Here's a properly capable family-sized SUV for the price of a feebly capable supermini-sized one. KGM's Korando (previously sold with 'SsangYong' badging) has previously been something of a fringe player in the value reaches of the Crossover class, but this MK4 model aims to edge into the mainstream. It's well equipped, quite smart and can tow up to 1.5-tonnes. Sounds promising.
Buying a mid-sized family-shaped SUV can be an expensive business these days. The ones you can have for anywhere near £30,000 tend to offer weedy performance and a relatively cramped interior. It's far more typical to be paying £35,000-£40,000 for a decently-specified 'Qashqai'-class family hatchback-based Crossover of this kind and many plusher models sit in the £40,000-£45,000 bracket. So what are we to make of this, the KGM Korando, which you might well better know with its previous 'SsangYong' badging. Prices are pitched from a genuine £25,000, with a really nice one pitched at around £30,000. This model's also better equipped than most comparable rivals and can tow heavier loads. But all of this you'd maybe expect from a Korando. Can this one though, offer a properly class-competitive proposition when it comes to things like fit and finish, drive dynamics, efficiency and safety? Let's find out.
Only one engine is available to prospective Korando customers. It's a 1.5-litre GDI-turbo unit with 163PS and 280Nm of torque which can only be had with front-wheel drive. It's usually mated to 6-speed manual transmission but can alternatively be had with an auto gearbox. The previously-offered 1.6-litre diesel is no longer available. Nor (rather disappointingly for a Korando) is 4WD. If your Korando has the 6-speed automatic transmission, it'll also come with selectable 'Normal', 'Sport' and 'Winter' drive modes. Braked towing capacity is impressive for a 2WD model, rated at up to 1,500kgs. There's also an EV version, the Korando E-Motion, which uses a 188hp motor situated on the front axle. It's energised by a 61.5kWh battery with an unremarkable 211 mile driving range (or 309 miles in the city). In the combustion form we focus on here, this is a proper SUV, rather than a Nissan Qashqai or SEAT Ateca-like crossover - and you feel that in the way that ride quality over poor surfaces at low speeds can sometimes get slightly unsettled in a manner you wouldn't experience with obvious rivals. But that's only because the engineers' goal here was to improve body control through the bends. They've achieved it. Aided by quite a stiff chassis, this car flows from corner to corner with real poise, making cross country journeys reasonably enjoyable. That steering may be light, but it's also accurate, allowing you to place the car exactly where you want it.
This Korando's robust SUV silhouette is complemented by the rather smart "birds wing"-style front grille. Plus strong side lines are matched with curved shoulder creases that taper towards the rear of the car, as well as a colour-keyed bumper, a rear spoiler and a rear skid plate, all of which lend this compact SUV an air of understated sportiness. Dependent on trim level, Korando offers a selection of alloy wheel designs with 18 or 19-inch diamond cut rims. Inside, the integrated wrap-around dashboard design is said to have been inspired by the design of a classical string instrument. As standard, you get the brand's innovative "Blaze Cockpit" package, which gives you a 10.25-inch digital cluster and an 8 or 9-inch centre-dash infotainment display with a colour choice of 34 infinity mood lighting options. There are some hard plastics scattered around, but that's also the case with obvious rivals and build quality here feels pretty solid. It's pretty easy to get comfortable - the wheel of course adjusts both for reach and rake - and the driver's seat feels quite supportive. There's only one body style option, a 5-seater - but you do get reasonable rear seat legroom. And a decently-sized 551-litre boot too - the load area offers up to 1,248-litres of space in the back with the rear backrest folded.
There are two combustion Korando trim levels - 'K30' (from around £25,500) and plusher 'K40' (from around £28,500). There's the option of an auto gearbox if you want it. The E-Motion EV variant comes only in top-spec 'Ultiumate' trim, costing around £40,000. Let's look at equipment with the combustion versions. Even the base-spec 'K30' comes with features like 18-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels, all-round parking sensors, roof rails, LED tail lights, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and power-folding mirrors. Inside, there's a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, a rear parking camera, heated front seats and manual air conditioning. Media connectivity's taken care of by an 8-inch centre screen with 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' and a 6-speaker DAB audio system. The plusher 'K40' version gives you larger 19-inch wheels, LED headlights, a powered smart tailgate and rear privacy glass. Inside, there's leather upholstery and power-adjustable climate-controlled front seats, plus automatic air conditioning, a heated steering wheel, mood lighting and a larger 9-inch centre screen with HD navigation. Across the range, standard camera-driven safety features fitted as standard include Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Autonomous Emergency Braking System (AEBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane keeping Assist (LKA) and Driver Attention Alert (DAA). Plus there's Traffic Sign Recognition, Smart High Beam and Front Vehicle Start Alert.
You probably wouldn't expect a really capable SUV like this one to be anything near class-leading in terms of its fuel and CO2 efficiency stats - and this one isn't. The manual model manages 36.9mpg on the combined cycle and up to 175g/km of CO2. For the automatic, it's up to 35.5mpg and 182g/km. The insurance group is 18. With the EV E-Motion version, the powertrain draws from a 61.5kWh battery (though only about 55kWh of it's available to use) and this, as mentioned in our 'Driving' section, offers a WLTP-certified 211 mile driving range between charges. That puts it towards the bottom of the pack of Crossover EVs at around this price point (a cheaper MG ZS EV Long Range model manages up to 273 miles). Filling up the battery from empty takes around 11 hours from a 7kW domestic wallbox. Find a 100kW rapid charger when you're out and about and you can complete a 20-80% fill in about half an hour. A heat pump comes fitted to preserve battery range in cold conditions. As with all KGM models, there's the peace of mind of a five year / 100,000 mile warranty (though not nearly as good as the seven year/150,000 mile warranty that SsangYong used to offer). Where the Korando runs into trickier territory is in the area of residual values. With its limited dealer network and almost non-existent promotional budget, there's no getting away from the fact that public awareness of this vehicle is virtually nil. That can only have a detrimental effect on residual values which will never be as punchy as big name vehicles like the Nissan Qashqai, the Skoda Yeti or the Toyota RAV4. Some recompense comes with modest insurance ratings.
'Korea can do'. That's apparently what 'Korando' means - and it seems appropriate. This Korando remains very accessibly priced and still feels quite class-competitive in this fourth generation guise. Of course, there are areas where this car could improve. Elsewhere, you might read that this car could offer a slightly more supple quality of low speed ride and that the running cost efficiency could still be better. Both true. And we miss the absence of the diesel engine in the range - and the AWD system that used to be this Korando's trademark. So how to summarise? Well even in this 2WD form, this Korando can powerfully tow, will more comfortably transport five people than direct rivals can and offers up plenty of kit on a tight budget. You'll just have to get used to explaining to people what it is. And who knows, you might even end up suggesting that they try one....