Originally launched in 2010, the Korando marked a significant step forward in SsangYong’s pursuit of a better reputation among buyers.
Not only was it a handsome addition to the compact crossover market, it was also the firm’s very first monocoque model – meaning it delivered a far better approximation of a car’s handling characteristics than any of the body-on-frame SUVs that continue to fill out the firm’s modest lineup.
A facelift for 2014 updates the Korando inside and out without significantly tampering with the established formula. The front end, already a generic effort, receives a generic revamp; swapping out headlights, grille and air intakes for those of a slightly different shape.
LED daytime running lights now feature, but overall the impression is still of an acceptably modern-looking crossover with little about it to stick permanently in the memory.
The interior is slightly less forgettable, but only because it comes partly clad in the kind of cheap plastic which cannot otherwise find a home in this class. The redesigned dashboard makes ergonomic sense, although it hasn’t lost any of its brittleness.
On the plus side, the Korando gets large storage bins, reach and rake adjustment for the steering wheel and generous equipment levels on higher-spec models. It is also competitive on interior space; offering decent leg and headroom for rear passengers, and acceptable luggage space.
The 2.0-litre turbodiesel motor, developed by the company independently, is carried over and offered in two variants. The more powerful 173bhp version remains hooked exclusively up to a six-speed automatic, and is hamstrung by awkwardly spaced gear ratios that tend to leave the engine floundering beneath its limited power range.
The lesser 147bhp flavour, offered with a six-speed manual, actually delivers the same 266lb ft over a wider band, and without solving the unit’s obvious peakiness or vocal character, is the better of the two to interact with.
Dynamically, the Korando remains anchored to the more disappointing end of the compact crossover market. Driven back to back with another Ssangyong, and the benefits of a monocoque body can make it seem almost revelatory, but against other rivals its pitch and roll are more obviously untidy.
Things aren't helped by a sterile electric power steering system that continues to convey a disconcerting elasticity around the dead-ahead. The ride comfort is tolerable, and there’s a revised front subframe and new engine mounts to improve refinement, but the driving appeal is limited.
The car’s trump card, such as it is, is low-cost all-wheel-drive usability. Entry-level models are front-wheel drive, but there is the option of four-wheel drive for well under £20k.
Like most of its direct competitors (and unlike the rest of SsangYong’s range) the latter is front-wheel drive in normal road driving, only sending torque rearwards when required.
It also features a 50/50 diff lock as standard, and decent ramp angles and ride height clearance for those wishing to venture off-road. A five-year/unlimited mileage warranty will no doubt sweeten the deal for some too, while a decent braked towing weight may also prove useful for those with hefty loads to lug.
However, the Korando is hardly along in adopting a cost effective approach to all-wheel drive. The Dacia Duster is significantly cheaper than the Ssangyong, and a good deal more charming in its own rudimentary take on crossover motoring.
Even those above the Korando’s starting price are not too far distant thanks to the intense competition guaranteed by a rare growth market.
Until SsangYong can make the kind of two-generation leap that has so far characterised its Korean rivals’ impressive recent success, the Korando is doomed to languish at a level achieved (and surpassed) by others some time ago.