New Korando has

mighty ambitions

SsangYong Korando, side action 2
SsangYong Korando, side action
SsangYong Korando, front static
SsangYong Korando, front action 1
SsangYong Korando, front action 2
SsangYong Korando, rear static
SsangYong Korando, dashboard
SsangYong Korando, boot 2
SsangYong Korando, rear seats
SsangYong Korando, front seats
SsangYong Korando, dash detail
SsangYong Korando, boot 1

YOU can't argue with SsangYong's ambition, fuelled by cars like the latest version of its Korando medium-sized SUV.

This year the UK arm of the South Korean car maker expects to sell around 3,500 cars, with the Korando top of the pile.

But, and you have to admire the chutzpah, the suits at Korando UK HQ want that up to a heady 10,000 cars "within a few years."

Good luck with that and don't bet against them if this new Korando is anything to go by. It makes a convincing case for at least a stroll to your nearest SsangYong dealer if you have ‘smallish SUV' on your shopping list.

It's not a competitor for something with a posh German badge on the boot (and costs a lot less anyway) but is aimed at something lower down the automotive pecking order and perhaps called Kadjar (Renault), Tucson (Hyundai) or Sportage (Kia).

Treat the company's reference to a bird's wing look to the front grille and the influence of a stringed musical instrument as inspiration for the dashboard as typically over-the-top designer dreamtalk; here is a nicely proportioned and neatly styled SUV.

Nicely priced too, starting at £19,995 for an ELX, a grand more than before but for a better equipped car, with 1.5-litre petrol engine, manual transmission and front-wheel drive and a goodies count that includes alloys and cruise control.

SsangYong doesn't reckon to shift many of them, confidently expecting the furthest reach of the price list to do the heavy lifting with the Ultimate range that starts at £26,495 for a 1.5-litre 161bhp petrol two-wheel-drive (2WD) manual and tops out with a 1.6-litre 134bhp diesel automatic and all-wheel drive at £31,995.

In a necessary nod at the need for lower tailpipe emissions the new diesel is dramatically downsized, from the old 2.2-litre unit and produces a bit less power.

The caravan towing Korando prospective purchaser -a frequent visitor to SsangYong showrooms - should be reassured that the new one tows the same 2.0 tonnes as before, while using less fuel.

The new smaller diesel measures an official 48.7mpg average for the two-wheel drive model and 43.5mpg with four-wheel-drive (4WD) and 152g/km and 171g/km of CO2 respectively.

They are all perfectly respectable figures for an SUV of its size and weight and will compare favourably with the petrol version that is likely to comfortably outsell the diesel and cost a useful £2,000 less.

Slipping into a bells and whistles Ultimate diesel, first impressions are of a neat cockpit with a distinctly European feel, where elegant simplicity wins over Far Eastern excess.

There's plenty of space up front, and room in the rear for a six-footer to sit behind himself (if you follow the logic) and there's a useful boot too, with 407 litres of load space with the rear seats upright (1,104 litres with them folded) in lesser Korandos with a confidence inspiring space saver spare wheel on board and still more (551/1,248 litres) in the Ultimate which ditches the spare in favour of a can of repair gloop.

There were no petrol models available at the first press drive but the diesel impressed from the start, sounding a bit gruff from a cold start but quickly warming to its task and settling into a distant thrum.

There was too enough power on tap not to feel a lack of go and a ride that nicely mixes a touch of firmness on the bigger bumps with enough suppleness to iron out the worst of the UK's awful roads.

Take the top drawer Ultimate and you won't lack for goodies with leather trim, heated front seats, dual zone air con, 19in diamond cut alloys, 9in touchscreen with TomTom navigation, DAB, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, reversing camera, power tailgate on auto models,LED headlights and a suite of safety features.

The clincher might be the extremely generous warranty, all of seven years or 150,000 miles. Take that, all those three years/60,000 mile meanies out there.

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