SsangYong Korando

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SsangYong returns with its best effort yet, but it is enough to keep with the pack?

When: October 2013

Where: Dublin

What: SsangYong Korando L

Occasion: Irish road test

SsangYong Korando L: 2/5

Good points: well set up for Irish roads

Not so good: basic interior, pricey for what you get

Test car details:

Model driven: SsangYong Korando L
Price as tested: €29,750 (starts at €25,995)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door crossover SUV
Rivals: Hyundai ix35, Kia Sportage, Nissan Juke
CO2 emissions: 147g/km (Band C, €390 per annum)
Combined economy: 48.7mpg (5.8 litres/100km)
Top speed: 180km/h
0-100km/h: 9.9 seconds
Power: 149hp at 3,400- to 4,000rpm
Torque: 360Nm at 2,000- to 3,000rpm

Our view:

Korean car brand SsangYong has returned to Ireland after a short absence and is in the process of rolling out some new models, although the styling of some remains questionable. One ray of hope comes in the form of the Korando. This mid-size SUV at first glance appears to be conservatively styled; in fact I'd go as far as saying it looks positively normal in comparison to previous examples of SsangYong's design work.

The large chrome-finished grille may be a little bit over the top, but is the only blemish in what is otherwise a well-designed car. It may have less complicated (or dynamic, in design speak) styling than some of its rivals, but overall SsangYong has done a relatively good job with it. In the case of this particular test car, the bright orange paint certainly makes it stand out and to give it its dues, managed to garner a fair bit of attention whilst driving around Dublin's streets - though I'm not sure how much of that was simply out of curiosity as to what it was.

Where the Korando is a little disappointing is on the inside, as the interior design borders on the basic side. There are quite a lot of hard plastic surfaces that don't offer much tactility while many of the controls feel dated and have a 'budget' appearance about them. You do get modest levels of standard equipment that includes heated front seats, cruise control, rear privacy glass, air conditioning and Bluetooth; though it could be argued that in this day and age many of these items would be expected to be standard anyway.

Despite being two-wheel drive (four-wheel drive options are available), the Korando feels surefooted on a variety of roads and does a sufficient job of absorbing some of the poorer stretches of tarmac. The suspension is on the soft side, but in fairness this type of vehicle isn't bought for its dynamic handling properties in the first place; however, there is a distant feeling from the steering that isn't present in some of its rivals. Performance from the 2.0-litre diesel engine is on par with much of the competition in terms of pace and power, though it does lack some of the refinement of others. Ultimately the Korando is a model that will move the game on for SsangYong, but unfortunately with the rising popularity of the family-sized crossover market, that game has also moved on meaning the Korean manufacturer is still lagging behind.

Real rivals:

Hyundai ix35: the leading Korean brand's ix35 has proven to be a popular choice and not just based on price.

Kia Sportage: one of the best looking cars in its class as well as being well priced with a big warranty.

Nissan Juke: divisive looks, but has proven to remain one of the most popular choices.

By Dave Humphreys