2014 SsangYong Korando AWD

Designed by Italians, built by Koreans, with one of the longest serving nameplates: this is your next affordable off-roader.

By Fraser Martin

2014 SsangYong Korando

We like messing about in McLarens, flitting around in Ferraris, blasting cross-country in Bentleys and taking general enjoyment from jolly japes in Jeeps. Such is the workaday drudgery of a motoring journalist – and we know how lucky we are – so it should come as no surprise to anyone that it is not all seven-figure invoice values and posing outside five-star hotels, pretending the car is yours, fun though that can be.

I started last week in a Bentley with a value of 12-times the car I finished the week in. The rather convincing SsangYong Korando proves if nothing else then, that irrespective of what you pay, a motor car usually completes the job of getting you from A to B – the only real difference being the style and comfort in which you arrive.

2014 SsangYong Korando

Now, that is not to say that the Korando – which is how I will refer to the test car from here on in, because it will be easier on the reader’s ear – does not have style. Indeed, recruiting one of the best known names in the business of style, Giorgetto Giugiaro, to pen the outline for the South Korea number three motor manufacturer’s entry level SUV, is something of a coup!

Practical, user-friendly interior

Against the main domestic opposition contenders, the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, as well as the more mainstream offerings from Toyota, Mitsubishi, Honda and even the Jeep Cherokee and Land Rover LR2, the new Korando stacks up well in both looks and practicality.

2014 SsangYong Korando

It has the longest wheelbase of the Korean domestic vehicles in the segment, giving it class-leading rear legroom – and reclining rear seats, a feature found on none of the competitors! The folded cargo-floor is flat and the parcel shelf cover actually stows away in a properly designed place so that it does not rattle around the car when you don’t need it.

Elsewhere, whilst the interior is where the other Korean manufacturers were ten years ago in terms of tactile niceties, the Korando is well equipped in test car guise, with all the appointments and offices we have come to be spoiled with even at this near-entry level of SUV.

2014 SsangYong Korando

There are electrics to most driver seat functions, plus mirrors, doors, windows and sunroof. I found plenty of buttons to play with whether I needed them or not, and with the exception of an obvious interior light switch, I found everything more or less where I expected to find it – except when I lost something in one of the seemingly hundreds of storage compartments!

One particularly useful deviation from that general ambience was a trip switch in the middle of the dash console, near the hazards: like my Mother’s insistence on the indicators making a nice noise before she will even entertain buying a car, I like to have the trip in a readily accessible place, not hidden in a system within a package within a rotary dial somewhere!

2014 SsangYong Korando

Likewise, thank goodness for a proper handbrake – one that sprouts from the floor, requires a good tug and will hold the car instantly. You know where you are with one of these! Which is more than can be said for the navigation, since there is none.

What it doesn’t have you, you don’t need

But let me just clear something up: I am a great believer in improvements and drivers’ aids if they serve a purpose and are not technology for the sake of it (like electronic handbrakes!) but most of the cars I have driven in the last year that have had a nav system, have had a system that was out of date as soon as it was plugged into the wiring loom. In other words, not much good to you if the roads have changed.

2014 SsangYong Korando

So the Korando NOT having nav is actually no big deal in my view. I can buy an up to date Garmin plug in for about US$250, which is more accurate and about a tenth of the price of a factory option nav system on most cars. In a year, I can chuck it away or use it elsewhere and get a new one that is refreshed. Why would anyone spend money on nav in any car bought in this part of the world? The roads change too often and you end up, as I have experience of, either trying to go up a one-way street the wrong way or find yourself being directed down a flight of steps!

The interior of the Korando, for me therefore, ticks all the boxes I want. There is a stereo too, but regular readers will know how much that interests me. And apparently, the rear legroom is more than anything else in the class – but then try catching me in the back of anything! Drawback? Only two airbags and an instrument cluster that looks dated. Otherwise, quite a nice place to spend time.

2014 SsangYong Korando

Surprisingly handy tool off-road

Externally, the Korando is a revelation. The nameplate is one of the longest to serve in the motor industry: 31 years without a break. It is allegedly a contraction of ‘Korea Can Do’ but that seems a little retrospectively contrived. Nonetheless, this latest version, Italian styled and unitary construction, is bang on for general presence and has decent approach, breakover and departure angles for an SUV that is probably not intended do much in the way of hard work off-road, despite the permanent 4WD.

It got to do some with me though, and to my eternal disgrace, I was lazy enough to go out ill-prepared for the ground I ended up tackling. I found myself heading down an unknown sand track which was rapidly deteriorating to dust through encroaching foliage towards a pit where someone less fortunate – or less well mounted – had needed rescuing.

2014 SsangYong Korando

As things began to slow, and the dust started to drag the Korando inexorably deeper, all I had to do was press a couple of buttons. Disengage stability control (one flick) and engage the diff-lock (second flick) and it was as if the car had developed instant stilts: the Kia sourced gearbox and drivetrain transformed the going instantly from sluggish and treacherous to strong and momentous, and in combination with the decent tyres – Kumhos on the test car as supplied to Jeep as original equipment – there was really nothing to worry about, though I hadn’t lowered the pressures. This is a handy tool, this Korando.

The engine is new and makes a decent stab at delivering enough power to the 18-inch alloys. It can sound a bit stressed at higher revs, but with the drivetrain as it is, you should never really need them, on or off road. Punting out 150hp from the two-litre in-line four cylinder engine is not exactly going to set anyone on fire, but torque is delivered well enough down the rev band to make the best of the power available. The six-speed automatic on the test model did the job and will be familiar enough to anyone who has spent time in other Korean products.

2014 SsangYong Korando

Verdict

All things considered, if you can live with the slightly outdated instrument cluster, the SsangYong Korando DLX AWD is a really good value-for-money proposition. It may not be massively cheaper, at Dhs.89,000.00 than the opposition (AED79k for the S AWD and 69k for the 2WD S), but is far better loaded with kit, so if you can live with explaining about the double dragon-logo and teaching people to pronounce the name properly, this SUV will not disgrace your driveway.

In point of fact, if you are looking at any of the mainstream small SUVs, pause for a moment, take a breath and go and have a look at this. I’m sure you will be, as I was, pleasantly surprised.

2014 SsangYong Korando AWD – The Specs

Prices: 2.0 S AWD AED79,000 ($22k); 2.0 DLX AWD AED89,000 ($24k)
(Two-wheel driver 2.0 S starts from AED69,000 [$19k] – not covered in this review)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder, 149bhp @ 6000rpm, 145lb ft @ 6000rpm
Performance: 9.8secs 0-100kph, 165kph, 8.5L/100
Transmission: Six-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Weight: 1625kg

 Whaddya reckon? Could Korando by your next SUV? Tell us below

One response to “2014 SsangYong Korando AWD”

  1. Brian Wilkinson says:

    Good review got mine new 2014 not a complete would get another always had landrovers but had a change not disappointed

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