Text and photos by Chris Van Hoven
Far from its beginnings as a body-on-frame, Wrangler-esque SUV, the Ssangyong Korando has evolved into a fully-fledged crossover SUV, keeping in line with the Korean manufacturer’s vision of reinventing itself with fresh new models. The Korando is Ssangyong’s entry into the small SUV category, slotting nicely in between the smaller Tivoli, and larger Tivoli XLV, with much to offer for its asking price. If you’re in the market for a value-for-money crossover, then you’re in luck, as a week’s worth of driving reveals some special surprises you might be interested in.
The Korando’s shedding of its old skin has revealed some rather handsome styling cues. Boxy elements have been replaced with curves in the right places, with a compact demeanor that gives it an attractive sporty flair. Its athletic appeal is emphasized by handsome 18-inch wheels on relatively low profile tires. Its flared wheel arches give the Korando an aggressive squat, gently hinting of its ability to go off-the beaten path. We’ve gotten a few compliments on the Korando’s styling alone, which is proof that it has a certain youthful charm that’s hard to ignore. This comes as no surprise as the Korando’s design was penned by no other than famed automobile designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro.
The Korando’s interior design aesthetic is a hodgepodge of futuristic themes. While not as minimalistic as the interiors in most Japanese SUVs, its sharp angles and different polygon shapes come together in a surprisingly cohesive package. Despite the use of leather upholstery and some soft-touch plastics, the interior is where Ssangyong’s cost-cutting measures are most visible. The instrument cluster comprises of your standard two gauges with a monochrome digital display at the center. The door panels are made from hard plastic and gaps between panels along the rest of the dash are apparent. However, the buttons and knobs feel premium to the touch, and everything is where you’d expect them to be. The use of an Android-based infotainment system is a nice bonus, giving you the power and flexibility of an Android tablet at the literal touch of your fingertips — apps and all. Despite the less-than-premium feel of the interior, the seats are roomy and comfortable for the driver and all passengers aboard, with enough space and legroom at the rear seats for three medium-sized individuals. Cargo space is also generous, with more than enough room for a weekend’s worth of luggage and supplies.
Power to spare
Ssangyong has been hard at work refining their engines, and it shows. The Korando is powered by a 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine that outputs 175-hp and 360-Nm of torque, providing plenty of power for the small frame. Overtaking on long stretches at high speeds is done with ease, assisted by a manual mode accessed through the gear selector. The six-speed automatic transmission does a fine job on its own though, correctly selecting the proper gear for the job. We were able to average just under 10 km/l driving from Manila to Batangas, which included stretches of highway, and horrendous traffic jams. All in all, pretty impressive considering it has to lug around the added weight of an all-wheel-drive system. The all-wheel-drive system in itself carries a nice surprise with it in the form of a locking differential, which provides better traction in hairy off-road situations. It’s a feature you won’t find on even the most premium compact crossovers, giving extra value to the Korando’s already impressive feature set. The Korando’s ride comfort is excellent, absorbing bumps with quiet ease, though this does translate to some apparent body roll when tackling corners at medium-high speed. Nevertheless, the Korando never feels unstable, thanks to a proper hydraulic-assisted steering system that relays accurate steering response.
Undercutting the competition
To put it simply, you won’t find a crossover in the Korando’s segment that offers both all-wheel-drive and a diesel engine even close to the Korando’s price of P1,390,000. If those two factors are important to you, then the choice is made relatively simple. As a whole package, the Korando shouldn’t be overlooked, possessing youthful good looks, fun driving characteristics, and a feature set found in rivals that are priced P200,000 – P500,000 higher.