24 October 1997

NEW KOREAN HEADS

FOR THE ROUGH STUFF

WHOD be an off-road manufacturer? You build a go-anywhere 4WD system capable of crossing deserts and scaling mountains. You give it the butch Marlboro Man advertising treatment. Then nine out of 10 owners do nothing more adventurous with the vehicle than ferry their kids from school to Sainsburys and back to suburban driveway.

Ssangyongs new Korando will no doubt fall into this category, though it looks and feels like a fairly serious piece of off-road kit.

Until now Korean maker Ssangyong has had a single model – the full-sized, radically styled Musso with a choice of three engines. The Korando marks its first venture into shorter-wheelbase 4WD territory and comes with either 2.9-litre naturally aspirated diesel or 2.3-litre petrol engines, both Mercedes-designed.

The UK-styled Korando draws unashamedly on Wilys Jeep looks, but then gets adventurous with a sharply tapered bonnet and little wings that give it a faintly aeronautical look. Its a shape that will polarise onlookers into the love it or loath it camps, but full marks for the Korean company for trying something different.

Inside the Korando has a deep dashboard with a characteristically curvy late-1990s instrument panel and loads of wood effect down the centre console. The symmetrical shape of the dash means front passengers get only modest knee room, and the boot in fairly short, but otherwise theres loads of room for people.

This is a vehicle that works best off-road. Its fine on the asphalt, and impressively quiet, but the high centre of gravity and hardish suspension means the ride is a bit jiggly.

Off road the Korando settles into its task as if its been doing it for years. High 4WD and low 4WD are put into service by a small knob, and the systems electronics wont let you engage 4WD low until its good and ready. With good ground clearance, relatively short wheelbase and engines that certainly dont lack poke, itll pretty much go anywhere.

Verdict: Great off-road but a bit jiggly on the tarmac. Prices are very competitive. Styling brave and just about works.

Ssangyong Korando – curious name, striking looks and it wont let you down in the rough stuff.

KORANDO DATA

&#8226 Model: Ssangyong Korando.

&#8226 Engines: 2.3-litre four cylinder 140hp petrol, or 2.9-litre five cylinder 96hp diesel.

&#8226 Price: £15,950 (diesel manual), £17,950 (petrol manual).

&#8226 Top speed: 85mph (diesel), 102mph (petrol).

&#8226 0-60mph: 17.9sec (diesel), 14.5sec (petrol).

&#8226 Fuel consumption: (manufacturers combined figure) – 22.4 petrol, 28.8 diesel.