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 updated 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.
Power comes from a 176bhp 2.2-litre turbodiesel motor, available with either a six-speed manual gearbox, or, on top-spec ELX trim, a six-speed auto.
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 under £18k. Torque-on-demand all-wheel drive versions of all trim levels are available at £1500 above the front-driven models.
Like most of its direct competitors (and unlike the rest of Ssangyong’s range) the 4x4 system defualts to 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.
Equipment levels are also decent, with the £16,250 entry model getting 16in alloys, keyless entry, cruise control, air con, and Bluetooth and USB connectivity, while the mid-spec EX adds heated seats, 7in touchscreen, climate control, reversing camera, adaptive headlights and 17in alloys.
Top ELX models look pricey at over £20k, but get leather seats, heated rear seats, satnav, auto folding mirrors and 18in alloys.
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.