19 March 1999

A FRESH NAME HITS THE 4WD SECTOR

SUPERMARKET-STYLE car retailer Daewoo has jumped firmly into the 4×4 market with its takeover of fellow Korean car maker SsangYong, adding five-door Musso and three-door Korando off-roaders to the Daewoo portfolio.

Both models have undergone something of a make-over in the hands of their new owner – the Musso gets revised front and rear styling, new body side mouldings and seat fabrics, while the Korando gets new alloy wheels, revised interior trim and new rear lights. And both get Daewoos recognisable front grille.

By far the biggest change has occurred to the Korando. It gets a much needed power boost from the same 120hp turbo diesel engine used in the Musso. Previously non-turbo, the Korando now has a bit of step in its pace – though hills still need treating with respect.

Daewoo appears to have freshened up the utilitarian appeal of the Korando but it still plays the junior partner alongside the plusher, five-door Musso. As part of the attraction, Daewoo includes a free courtesy car with unlimited mileage, and free collection and delivery for vehicles being serviced.

&#8226 Under the former SsangYong brand, Musso and Korando were imported by the IM Group and sold through its Subaru and Isuzu dealer outlets, one of which is Cross Country Vehicles at Hailey in Oxfordshire. Cross Countrys sales manager Rod Gregg says existing Musso and Korando owners need not worry about servicing requirements following Daewoos take over of SsangYong. "We will continue to stock Musso and Korando parts for a few years yet, even though we no longer sell these models," he says. "Our customers will continue to receive the best service possible whether the vehicle is under warranty or not."

The verdict: Both cars are extremely capable off the tarmac. With a price differential that is so narrow, Musso seems the better value vehicle.

ESTATE THATS WORTH THE WAIT

LIFT the tailgate on Saabs 9-5 estate and the features that make this a practical, as well as good-looking, five-door begin to dawn.

The tailgate lifts high, for one thing, so only the tallest drivers risk a bumped head. Little floodlights set into the tailgates lower edge illuminate the area behind the car, while bright red lamps shine a warning of the cars presence – handy during some late-night wheel-changing exercise when the rear side-lights are obscured.

There are proper storage cubbies – not mere holes in the lining – for all the little oddments that modern motoring demands.

A firm fold-away shelf promises to make less rattling noises than a roll-up cover and on the roof a pair of rakish rails can be used with an assortment of fittings to cart such essentials as mountain bikes, surf-boards, skis and luggage boxes.

In the floor, two plastic strips discreetly mask a securing system for bulkier or heavier loads thats about as tough and versatile as they come.

Instead of little rings strategically placed in the corners, Saab has installed a pair of tracks into which can be slotted as many load-securing rings as may be considered necessary.

The rings enable webbing straps to hold awkward-shaped loads in place and, in particular, to restrain heavy but otherwise innocent items from becoming lethal missiles in the event of a frontal impact.

Equally imaginative is the optional slide-out floor panel which, for anyone suffering "farmers back" after years humping heavy hay bales and arresting skittish calves, will be a god-send for lifting a weeks groceries in and out of the car. It makes a pretty handy seat, too.

The cars rear seats fold properly flat when the entire load space is needed – and there is certainly plenty of it; a little more than in arch-rival Volvos boxy V70 even, despite the sleek looks.

Elsewhere, the 9-5 estate is thoroughly 9-5 saloon. Roomy, comfortable, well-equipped and every bit as quiet and refined.

Light turbo-charging on all three engines – two four-cylinders and a 3 litre vee-six – gives decent responses and a hint of the characteristic Saab turbo exhaust burble.

There is no diesel yet – but that is about the only thing lacking in this svelte Swede.

&#8226 Engines: 4cyl 2.0 litre turbo – 150hp (or 195hp with £825 tuning kit); 4cyl 2.3 litre turbo – 170hp; 6cyl 3.0 litre turbo – 200hp.

&#8226 Transmission: 5spd manual or 4spd automatic; front-wheel drive.

&#8226 Prices: From £23,795 to £30,995.Options include auto gearbox (standard on 3.0 litre) £1240; self-levelling suspension £550; leather interior £1170 to £1370; sliding load floor £450.

&#8226 Models: 5dr Musso, 3dr Korando

&#8226 List prices: Musso from £17,995; Korando from £15,995

&#8226 Engines: 140hp, 2.3-litre petrol; 120hp 2.9-litre TD