The Ssangyong Korando Sports DMZ proves that it takes more than novelty paint job to stand out in the ultra-competitive pick-up truck market

What is it?

Named after the infamous demilitarised zone located between North and South Korea, the Korando Sports DMZ is Ssangyong’s latest attempt to stand out - or should that be blend in? - in the increasingly competitive pick-up truck market.

The main feature of this limited-edition pick-up is a rather questionable camouflage paint job, which, if we’re honest, looks like it has been applied by a classroom of six-year-old school children. Ssangyong's UK CEO Paul Williams only intended to import a small number of the military-inspired vehicles to the UK, but after a small trial run proved popular, he decided to turn the DMZ into an official special edition.

Putting the dodgy livery aside, the DMZ is a rather interesting proposition. Based on the top-spec EX Auto model, the DMZ comes packed with a range of kit including air conditioning, heated leather seats, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and rear parking sensors. For just £23,034, it’s unquestionably good value.

Mechanically the DMZ is virtually identical to other models in the range. Only one engine is available: a Ssangyong developed e-XDi 2.0-litre diesel that’s good for 153bhp and 265lb ft. Multi-link rear suspension with progressive coil springs should also – on paper, at least – give the DMZ a dynamic advantage over rivals who are still stuck on archaic leaf springs.

What's it like?

On the road the DMZ drives like pick-up trucks of old. Even with that multi-link rear suspension, the Ssangyong pitches and rolls like a fishing trawler on a rough sea. This would almost be forgivable if the ride was soft and plush, but instead you’re treated to a rough and unrefined experience.

Vague steering doesn’t help. Around town it can be hard to judge your inputs and on country roads the deficit of feedback hampers progress. But then again, you have to acknowledge that a pick-up truck based on an archaic ladder-frame chassis is going to have its limitations.

Thankfully, unlike the chassis, the 2.0-litre diesel is surprisingly refined. It pulls strongly from low revs and feels like it produces more than the 153bhp claimed by Ssangyong. However, the truck’s five-speed automatic gearbox is slow and dim-witted at low speeds. You do get the option to shift the gears yourself via a switch located on the gear selector, but the response is so sluggish that you quickly find yourself putting it back into automatic mode. 

Like the rest of the truck, the interior feels a good few years behind the competition. Granted, the stereo is easy to use and the Bluetooth connectivity is straightforward to set-up, but the overall quality of the cabin is poor. Vast swathes of hard plastics cover the dash and the leather-wrapped steering wheel feels distinctly un-leathery. The orange dot matrix clock is also laughably bad, with the hour display located above the minutes, seemingly due to a lack of space.

Ergonomically, the DMZ is a mixed bag. There’s plenty room up front, the driving position is reasonably comfortable and there’s good visibility. Access to the rear is also made easy thanks the double-cab layout. However, once in the rear, you find that space is at a premium, making long journeys a chore even for medium-size adults. The leather seats are also devoid of any form of functional bolstering front and rear, which can prove to be a problem due to the excessive body roll.

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Like the standard Korando, the DMZ makes for a dependable work vehicle. It can tow trailers weighing up to 2700kg, it has a 1000kg payload capacity (which qualifies it as a light commercial vehicle for tax purposes) and its two-metre-square bed is easily accessible.

In terms of running costs, the DMZ isn’t the most economical truck on the market. It can’t match a number of key rivals, returning just 37.7mpg on the combined cycle. For reference, the Mitsubishi L200 4Life is capable of 44.1mpg. However, Ssangyong does offer a brilliant five-year, limitless-mileage warranty, which will be a major attraction for a number of private buyers. 

Should I buy one?

If you’re on a budget and want a dependable workhorse, then the DMZ is worth having a look at, but for many it will be too unrefined to use as a daily vehicle.

With the new Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, Nissan NP300 Navara and Volkswagen Amarok all sporting modern interiors and more car-like driving characteristics, it will take more than just a novelty paint job for Ssangyong to make its mark in the sector.

Neil Winn

Ssangyong Korando Sports DMZ

Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £23,034; Engine 4 cyls, 1999cc, diesel; Power 153bhp at 1500-2800rpm; Torque 265lb ft at 1500-2800rpm; Gearbox 5-spd automatic; Kerb weight 2035kg; 0-62mph 11sec; Top speed 106mph; Economy 37.7mpg (combined); CO2 rating/BIK tax band 212g/km, 37%

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