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Car reviews - SsangYong - Korando - 5-dr wagon range

Launch Story

14 Feb 2011

SSANGYONG’S Korando nameplate has returned to Australian showrooms with a bang, not only displaying unprecedented good taste in styling for the quirky Korean company but an equally attractive starting price for the all-diesel range – $26,311 or $27,990 driveaway – making it the cheapest diesel in the compact SUV class by a whopping $5690 on list price.

Available in both two- and all-wheel-drive configurations with a choice of six-speed manual and – soon – true-blue Aussie-made six-speed automatic, the three-model five-door Korando range has been priced and equipped to light a fire under both the SsangYong brand and the entire compact SUV market.

And from early next year importer Sime Darby expects to throw a little more fuel on the blaze by introducing a 2.0-litre petrol model, at an even cheaper price.

The first new SsangYong in three years, the thoroughly modern Korando’s arrival in the fastest-growing segment in the Australian auto market marks a new beginning globally for the marque that has battled its way out of receivership with the help of its new owner, Indian ute and tractor maker Mahindra and Mahindra.

Released of its baggage, SsangYong is revving up its range, with the Korando to be followed by a new Actyon Sports ute that is about to be unveiled in concept form at next month's Geneva motor show before being released in early 2012.

The all-new fourth-generation Korando owes nothing except the badge to the rudimentary body-on-frame Korandos of old that died in 2006.

The new vehicle - similar in size to the Hyundai ix35 at 4410mm long and 1830mm wide - gets a car-style monocoque platform – a first for a SsangYong SUV – and an equally up-to-the-minute Euro 5 129kW 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine across the range.

Designed by Italian master Giorgetto Giugiaro, whose Italdesign concept for the vehicle was unveiled as the SsangYong C200 at the 2008 Paris motor show, the Korando has been a long time coming – so long that many observers wondered if it would ever make it, such was the shaky financial state of the Korean car-maker after previous owner SAIC – the Chinese auto giant – walked out in disgust over union mayhem in 2008.

Tasked with putting the marque back on track globally, the Korando pitches SsangYong into direct competition with the likes of Hyundai and Kia, whose own compact SUVs, the ix35 and Sportage, have made major inroads into a sales arena previously dominated by Japanese models.

Australia is the first right-hand-drive market to get Korando – although it is also said to be rolling out to UK dealers as we write – and even before South Korean customers can get their hands on one.

For Australia, it will be available in three specifications – S, SX and SPR – although the top-shelf auto-only SPR has been held over until late March when the new automatic transmission designed and built in Australia by Albury’s Drive Systems International comes on stream.

As many potential customers might see SsangYong as damaged goods – struggling sales here over the past few years speak volumes – Sime Darby and SsangYong Motor had no choice but to go in hard with this model to get people to give the brand another chance.

The two-wheel-drive Korando S base model is being launched at $26,311 plus on-roads or $27,990 driveaway. The current cheapest diesel compact SUV is the Mitsubishi ASX 1.8-litre AWD manual at $31,970.

Like all Korandos, the S can be optioned with the auto transmission when it arrives in a few weeks – something none of its Japanese diesel competitors can offer.

While SsangYong’s Korean rivals, Hyundai and Kia, both offer an auto diesel, they don’t offer a manual. Neither do they offer a two-wheel-drive variant, with their diesels coming only in AWD auto form at $35,490, giving SsangYong’s cheapest diesel a $9000 head start.

The Korando models step up in $4000 increments, with the mid-range AWD SX manual at $30,311 (auto $2500 extra) and the auto-only SPR all-wheel-drive topping the range at $36,811.

All come with a five-year, 100,000km warranty – a bonus that was sprung just this week by head office on the local importer, who had prepared all the brochures announcing a three-year term.

Price is only part of the SsangYong value equation, as the newest kid on the SUV block is not only well specified but armed with some surprisingly sophisticated technology, starting with the new e-XDi200 diesel engine that SsangYong says was designed in Europe.

In the past, SsangYong has used Mercedes-Benz engines in vehicles such as the Musso and, although no such claim is made here, a giveaway might be a line in the European press kit that says the new four-cylinder diesel “achieved Mercedes-Benz’s durability test”.

The engine parts are said to be made in Europe and assembled in South Korea. Whoever makes it, they have access to some of the latest fuel management and emissions control technologies around, not only delivering Euro 5 cleanliness but a capability for Euro 6 as well. No other compact SUV diesel on the market in Australia can yet achieve Euro 5.

Armed with 129kW of power at 4000rpm and 360Nm of torque between 2000 and 3000rpm, the diesel can propel the 1672kg five-seater from zero to 100km/h in 10 seconds.

Fuel consumption ranges from 6.1 litres per 100km for the two-wheel-drive manual variant to 7.5L/100k for the heavier all-wheel-drive automatic version.

CO2 emissions range from just 159 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre in two-wheel drive manual guise, to 199g/km for the auto AWD.

Among the high-tech features of the diesel engine are its electronically controlled variable-geometry turbocharger to cut turbo lag, and a close-coupled combined diesel oxidation catalyst and particulate filter.

On two-wheel-drive variants – and all-wheel drive also in normal driving – the Korando’s engine drives the front wheels. This is a first for SsangYong, whose previous SUVs have delivered primary power to the rear wheels in traditional LandCruiser/Land Rover style.

The Korando AWD system is part-time, using an electronically controlled coupler mounted just in front of the rear differential to switch to AWD when front wheel slip is detected. All-wheel drive can be locked below 35km/h by pressing a button. Above those speeds, the system reverts to auto mode.

An automatic hill-start assist is standard for easy starting on slopes.

Sitting on an all-new platform developed by SsangYong’s own engineers, the Korando rides on MacPherson strut suspension up front and multi-link rear axle – the latter again showing the Korean wagon’s class in a segment not renowned for such niceties.

Six airbags are standard across the range, as are anti-whiplash electronically controlled active head restraints. SsangYong is not making any safety claims yet as the vehicle has not been tested by any NCAP organisation anywhere in the world, but it suspects four stars minimum, and perhaps five.

Ground clearance is 180mm – about average for the class – and all Korandos roll on alloy wheels, 16-inch for the S, 17-inch for the SX and 18-inch for the SPR. The spare wheel is full-sized.

Towing capacity is an impressive 2000kg for a braked trailer, or 750kg unbraked. Most rivals are in the 1600kg braked range.

All Korandos get power windows, cruise control, 60/40 split rear folding seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, alarm and air-conditioning, with the two top spec levels getting auto climate control.

The six-speaker audio system gets full connectivity, including Bluetooth streaming of music from iPhones.

Apart from all-wheel drive, climate control air and the bigger alloy wheels, the SX gets front fog lamps, vanity mirrors, rear cargo cover and net.

When it arrives, the SPR will add leather trim in either black or beige, depending on the exterior colour, a rear spoiler, power sunroof, heated front seats, power adjustable driver’s seat, power folding door mirrors, driver-controlled headlight levelling and rear parking sensors.

Sime Darby SsangYong expects to sell 170 a month through its 35-dealer network.

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