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by Tim Beissmann

The Ssangyong Korando S petrol has launched in Australia, introducing a new low-cost entry-level variant to the compact SUV range and ending the South Korean manufacturer’s long-running diesel-only local strategy.

Priced from $23,990 driveaway, the petrol-powered Ssangyong Korando S undercuts the base model Korando diesel by $2300, making it one of the cheapest SUVs on the market.

While the bargain basement Chery J11 is untouchable at $17,990, the new Ssangyong Korando S petrol matches the price of the Great Wall X240 and undercuts the list prices of more established players like the Nissan Dualis and the Mitsubishi ASX by $1000 and $2000 respectively.

Under the bonnet of the Korando S petrol sits a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 109kW and 191Nm. With a combined cycle fuel consumption rating of 6.2 litres per 100km for the six-speed manual, the petrol model is bettered by its diesel counterpart by just 0.1L/100km – although the petrol is also 20kW/169Nm adrift in terms of engine output. A six-speed automatic is available as a $2000 option.

Standard features include cruise control, Bluetooth phone connectivity, reversing sensors and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Six airbags and electronic stability control are also standard, as is Ssangyong’s five-year/100,000km warranty and five-year roadside assistance.

The Korando is Ssangyong’s top-selling model in Australia and the introduction of the entry-level petrol variant is expected to see volume grow significantly. Ssangyong sold 750 Korandos across the country in 2012, up 20 per cent over the previous year.

Neville Crichton, the owner of Ssangyong’s new Australian distributor, Ateco Automotive, said the positioning of the Korando petrol model was an expression of “the huge commitment that both Ssangyong and Ateco are making to ensure the success of the brand in Australia”.

The Korando S petrol becomes Ssangyong Australia’s first petrol model since the brand adopted its audacious diesel-only strategy in 2008. The company signalled its intentions to move away from the hard-line stance in 2011 when it changed its slogan from ‘We live diesel’ to ‘A lot of car, a little price’.

The brand is looking at other non-diesel options beyond the compact SUV range too, currently considering a 3.2-litre petrol engine for the next-generation Stavic, which is a chance to reach local showrooms before the end of the year.