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.
For a sum of money roughly similar to what you’d pay for this particular Korando, you could also have top-spec versions of the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson - both with automatic ‘boxes and diesel engines developing 134bhp and 236lb ft. And considering the fact that all three SUVs adopt basically the same approach to interior design - think plenty of gloss black and silver plastic, leather upholstery and seriously generous levels of standard kit - it’s unlikely you’d emerge from the Korando feeling hard done by. Sure, some of the Ssangyong’s minor controls may feel a touch cheap and plasticky, but you could level the same criticism at the other two just as easily. There’s also loads of space in the second row, and the 3D-effect ambient lighting is an attractive touch.
Unsurprisingly, the Korando edges ahead when it comes to towing. Well, it does at this price point (between £31,700 and £32,200), at least. While the Kia and Hyundai have comparable levels of performance, they can haul up to just 1600kg. Admittedly, the Sportage can tow more when equipped with a more powerful engine and four-wheel drive (up to 2200kg), but you have to pay more than £35,000 for the privilege.
So, it would seem the Korando has carved out a very specific niche for itself. That’s just as well, really, because when it comes to the task of driving, it’s not quite on the same level as the other two for ride comfort or refinement.
It’s quite firmly sprung for starters, so over lumpier stretches of road, its ride feels a mite too wooden and lacking in complexity to be called truly comfortable. It also clatters quite harshly and noisily over ruts and scarred sections of asphalt at times, with the effect being that it rarely feels properly settled or composed on rural A-roads and B-roads.
Still, that firmer ride translates to tighter body control through bends; it feels as though it has a suitably low centre of gravity. The steering, while unhurried at 2.75 turns between locks, is nicely weighted and reasonably communicative, too. There's decent grip, although that’s likely down to the fact that you’ll rarely be travelling at speeds high enough to exceed the limits. Manage it, however, and you’ll find that it’s biased towards understeer, which arrives in a gradual, readable fashion that’s easily controllable.