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Road Tests

SsangYong Korando Sports EXT: It's cheap but it certainly doesn't make you cheerful

Wheels, etc

There was a time when the Land Rover Defender was the default car in the countryside. That was 30 years ago, though, and today you're more likely to see a muddy Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi L200 or a Nissan Navara running around Gloucestershire or the Scottish Highlands doing whatever people do out there.

The Japanese, it turns out, can make far cheaper rugged off-roaders for rural workers (not those Hooray Henry types) than Land Rover, and these days they have creature comforts too, such as air conditioning, leather seats, Bluetooth and automatic gearboxes.

Something else has happened too; these trucks have come into our towns and cities thanks to a certain demographic of, usually balding, middle-aged men. You know the sort. They are normally angry suburban types who imagine they'll need to haul a speed boat to the lake or a quad bike to the forest one day, but never get further than lugging a small bag of sand back from Homebase.

Enter the new SsangYong Korando Sports. The standard Korando SUV is a smaller affair and has been well received, but this South Korean challenger is a bigger beast, designed to move things around the countryside or satisfy the jet-ski owning classes' demand for hefty 4x4s. The word "Sports" is there to convince them that they'll have a dynamic driving experience on the way back from a farm shop on the A303. In reality, it handles like a truck and couldn't be any further from a sports car.

What this pick-up really is, though, is cheap. Very cheap. It starts at just £18k and even in the top EXT trim of my test model it's still 20 per cent cheaper than established (less lavishly equipped) rivals.

There are downsides to all this value, however. My test route consisted of an A-Road run up to Cambridge (two bikes in the massive luggage area) and a day or two spent cruising around town (supermarket car parks are tricky in this monster). It quickly became evident that you get what you pay for. There really is a lot of machine here, but the engine isn't exactly sophisticated and you'll struggle to do much better than 25mpg in real-world use, too. The interior is no better either. It may be vast but it's a grim affair with a smattering of leather struggling to hide hard plastics, tricky switches and some less than comfortable seats.

It's true that most buyers (in the real world) will be farmers, tradesman and self-employed types upgrading from rough and ready vehicles, but the Korando Sports still lags behind the refinement and comfort you'd find in the latest van offerings from Ford or Vauxhall. And if you're expecting a cheap alternative to a Ford Ranger or Mitsubishi L200, you are going to be disappointed in the quality stakes. Despite SsangYong's claims, this isn't a commercial vehicle that can double up as your family car.

All this is fine though if you are a farmer trundling down to the far wheat field, but if you want a sporty wagon to look good, be seen in and occasionally, just very occasionally, to tow a jet ski to the lake with, I'd give it a miss.

Price: £22,745

Engine capacity: 2.0- litre diesel

Power output (PS @ rpm): 155 @ 4,000

Max torque (Nm @ rpm): 360 @ 1,500 – 2,800

Top speed (mph): 106

Fuel economy (mpg): 35.3

CO2 emissions (g/km): 212