23 Sep 19

First Drive Ssangyong Korando: scootch over, Tucson & Sportage

“Our cars are far better than our brand image,” said Herman Claes, MD at Ssangyong Motors Middle Europe during the press presentation of the all-new Korando. After a 300km test drive, we can second that notion: the Koreans have come a long way and now have a product that can compare on many levels to the likes of the Hyundai Tucson , Kia Sportage and Jeep Compass.

You may not cross a Ssangyong every day – or at least not be aware of it – but that could change with the arrival of the new Korando, a snazzy compact crossover that deserves kudos for making an original stylistic effort. Some see traits of a Toyota Rav4 in it, others smell a sniff of Jeep Compass. In any case, it is far less vanilla-flavoured than its predecessor.

Improved quality impression

The same goes for the interior. The quality impression is much, much better than before and now reaches Hyundai/Kia level. The doors feel robust, the seats are remarkably supportive and the materials even look and feel better than some VW Group products. The horizontal chrome lines in the upper section of the dash hint at the VW Passat’s cockpit, incidentally, with which the Korando shares another feature: an entirely digital driver display, which can show the navigation map or any other car-related information you find relevant.

Setting the safety benchmark

Also new is the far from cheap looking central display. It is easy to operate and offers the usual connectivity (including Apple Carplay and Android Auto). The map graphics are impressive, and so is the standard equipment on this newcomer. Ssangyong decided to fit Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and a myriad ADAS on every Korando, including Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning and Traffic Sign Recognition. Add to that a rigid structure and plenty of airbags and you get a 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

Smooth operator

There are two engines to choose from: a brand-new 1.5 turbocharged petrol unit delivering 163hp and a healthy 280Nm of torque at 1,500 rpm, and a 1.6 diesel putting 136hp and 324Nm on the tarmac. Interestingly, both units can be had with a manual or an automatic 6-speed gearbox and either front wheel or all-wheel drive. We tested the top model with the automatic diesel combo. If it is to be summarized in one word, it would be ‘smooth’. The same goes for the suspension, which finds a good balance between comfort and handling.

Value for money

From a company car driver perspective, it goes without saying that the Korando needs to come fully specced to stand a chance against the usual Asian suspects. The most interesting trim level seems to be the Onyx, because it comes with the 9.2inch touch screen with TomTom navigation, DAB+, 18-inch rims, semi-leather seats and the digital driver display. Add to that the AT Pack and you have the 6-speed auto, electronic parking brake and adaptive cruise control as well. As such, the 2WD 6AT 1.6 diesel sets you back about €31,000 excluding VAT. Not as sharp as you may have expected, but wait until you make the financial comparison with the other Asian crossovers.

Tricky TCO

There is a possible obstacle, though. The Korando’s NEDC2.0 CO2 ratings vary from 132g/km for the 2WD manual diesel to 189g/km for the 4WD 6AT petrol. That is an issue in countries where taxation is CO2 based. Another question mark is to be placed at the residual value. Unknown usually means unloved. That’s the first thing Ssangyong needs to work on: brand awareness and brand image. As to service, maintenance and repair, fleet owners benefit from a 5-year/100,000km warranty in most European countries. In France, it is even 7 years. That should inspire confidence and support used car prices.


  • Value for money: overall quality impression, attractive pricing
  • Comfortable, spacious and contemporary crossover
  • Generous standard safety equipment (5 EuroNCAP stars)


  • Relatively high CO2 levels, no hybrids available
  • Limited distribution network
  • Brand image, uncertain residual values


Authored by: Dieter Quartier