Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
It’s been a long time between drinks, but the SsangYong Korando is back for sale in Australia.
Like many previous-generation models from SsangYong, the last Korando had a peculiar look that took attention away from what turned out to be a reliable SUV.
SsangYong's former designs acted as the concrete slippers that constrained the brand’s fortunes Down Under. Thankfully, those days are over.
The 2020 SsangYong Korando is all-new, it’s a bang up-to-date model wrapped in a contemporary design that will give the challenger brand another arrow to aim at the establishment.
Strategically, for SsangYong’s reborn Australian arm, the Korando is an important car, it fills the conspicuous gap between the small Tivoli and the seven-seat Rexton, while also giving the Korean marque a horse in the booming medium-sized SUV segment.
While the Korando is sold as a midsized SUV, realistically, it’s an inbetweener that is positioned between the small and medium segments. For context, given its dimensions, the Korando would slot between the Kia Seltos and Sportage, or the Mazda CX-30 and CX-5, however, there’s not much in it, and because of its sharp pricing, it could be shopped against rival brands in both segments.
For this review, we are driving the flagship Korando Ultimate which is priced from $36,990 drive-away. On price alone, it’s hard to ignore.
As is the way with SsangYong, the equipment list is extensive. 19-inch alloy wheels, LED front fog lights, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, a powered sunroof and tailgate, leather trim, heated front and rear seats, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and dual-zone climate control are all included as standard.
The Korando Ultimate also gets a plethora of safety tech including autonomous emergency braking, front collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, high beam assist, front vehicle start alarm, a driver attention alert, safety distance alert, blind-spot monitoring, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic alert, exit assist, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
While on safety, the Korando is the first SsangYong to be awarded a five-star safety rating by independent crash testing firm ANCAP.
So it’s got all the gear, but it’s the quality of the presentation that isn't mentioned on the spec sheet. The build quality is as good as anything from the mainstream. Those with a good eye will notice there are some exterior elements from the wider SsangYong range like the haunches from the Rexton.
The cabin showcases SsangYong's level of fit and finish, everything is tightly screwed together in what is a well thought out, ergonomic interior.
Some of that good work is undone by the overuse of shiny black plastic, it’s everywhere and detracts from what is a pleasant atmosphere. The slab across the dash needs to be changed to something less reflective and easier to maintain. The matte surfaces in the Musso ute are nicer to look at.
It’s practical too with plenty of room in the back seat for tall adults and a generously sized boot at 551L.
Surprisingly, for a range-topper, there’s no rear air vents or USB ports which diminishes some of the comfort levels for those in the back on a long run.
From the driver’s seat, there’s no doubt you're piloting a new model. The digital instrument cluster is sharp and customisable which elevates the feeling of modernity. Same goes for the 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, it’s easy to use, though most of us will defer to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
Powering our Ultimate is an all-new 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that offers 120kW and 280Nm. On paper, it compares well to the 130kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbo unit in the new Seltos.
It only takes a few miles to notice the engine’s refinement, everything is smooth and comfortable. The engine delivers enough power for this type of car, it’s responsive and easy to like.
Where the Korando betters dual-clutch rivals is the deployment of a traditional automatic transmission. The shifts are precise without the annoying low-speed hesitation.
Enthusiastic drivers will notice the centre of gravity feels low which keeps things nicely planted. Building on this is a slightly firmer suspension tune that helps keep body roll to a minimum while ironing out the surface imperfections.
Over a longer highway stint, the Korando remains composed. There’s very little wind and tyre noise at higher speeds which gives the car some genuine cruising ability.
This Korando isn't a jack of all trades, it’s a front-wheel drive proposition that rules out recreational off-roading. In town is where the Korando does its best work, in our opinion, it’s a perfect city-sized SUV. The footprint is small enough for city drivability with the packaging to comfortably carry five and their gear.
After covering 667km during our test, the Korando returned a combined consumption figure of 8.5L/100km. It’s not far off the official number. 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.
The Korando stacks up well against more expensive opposition, those wanting badge recognition won't be swayed regardless of the value proposition, but flexible shoppers should compare it to the mainstream.
Another issue is the small dealership network, more sites are essential to growing brand awareness.
While SsangYong is classified as a challenge brand, its products keep the establishment honest. The Korando Ultimate is a refined, well-equipped SUV with a competitive sticker price that makes it at least worth a steer before handing over any of your hard-earned cash. There’s enough promise here to help SsangYong graduate into the mainstream it’s currently rebelling against.
2020 SsangYong Korando Ultimate Specifications
Price from $36,990 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