Korean manufacturer Ssangyong continues to take strides forward and make an impact on the UK new-car market. It is currently in the midst of updating its current range, through mid-life facelifts or with the launch of new models such as its impressive Tivoli.
Its other small SUV, the Korando, is the latest to go under the knife for 2016. It now gets the firm's 2.2-litre diesel engine, some minor styling tweaks and a neater, revised dashboard design.
Offered with SE, EX and ELX trim levels, you can also opt for the 2.2 Korando with either front-wheel or on-demand four-wheel drive. We're testing the Korando in mid-range EX trim with front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox.
What’s the Ssangyong Korando 2.2 like to drive?
This new punchy 176bhp and 295lb ft 2.2-litre diesel engine certainly improves the Korando’s flexibility and therefore day-to-day usability. It pulls well from low revs and through each gear, which makes it easy to make swift progress, overtake confidently or ascend steeper hills. You rarely want for more power.
The ride is very good on most surfaces, dealing well with road undulations and imperfections. There is some body roll in corners, but nothing untoward, unless pushed hard. However, there's little steering feel or feedback and it tends to feel vague on the motorway. Another concern is the relatively low level of front-end grip, resulting in relatively early understeer if tight bends are taken too quickly and traction problems away from junctions.
Gearchanges are slick but there's a mechanical clunk as the gear engages and an overly eager clutch biting point hinders smooth progress. At most speeds, though, the engine is smooth and quiet, only becoming vocal on cold morning start-up and under hard acceleration. Some wind noise is present, too, but on the whole is well suppressed.
What’s the Ssangyong Korando 2.2 like inside?
If this is your first Ssangyong experience, you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised. Access to the front seats is very good and the driver gets a commanding driving position, which provides excellent all round visibility. Getting comfortable is a cinch, with plenty of seat adjustment and a steering wheel that adjusts for reach and rake.
The new dashboard is neat and tidy, thanks to the introduction of a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Usefully, this has been mounted high up, and the dashboard's remaining buttons are well-sized and functional. There are soft-touch plastics on the upper parts of the dash, with harder plastics reserved for lower sections and the doors.
There's plenty of leg and head room up front and there are lots of cubby holes for storage, four drinks holders, a deep central storage bin and a glasses holder by the rear view mirror. There's also plenty of leg, head and shoulder room for two adults in the back. The floor is flat, which will benefits middle-seat passengers, although this seat might be a squeeze for adults.
The boot is well shaped with no discernable load lip, and there's a flat load bay when you lower the rear seats. You get a full-size spare wheel as standard.
Should I buy one?
It’s certainly worth your consideration. The new engine and updated dashboard design make the Korando a compelling alternative to the SUV mainstream. The EX in particular also comes well equipped: air conditioning, heated front seats, Bluetooth, cruise control, 17-inch alloys and a helpful rearview camera are included.
The Korando also remains comparatively cheap to buy and run next to its small SUV rivals, and comes with a five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty. The downsides, though, are that it isn't expected to retain as much of its value, and the 2.2's unspectacular CO2 emissions mean it falls into a higher 25% company car tax banding.
Ultimately, a Nissan Qashqai is more expensive to buy, but remains at the top of the SUV class, out-performing the Korando in most areas. Closer in price is Skoda's Yeti, which again is a stronger car in most respects - particularly its handling and space and practicality.
What Car? says...
Ssangyong Korando 2.2 EX Engine size 2.2-litre diesel Price from £17,485 Power 176bhp Torque 295lb ft 0-62mph 9.9 seconds Top speed 115mph Fuel economy 53.3mpg CO2 139g/km