak, which is Ssangyong’s competitor for the Nissan Qashquai, Mitsubishi ASX, Kia Sportage and Hyundai iX35 in the light crossover SUV market. That’s the one you may have seen being advertised lately on the TV with a no-nonsense straightforward value-for-money message highlighting its price, which undercuts the competition by a good few thousand pounds. That model is probably Ssangyong’s most polished product so far and deserves to do well.

And then there’s the other Korando, the Korando Sports, the vehicle badged in some other countries as the Actyon. That’s worth a look too, but it doesn’t have much in common under the skin with the Korando that’s just a Korando, despite being broadly the same size. Where the Korando has an all-in-one monocoque body structure like most road cars and crossovers, the Korando Sport has a separate chassis, a rugged form of construction favoured for hard-core off-road vehicles such as the Land Rover Defender. The Korando’s engine is fitted transversely, while the Korando Sport’s is mounted longitudinally, but most obviously the Korando Sport is a four-door cab pick-up truck while the Korando proper has a normal five-door hatchback body. Name recognition is the reason we have two Korandos, and this sort of thing is not unknown in the motor industry; BMW is expected soon to expand its 1-Series line with front-wheel drive cars that have little in common with the main 1-Series models which have rear-wheel drive, and if it’s good enough for BMW, it’s probably good enough for Ssangyong.

So what’s the Korando Sports, like? Not bad at all, but quite different to the other one in feel as well as construction. Where the Korando represents Ssangyong’s big bid to break into the mainstream, the Korando Sport is more typical of the sort of interesting niche product the company has traditionally made – the enormous Rodius for large families and the Rexton with its separate chassis for people who want to tow big horseboxes and caravans, for example. The Korando Sports’ separate chassis gives it some of the same toughness but it also has coil-sprung rear suspension, making it a touch more sophisticated than its rivals in the pick-up market such as the Mitsubishi L200.

Out on the road, the Korando Sports still has the distinctive pattery feel of a car with a separate chassis but the ride on those coil springs is pretty comfortable. Ssangyong’s diesel engine is a gutsy thing that provides surprisingly strong acceleration as well as being comparatively civilised. One notable feature is the Korando Sports’ low first gear, which would probably be a godsend on a hill start with a heavy trailer that exploits this car’s whopping 2.3 tonne towing capacity. If you jump straight into the Korando Sports from an Audi, the interior is going to feel a bit plasticky, but it’s actually much more car like than what you’d find in most pick ups.

Ssangyong is the often overlooked smaller player in the Korean motor industry but after quite a lot of chopping and changing, not least a switch in ownership from China’s SAIC to India’s Mahindra & Mahindra (which now holds 70% of the company), things seem to be settling down a bit, with a restored flow of new products pointing to steady improvement. The likably chunky Korando Sports probably has what it takes to build up a following when it goes on sale in the autumn but as always, much will depend on pricing. Ssangyong is hinting that the full price including VAT will be roughly the same as the ex-VAT prices advertised by the competition (many pick-up users are able to reclaim the VAT if they jump through enough hoops). If that turns out to be the case, the Korando Sports should find quite a few takers, especially as it also enjoys Ssangyong’s UK market five-year unlimited mileage warranty.

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