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ROAD TEST: Ssangyong Korando 2.0 High
Let's not beat around the bushes here. In times gone by, if you bought a Ssangyong it meant that you were getting a proper off-roader for a price tag way below the mainstream, and styling that also doubled as a powerful anti-theft measure.
The latest Korando you see here is a completely different animal, however. You'll no doubt make up your own mind on the styling, but it didn't take long to grown on me. Neat, elegant and likeable are the words that come to mind here - although it's not really going to stand out among the other softroaders perched on your nearest mall’s pavement. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because we all know what happens when Ssangyong tries to stand out.
I mention softroaders here because that's exactly where the latest Korando pitches its tent. Gone is the low-range transfer case, along with the body-on-frame construction and even the all-wheel drive system is absent on all but the range-topping diesel. It’s basically a conventional car beneath the skin.
The model on test here, the R279 995 2.0 petrol 4x2 High specification, is not radically cheaper than its rivals, but still represents an average saving of around R15 000 - R20 000. It's also well equipped with goodies like leather seats and a parking aid coming standard. That said, if you can live without these two items, along with fog lights, and you don't mind downsizing your tekkies from 17-inch to 16”, the standard Korando 2.0 petrol is a temptingly affordable entry into the segment at R250K.
TAKE A STRETCH
Inside, however, the Korando does feel a little more dated than most of its foes, thanks to a dashboard that looks like it was lifted from the previous-generation Toyota Corolla. Although the interior does impress with its functionality. There's heaps of leg-stretching space for the back passengers and the rear seats also recline, so you're more likely to hear the kids snore than ask “are we there yet” every few hundred metres.
Given how big the cabin feels, the boot is not exactly massive - at best we'd describe it as adequate by smallish-SUV standards.
What I didn't find quite adequate is its performance. Its 1998cc engine might be credited with a reasonable 110kW at 6000rpm and 197Nm at 4000, but it fights a losing battle against the car's 1592kg weight problem.
As a result it feels sluggish on the open road and inclines ask you to give the six-speed manual gearbox a good stir. It's not even that quick off the mark, our sister publication Star Motoring having taken 13.2 seconds to whip it from 0-100km/h at Gauteng altitude.
Let's put it like this. If we go by the manufacturer's claimed fuel consumption figures, the petrol engine is not a lot thirstier than the diesel (7.5 versus 6.1 l/100km on the combined cycle). So if you're looking to save money - R20 000 in this case - then the petrol is the way to go. But the diesel is armed with 129kW and, more importantly, 360Nm - so it's going to be far easier to live with.
Talking of ease of use, the Ssangyong fares pretty well here regardless of what model you choose. The driving controls all operate smoothly, the steering is light and the ride is comfortably compliant. No complaints on the road holding front either.
A decent all-round attempt from Ssangyong, which is now owned and distributed by Ssangyong.
If you want a stylish softroader on the cheap, rather steer yourself in the direction of the R250K petrol base model. If driving satisfaction is what you're after, rather go for broke and buy the R300K diesel, assuming that a 15-to-30-grand saving over its more established main rivals is enough to tempt you.
Ssangyong Korando 2.0 High (110kW) - R279 995
5-year/100 000km warranty
3-year/60 000km service plan
Citroën C4 Aircross 2.0 Seduction (113kW) - R294 900
Hyundai ix35 2.0 Executive (122kW) - R299 900
Jeep Compass 2.0L Limited (115kW) - R274 900
Kia Sportage 2.0 4x2 (122kW) - R294 995
Mazda CX-5 2.0 Active (114kW) - R312 090
Mitsubishi ASX 2.0 GLX (110kW) - R299 900
Nissan Qashqai 2.0 Acenta (102kW) - R304 050
VW Tiguan 1.4 TSI Trend&Fun (90kW) - R283 600