Text and photos by Eric Tipan
Spicy like ‘kimchi’.That was my reaction when Ssangyong launched an incredible three SUVs in one-go just a little over a year ago. But in our ever-growing automotive market where an SUV is as much a status symbol as it is a necessity — think road conditions, flash floods, roomier cabin, ground clearance, higher vantage point, more confident drive — the decision was actually elementary.
The Korando, whose name is a shortened version of ‘Korean Can Do’, is an interesting compact SUV with features as unique as its name.I take the top-of-the-line trim for a spin to see how it holds up versus stiff competition.
Even at first glance, there’s no denying that the Korando is shorter than the competition.Its swept-back front and rear glass enhance its compressed dimensions making it appear almost miniature but fails to mask its taller stature.
Save for the flared fenders, a few distinguishing lines on the hood and the sculpted bumpers, the Korando feels more like a blank canvass whereupon a more stylish fourth generation will spring from.
The sideview mirrors with turn signals unfold when unlocked, which gives it a more contemporary feel along with the LED daytime running lamps (DRLs) but Ssangyong needs to update the headlamps as well as LEDs to avoid the yellowish halogen hue that just doesn’t go well with the DRLs.
I give the Korando an immediate +1 for the higher ceiling that allowed me to get in and out without hunching over.It is these small things that, over a long period of time, make for a better overall experience. Another great interior design was to take away the transmission tunnel and provide second-row passengers with a flat floor seating that’s more comfortable and spacious.
Faux wood and chrome hard plastics in the interior don’t really increase aesthetic appeal but the soft-touch material on the dashboard and the leather seats and steering wheel do.
The Android system running the large touchscreen system takes as much getting used to as a brand new smartphone so you don’t have to worry about that.There are steering wheel (audio & phone) controls and Bluetooth connection to help you deal with the Anti-Distracted Driving Act stipulations, plus AUX and USB ports for added connectivity.
Backing it up for the first time from the basement, the Korando felt sprightly thanks to its 2.0L turbocharged direct injection diesel engine, but it was clattery.Even behind closed doors and windows, the diesel powerplant made all of its effort to make 175 PS unabashedly audible.On average driving parameters, the Korando doesn’t really excite. It is plain, though behaved and handles lightly.
Your need for speed will be satisfied with a generous serving of throttle pressure to unleash its 360 Nm of torque for some serious acceleration.With an all-wheel drive (AWD) system clawing for traction and pace, grip on the road was palpable, which gave me plenty of confidence even on wet road conditions.
The six-speed automatic transmission (with manual mode) is not as refined and had a certain roughness that’s exposed when it downshifts during overtaking maneuvers for example.
Noise, vibration and harshness dampening is very good considering the Korando has 18-inch wheels. I expected the suspension to be a level lower than current standards but I was glad to be proven wrong. It did very well to cushion the cabin from road fissures and even the heavy blows of sizable potholes along EDSA.
Can-do compact SUV
The Korando already shows a very promising future even just in its third-generation. Designed mainly for the city, it shows its can-do attitude by being off-road capable thanks to a built-in locking differential.The highly capable engine returned eight kilometers per liter over a five-day span and was a comfortable ride in all types of road conditions Metro Manila had to offer.
Five people is an easy fit in the cabin while still leaving ample rear boot space for luggage and cargo.
At Php 1.390 million it comes it cheaper than similar spec’d brands but it does have plenty of room for growth and improvement.That being said, this current iteration of the 2017 SsangyongKorando ELX AWD has heavy hitting features that already make it a true SUV contender.