The arrival of the fourth-generation Ssangyong Korando finally confirms that the South Korean manufacturer is fully capable of producing a good-looking car.
Writing such a sentence would have been unimaginable not so long ago. Laughable, even. But following the introduction of the Tivoli small SUV in 2015, the brand’s designers have been going from strength to strength with every new model that's brought to market.
And while updated versions of the Musso pick-up truck and Rexton 4x4 both provided further evidence of this shift towards building gradually better-looking cars, to our eyes it’s this new Korando that proves they’ve now most definitely found their mojo. I think it’s fair to say the dark days of the Rodius are now very much behind us. We can only hope it stays that way.
Anyway, sharper looks are only one aspect of what’s new about this revitalised version of Ssangyong’s middle-weight SUV. There are also two new engines, a redesigned interior architecture, an updated infotainment suite and digital cockpit (in top-spec models), improved noise, vibration and harshness suppression measures and a sweep of new safety technologies that should, so the company says, guarantee a full five-star Euro NCAP rating.
All of this is obviously a good way of bringing what is a relatively fringe brand in the UK that much closer to the mainstream. But as Ssangyong will quite happily tell you, its vehicles have historically appealed to quite a niche audience: the esteemed members of the “caravanning and towing fraternities”, to use its own words. It hopes they’ll like this one even more.
Four-wheel drive is on the menu, then. And in the case of our range-topping, £31,995 Ultimate-specification test car, so too is a four-cylinder 1.6-litre diesel engine. It produces 134bhp and 239lb ft, which might not sound like much, but paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, it’s enough grunt to allow the Korando to tow up to two tonnes.
A 161bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine is set to join the range later this year, too. But as it develops less torque and is only available with front-wheel drive, it's fair to assume that it won’t quite be as capable in the towing department as its oil-burning rangemate.
The new Korando's interior is really rather nice. Surprisingly so, even. It’s not exactly on the same level as, say, a well-specced Volkswagen Tiguan for material richness and tactile appeal, but it was never going to be. The Korando is a fair few thousand pounds cheaper, after all. Next to rivals from Ssangyong’s home country, though, it’s very competitive indeed.