SsangYong Korando press launch

Dawn might have broken but it’s actually rather hard to tell. It’s dark and the air contains something between fog and drizzle. I‘m picking my way between the fields on muddy single track roads to a village somewhere just outside Pontefract. I haven’t found a single café in any of the dank villages en route to the SsangYong press launch and I’m parched.  Thankfully, an industrial bacon butty and endless stream of coffee are produced quickly on arrival – setting the friendly scene for the morning.

It had been quiet from SsangYong in the UK for about four years, notably following the launch of its aesthetically challenging Rodius model. SsangYong subsequently ran out of money and filed for chapter 11 but two years ago it was bought by Mahindra – the Indian motoring giant. Since then, things have been looking up. An all new model, a new UK distributor and an enthusiastic PR team are all in place for the relaunch of SsangYong.

The C-segment crossover is seeing rapid year-on-year growth – partly due to the practicalities of the genre but also due to the number of models on offer. One of the difficulties is actually determining the pros and cons of each variant because on paper, they all promise something similar. Apart from the corporate front ends, it’s really only by climbing behind the wheel that the differences become obvious.

Starting off cold, the all-new two litre diesel is disconcertingly noisy; once warmed, it quietens to merely loud. What stands out is that it is a very tractable engine, and unlike Chevrolet’s New Captiva (also made in Korea) or Mitsubishi’s ASX, it starts to pull comfortably from 1,500 rpm – which will endear it to those wishing to tow.

Launching from a standstill onto the now busy A1, the Korando gathers speed quickly. It rides well too, and the electronically adjustable seats are comfortable and supportive making the Korando a proper mile-eater.

In the past, SsangYongs have enjoyed previous generation Mercedes Benz engines and running gear; the only item in the drive train which still comes from a Merc is the six-speed auto ‘box – which is fine, if a little unremarkable. The manual six-speed SsangYong gearbox has a good feel with a positive action and fairly narrow gate.

Giorgetto Guigaro designed the Korando and he’s done a good job of it. The swollen arches and prominent hips give it an assumed strength and the front is neat and not too overbearing like some of the competition. The PR team makes no bones about the fact that the Korando will have an older customer base which will welcome the practicalities such as 2,000kg towing limit. This should make it a firm favourite with caravanners and horsey people.

On first glance, the interior feels spartan and there seems to be too few knobs and switches. Closer inspection though reveals everything is there – it is just very well set out and intuitive unlike many considerably dearer vehicles. There are no frills here, but the impression is one of solidity and durability. The £999 Kenwood satnav/radio option on this model is a little visually busy but otherwise straightforward to use. Handy really, because one single track road looks pretty much like another in this dour Yorkshire weather.

‘What’s stopping you?’ runs the advertising slogan. Well, the kOraNdO mixed case lettering on the boot badge grates for a start and the indicator tick is more like the squeak of a small rodent being prodded at regular intervals. I’m being picky now; I like the Korando.  While there are more glamorous models out there, it is competitively priced, well trimmed, offers a 5 year ‘limitless’ warranty and ticks all the capability boxes.  Bit like the bacon barm and magically-refilling coffee cup.

The Korando starts at £16,995 for 2WD. Models tested (EX and EX auto) cost £21,445 and £22,995 respectively. Add £999 for satnav and £500 for metalic paint.

0-62 mph 9.9 secs; 175 bhp @ 4,000 rpm; 360Nm torque @ 2,000-3,000 rpm

Motor Writer rating: ●●●●○

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