Out of its depth

SsangY­ong’s SUV lacks the pol­ish of its ri­vals, writes Paul Pottinger TheKo­rando will be hard-pressed tomakea splash

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive -

WHEN we asked col­leagues what was made by the SsangY­ong com­pany, their re­sponses var­ied from TVs and stereos to fridges and sewing ma­chines. SsangY­ong’s com­pact SUV, the Ko­rando, has been re-an­i­mated af­ter two years in a GFCin­duced coma, but it has the for­mi­da­ble task of tack­ling a sav­agely com­pet­i­tive seg­ment as it tries to build its brand name.

Though still man­aged by South Kore­ans, SsangY­ong is owned by In­dia’s Mahin­dra.

The Ko­rando is de­signed by Ital­ian le­gend Gior­getto Gi­u­giaro and uses a Ger­man-sourced diesel that will even­tu­ally run through an Aus­tralian six-speed au­to­matic.

Ko­rando may be a con­trac­tion of ‘‘Korea can do’’, but it’s as though the UN has come to its aid. In this seg­ment, against es­tab­lished ri­vals, es­pe­cially those from its own coun­try, it will need all the help it can get.

Value

TRY $26,311 for the en­try-level S man­ual with front-wheel drive and an in­tro­duc­tory drive­away price of $27,990. It’s a star­tling price point for a diesel SUV.

The auto model, ap­par­ently trundling down the assem­bly line as you read this, is $28,811.

All-wheel drive comes with the SX at $30,311, with $2500 ex­tra for the un­tried auto.

At $36,811, the leather-lined topline SPR is auto and AWD only. Equip­ment at all lev­els look good, though satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion and a re­vers­ing cam­era are not to be had at any money. The war­ranty is a South Korean and Mit­subishi-equalling five years but, bizarrely, SsangY­ong is un­able to say what kilo­me­tres ap­ply. That’s be­ing worked out. The five-year thing, they say, was an ap­par­ently spon­ta­neous of­fer of good­will from head of­fice.

Tech­nol­ogy

NOTH­ING star­tling, though the abil­ity to stream your iPod through Blue­tooth is cute.

SsangY­ong ‘‘lives diesel’’, at least un­til a petrol vari­ant comes on­line next year. Un­til then, the Ko­rando’s sole pow­er­train is a Euro 5-com­pli­ant, com­mon rail vari­able ge­om­e­try turbo unit that it brings to the game far more cheaply than Hyundai or Kia, which run weedy petrol fours at this price point.

But with at least 80 per cent of po­ten­tial buy­ers op­posed to chang­ing gears for them­selves, it needs that auto rather des­per­ately, which makes the de­ci­sion not to wait two months and launch with one puz­zling.

All-wheel drives have a torque sen­sor that shov­els 50 per cent of the grunt to the rear axle

Over a com­bi­na­tion of free­way, B-roads and dirt, the Ko­rando SX is com­pe­tent by the stan­dards of the com­pact SUV pack

when it feels the need. There’s a diff lock for con­stant all paw un­der 40km/h.

Styling

NOT an Alfa Romeo, though de­signed by the mae­stro re­spon­si­ble for some of the best of them, the Ko­rando is at least a mas­sive vis­ual de­par­ture from the rest of the brand’s anony­mous and even un­sightly mod­els.

Up front there’s the in­evitable low-placed mesh grille and whop­ping wrap­around lights, and a gen­eral stance that is go­ing to be de­scribed as ‘‘sporty’’.

Nice wheels, too, with al­loys through­out the range. Six­teens for the S, 17s on the SX and 18s on the SPR.

In­side, the cabin feels less than the sum of its parts. Yes, all the bits and bobs are there, there’s a stack of use­able but dis­creet stor­age spaces

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