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Ssangyong Korando SX 4x4 review (2012 onwards)
Model: Ssangyong Korando SX 4x4
Bodystyle: Five-door crossover
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Transmission: six-speed manual
What is it?
Ssangyong has the dubious status of being South Korea's fourth largest carmaker, after Kia, Hyundai and Chevrolet. Although it can trace its history back to the early '50s, it has only been making cars for export to Europe for the past 20 years.
High-riding with a hint of ruggedness
Even with rose tinted spectacles, they have until recently been a bit rough and ready. The are bought by people looking for a lot of space and car for their money.
The latest Korando is different. Designed by the Italian maestro Giugiaro, it looks handsome and mechanically it is right on the money.
It's a bargain too, of course, as newcomers have to be to grab your attention. And it competes in an expanding area of the market, the compact crossover.
Four-wheel-drive or just front-wheel-drive, vehicles like this Korando drag buyers from traditional family hatchbacks into high-riders with a hint of 4x4 ruggedness, all at an affordable price.
Where does it fit in?
Launched late in 2011, the first Korandos came with a very powerful 175hp turbo-diesel engine. Now there's a cheaper, model, still with a very respectable 149hp, and still with the five-year unlimited mileage warranty.
The four-wheel-drive Korando SX is the cheapest model in this class by a fair margin. It's £18,795 - there are no 4x4 rivals at under £20k.
Competition comes from the Ford Kuga, Hyundai ix35, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi ASX and Nissan Qashqai. Throw in the Mini Countryman if you like the left-field entry too - and can put up with car that looks like it was designed by a dog.
Is it for you?
You'll need to be prepared to explain to friends what the heck a Ssangyong is, and then get onto factoring its value.
Or you could simply say you bought it because it looks great and is very well engineered. Both of which are true.
What does it do well?
This SX drives very well indeed. The steering has a reasonable weight, the visibility is good and the performance strong. Indeed, this SX seems not noticeably slower than the more power version.
The engine thrums noticeably from the outside, but the sound deadening inside is excellent, making it relaxing in most respects. The manual gearchange is easy.
You can buy a Korando S with just front-wheel-drive and save £1,800, but in SX form there is, of course, off-road potential. Although the price is very competitive, the Ssangyong is equipped with a full suite of technical gizmos to get you around.
We tried the lot. Wet grass, mud, steep sandy hills and driving up rivers. The Korando handled the lot with aplomb. All with regular road tyres fitted, too. It was very impressive.
What doesn't it do well?
The ride falls short of its rivals, noticeably firmer, though still not problematical. The interior harks back to the more utilitarian roots of Ssangyong, though it seems tough enough.
Like the Mitsubishi ASX, the Korando has a bought-in stereo - or satnav system if you choose that option. Both are fiendishly hard to operate, mainly because the controls are so tiny.
What's it like to live with?
Space in the front and rear is good, although the rear seats are low set, which isn't the most comfortable. The front seats are firm so you sit on them rather than sink in, which isn't the best either.
Luggage space is average, and like many crossovers, offers no more room than a family hatchback like a Golf. But the seat folding arrangement takes the cushion forward as the backrest folds, which gives more space than rivals AND a flat floor.
It also means the rear seats can be reclined, great for long journeys. Aircon is standard, as is cruise control, iPod connectivity and Bluetooth. There is also Hill Start Assist to help pulling away on steep inclines.
How green is it?
This SX is slightly better than the higher-powered EX model, with a CO2 of 159g/km and a combined fuel consumption figure of 47.1mpg.
Neither figure is particularly impressive and don't think that dropping to the two-wheel-drive version will help. The gap with the best rivals widens further.
Would we buy it?
We kind of think we would. There are no apologies to be made for the styling of the Korando, and it drives very competently. If we needed off-road ability it's hard to imagine any competitor being better.
Against this is the worry about depreciation, plus the limited spread of dealers. It's hard to be conclusive about the former, but the fear is it could wipe out all those savings at the front end almost instantly.
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