Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
It’s hard to believe, a whole two years have passed since SsangYong officially returned to Australia. During that time, the Korean brand has toiled away but is yet to fully capture the eye of buyers.
Despite a well-sorted portfolio that includes the vastly underrated Musso ute and seven-seat Rexton, SsangYong is yet to establish a large enough dealer footprint to establish itself as a genuine alternative to the mainstream offerings.
Where we have seen dealers, the signage is often underwhelming and doesn’t capture any attention from those passing by. Branding, positioning and more dealers need to be urgent considerations for the self-described ‘challenger’ brand as buyers return to the market following the disruption caused by the pandemic.
Locally, the small and medium SUV segments are some of the most competitive, often dominated by the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5Hyundai Tucson and Kia Seltos. Given the Korando's size and price, it hovers across both segments. This is a section of the automotive landscape where people don’t skimp. Well-appointed, higher-grades are where private buyers set their sights. 
We’ve already driven the flagship Korando Ultimate and it didn’t disappoint. It’s incredibly easy to become accustomed to the extra toys and additional comfort of range-topping variants, but the mid-spec Korando ELX doesn’t want for much.
The Korando EXL is priced from $30,990 drive-away, $6000 less than the Ultimate. You don’t lose much when you start drilling into the finer details.
As standard, the ELX gets keyless entry and push-button start, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic projector headlights with levelling function, rain-sensing wipers, auto-folding heated side mirrors, 18-inch alloy wheels, and LED daytime running lights.
Autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, front collision warning, a rear-view camera, blind-spot monitoring, lane change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert with braking intervention are also standard.
When compared to the Ultimate, the ELX loses the 19-inch alloy wheels, LED front fog lights, a new 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, a powered sunroof and tailgate, heated front and rear leather seats, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
Perhaps most importantly, the ELX uses the same 120kW/280Nm 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that powers the range-topper. It’s a new engine that’s pleasantly refined. It’s a smooth operator without any noticeable lag.
The six-speed torque converter automatic is also a peach thanks to decisive changes that easily better a dual-clutch set-up, especially at city pace. To achieve maximum efficiency, it will change up slightly faster than most will anticipate, but the shifts both up and down are clean. There’s no juddering or hesitation which is exactly as it should be in 2020.
As we noted in our review of the Ultimate, the ELX rides a little firmer than the segment norm, however, it doesn’t lack comfort when taking on appallingly maintained country roads.
As we’ve come to expect from SsangYong the driving experience far exceeds what should be expected from a challenger marque. While SsangYong is currently a low-volume player, the brand has been in the car business for long enough to know what it's doing.
In petrol guise, the Korando is only available in front-wheel drive, SsangYong is yet to include an all-wheel drive variant in the standard range, although they did offer a diesel AWD Launch Edition last year.
Putting the drive to one side, it’s the fit and finish that reiterates what a strong proposition SsangYong is trying to present. The build quality is most noticeable on the inside. The seat fabric, the leather-wrapped steering wheel and all the controls offer a surprisingly good tactile experience.
It’s practical too, a handy trait for an SUV. The interior designers have carved out every millimetre of available space. There is plenty of room with reasonably sized adults able to enjoy a ride in the second row. 
The only thing that detracts from a well thought out cabin is the unnecessary overuse of shiny black trim across the dash. It’s a horrible choice in a family car, even with the right products and cloth it’s a pain to clean and maintain.
Our test covered 827km of mixed driving after which the ELX returned a combined consumption figure of 8.1L/100km. It’s a strong result given the size of the car and the family duties it was required to undertake. Buyers should note, the Korando requires a minimum of 95RON.
Ownership credentials are excellent, SsangYong backs every model in its local portfolio with a seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, seven-year roadside assistance coverage and seven years’ of transparent service costs under the brand’s Service Price Menu.
Each of the first seven services which cover the first 105,000km of ownership are capped at $295 plus any extras when they fall due such as brake fluid changes, air filters and spark plugs.
SsangYong is a brand with plenty to offer. Its cars are well made, generously appointed, nice to drive and affordable. Unfortunately, a large section of the market remains oblivious to these virtues.
As a matter of urgency, a larger dealer network is required. Just look at ute loving Queensland, there is no dealer between Gladstone and Townsville on the coast. The brand is also unrepresented in the central and western parts of the state.
In all honesty, it’s hard to convince people to invest in a product outside of the mainstream without removing as many of the barriers to purchase as possible. It’s a simple equation, for SsangYong to grow, it needs more dealers. There are opportunities with the demise of Holden and Honda’s switch to an agency model for SsangYong to plant a flag or two.
If SsangYong can better showcase its cars and give buyers more accessibility we are confident the brand has a future. Given the market’s appetite for SUVs of this size, the Korando will find a home with those who have a local dealer and can look beyond the badge.
2020 SsangYong Korando ELX Specifications:
Price from $30,990 drive-away Engine 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol Power 120kW @ 5500rpm Torque 280Nm @ 1500-4500rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 7.7L/100km Tank Capacity 47L Performance 0-100km 7.8 seconds Length 4450mm Width 1870mm Height 1620mm Wheelbase 2675mm Kerb Weight 1435kg Ground Clearance 182mm Turning Circle 10.7m Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Warranty seven-year/unlimited kilometre