5 / 10
Model tested: 2011 Ssangyong Korando SX D20T AWD 2.0 turbo diesel, six-speed manual: $30,311 (Manufacturer’s List Price)
This is the all-new Ssangyong Korando – it’s good, and you’re going to be seeing a lot of them on the road soon enough
It’s the new global face of Ssangyong. Not only does it get a big tick in the looks department, but it also delivers on performance and handling.
For the last couple of years The Ssangyong Motor Company of Korea has been in limbo after the Korean unions refused to cut the labour force in the midst of the deepening GFC. That action alone forced the majority shareholder, Shanghai Automotive to stop the cash flow to the company.
Enter Indian industrial powerhouse Mahindra & Mahindra, who is poised to take a controlling 70 percent stake in Ssangyong, which will provide the cash and resources to take the company forward for the next decade or so.
Mahindra’s Automotive president reckons it got a bargain too when he said:
“Mahindra has got the ‘deal of the decade’ in acquiring an existing production facility, a strong model line-up and an outstanding engineering talent and skills based workforce that has now demonstrated its ability to build a world class car in the form of the new Korando…”
He’s right; after a test drive route, which covered 300 kilometres across dirt tracks and tarmac, the Korando has what it takes to compete in the highly competitive compact SUV segment, especially when you consider the entry-level price of just $26,311 for the two-wheel drive Korando S with a six-speed manual transmission.
Malaysian automotive conglomerate Sime Darby, signed up to distribute the Ssangyong brand in Australia a couple of years ago, and that should provide a level of comfort for those folks with any reservations.
Sime Darby employs over 100,000 people and has an extensive portfolio, which includes distribution of BMW across Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, New Zealand; assembly of Hyundai, Ford and BMW in Malaysia; retail of Rolls Royce in Hong Kong; and sale of Suzuki in Macau, Lamborghini in China and Porsche in Malaysia.
It is also the largest retailer of luxury vehicles in New Zealand, as well as the importer for Peugeot, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge in that country. In Australia, the company handles the distribution of Peugeot and is the Caterpillar importer/distributor in Queensland and the Northern Territory. Needless to say, Sime Darby knows the car business inside out.
Ssangyong has always struggled in the styling department. Its moderate success in the late 80s with the Ssangyong Musso SUV was largely based on the fact that it used a Mercedes-Benz drivetrain, a point that was widely publicised, but it wasn’t much of a looker. It didn’t get any better either, with most Ssangyongs of the last decade coping a lethal flogging by the ugly stick.
Thankfully, someone inside Ssangyong decided to give Giorgetto Giugiaro a shot at the fourth generation Korando. It shows too in what is a great looking SUV. Mind you, Ssangyong desperately needed the Korando to be a winner and failure to do so could have meant curtains for the company.
For those of you who haven’t heard of Giugiaro, he is one of the living legends of automotive design. In 1999 he was named Car Designer of the Century with credits that include the Ferrari 250 Berlinetta Bertone, BMW M1, Maserati Bora, Lotus Esprit S1 and even the VW Golf I. Let’s just hope that it’s not the last Ssangyong that Italdesign (Guigiaro’s design studio) pens for the car company.
Rob Dommerson, the Managing Director of Sime Darby in Australasia said yesterday that he believed the Korando
“can go head-to-head with the best of those competitors in the segment”.
He also told the press corps that
“If Korando is the forerunner for the next generation of Ssangyong models then – they’re absolutely on the money”.
He’s right, but that’s a big if.
Unlike Ssangyong designs of the past, the Korando has been blessed with a smooth overall shape devoid of any nasty angles. There are also enough metallic accents around the car to give it a polished, if not, classy appearance.
I particularly like the shape of the twin chrome exhaust tips, which have been semi-integrated into the diffuser. The meshed grille and lower air intake also work well to give a sporty/premium look about the car, as does the wrap around headlight assembly. It’s tasteful, and not too overdone.
There’s a relatively high beltline, but side visibility is good. Where I have a slight problem is the rear tailgate glass: it’s steeply raked and there isn’t much of it, which limits rear visibility. Compounding the issue is that there’s no rear camera option, although rear-parking sensors are standard on the Korando SPR variant.
That said the level of standard kit Ssangyong has thrown at this vehicle is impressive, perhaps even class-leading. That’s a sizeable advantage given the intense competition in the compact SUV segment in this country.
Standard features across the entire Korando range include alloy wheels including the spare, heated side mirrors with safety light, wiper de-icer (front), electronic anti-glare rear view mirror, six-speaker audio unit with Bluetooth streaming and phone connectivity (it’s dead easy to use), as well as a stack of other gear.
It’s the same story when it comes to safety, there’s a full suite of active and passive safety systems, along with additional features such as Active Rollover Protection, Hill Start Assist, Active Head Restraints and Emergency Stopping Signal.
Inside, the Korando doesn’t disappoint either. Mostly high quality materials have been used throughout the cabin, although you won’t find any soft touch on the dash. It’s no deal breaker as the material looks and feels like a premium plastic.
The console and associated switchgear are well laid out and very functional, and there are just the enough metal accents to offset the darker finish inside the cabin. The highlight is the one-touch button for Bluetooth streaming from your iPhone – an absolute treat if you prefer music to the endless stream of talk back dribble and radio ads.
There’s no clutter in the instrument display either, just a pair of clean round bezels with a metallic surround for a thoroughly Euro finish. The leather bound steering wheel has a sporty look and feel to it, as well as having all the usual remote buttons.
For a compact SUV, the interior architecture has been well thought out. There’s considerable head and legroom for front and rear seats, as well as an endless array of storage compartments. Luggage space is well catered for too with a large loading area behind the rear seats.
So it looks and feels good inside and out, but for the Korando to succeed in the one of the most hotly contested automotive segments in Australia, it needs to deliver when it comes to performance and handling.
Ssangyong won’t say where its e-XDi200 2.0L diesel is from, except that the components are European sourced, and that the engine is assembled at the Ssangyong plant in Korea. Lift up the bonnet though, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it looks awfully like a Benz cover, and yes, it complies with stringent Euro V emissions.
Right from idle, I can say unequivocally that this engine is quieter than both the Hyundai iX35 and the Kia Sportage diesel variants. It’s no different under full load either, with all 129kW and 360Nm on-song, passengers are well insulated from that diesel clatter, which tends to intrude into the cabins of these smaller diesel vehicles.
There’s plenty of punch too, but you’ll need to keep the revs up near 2000rpm for smooth shifts, particularly down in the lower gear ratios. It’s not that the six-speed transmission is notchy at all; in fact, it’s a very sweet short shift unit that requires little more than a gentle nudge. It’s just that there’s a bit of torque hole if you give it too much throttle, too early in the rev range.
That said, we’re keen to get behind the wheel of the optional six-speed automatic box, which is being produced right here in our own backyard by DSI in Albury. This will be an e-Tronic transmission that will have steering wheel-mounted shift buttons and will provide optimal shift points depending road conditions and driving style. We won’t have to wait long, as according to Ssangyong boss Jeff Barber, the automatic versions are being built at this very moment and will arrive in Australia in March.
The initial allocation of 301 manual Korandos have already been sold to the dealer network, who are anxious to get their hands on the auto versions as quickly as possible, given the substantial media campaign behind what is essentially a global relaunch of the Ssangyong brand.
At 110km/h the Korando cruises effortlessly in top gear, and overtaking on country roads is a breeze. As far as 2.0-litre diesels go, this is one of the more refined units in play, with plenty of mid-range torque in all gear ratios.
The Korando feels planted on the road too. That’s partially due to the engine sitting low in the chassis, for a lower centre of gravity than the normal approach. Despite being a compact SUV, you can still have some fun on those lonely twisty roads out of town. There is, however, a natural tendency to understeer if you’re pushing in the corners, but that’s a characteristic of front-wheel drive, which is the predominant drive mode for this ‘torque on demand’ AWD system in the Korando.
While the chassis feels rigid there’s still a decent level of compliance for a comfortable ride on wide variety of road surfaces.
Equally impressive, is the way the Korando handles some very average dirt roads littered with corrugations. The ride is not only comfortable, but the car tracked as straight as a die on the rough stuff, and required little if any steering correction.
If the going gets tough, then drivers can engage the ‘4WD LOCK’ mode, which will then distribute the torque on a 50/50 basis front and back for high traction levels.
There’s plenty of stopping power on board the Korando too, with some rather sensitive brakes requiring light pedal pressure only.
As a Euro V-compliant engine, fuel efficiency and low emissions are part of the Korando advantage. It’s obviously better with the two-wheel drive variants, with the manual burning through just 6.1 litres/100km and producing CO2 emissions of a low 159g/km, while the auto returns 7.3 litres/100km with 194g/km.
All-wheel drive versions of Korando aren’t that far behind, with 6.4-litres/100km and 169g/km for the manual and 7.5-litres/km and 199g/km for the auto.
Towing small boats and jet skis won’t be an issue either as the Korando has a 2000kg braked trailer limit.
Price alone dictates that the Korando be included on the compact SUV shortlist. Add to that great styling, Euro V diesel engine, good performance and handling, and a raft of other creature comforts, and what we have here is a viable contender from Ssangyong.
The 2011 Ssangyong Korando range is on sale now (automatics available from March) for the following manufacturer’s list prices:
• S front-wheel drive manual – $26,311 ($27,990 driveaway)
• S front-wheel drive automatic – $28,811
• SX all-wheel drive manual – $30,311
• SX all-wheel drive automatic – $32,811
• SPR all-wheel drive automatic – $36,811
S Model Standard Features
-Six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic transmission
-Leather wrapped steering wheel and gear selector
-Anti-lock Brake System, Electronic Brake Distribution, Electronic Stability Program, Brake Assist System and Hill Start Assist
-16” alloy wheels, including spare
-Silver roof rails
-Fabric seat trim
-Remote keyless entry
-Six SRS airbags — dual front airbags, side airbags and curtain airbags
-AM/FMCD audio with MP3 and USB facilities
-Bluetooth with audio streaming
-Auto dimming interior rearview mirror
-Cruise control with Eco mode
-Tilt adjustable steering wheel, with audio, Bluetooth and automatic transmission shift controls
-Power and heated external door mirrors with LED side repeaters and safety down light
-Driver and passenger vanity mirrors
-Optional rear cargo cover and net
-Front & rear floor mats
-Manual height adjustable driver’s seat
-Centre high mounted LED stop lamp
-Manual controlled air-conditioning with seven-speed fan
-Roof mounted antenna
SX Models Features
All of the features included in the S model plus
-17” alloy wheels including full size alloy spare
-Front fog lamps
-Illuminated driver and passenger vanity mirrors
-Rear cargo cover and net
-Climate Control air-conditioning
All of the features included in SX models plus
-Six-speed automatic as standard
-18” alloy wheels including full size alloy spare
-Rear roof mounted spoiler
-Leather seat trim
-Heated front seats
-Power adjustable driver’s seat
-Power folding external door mirrors
-Driver controlled headlight leveling
-Rear Parking Sensors