IT IS not too long ago that SsangYong sat firmly in the motor industry bargain basement, with sparsely equipped models and dated designs that really only had their cheapness going for them.
In recent years though, the South Korean SUV specialist has come on in leaps and bounds as it seeks to follow compatriot companies Hyundai and Kia and break into the mainstream.
A perfect case in point is the fourth-generation Korando, which hit showrooms late last year backed up by a high-profile advertising campaign featuring bad-boy former footballer turned tough-guy movie star Vinnie Jones.
With more imposing dimensions and more modern, dynamic looks than its predecessor as well as a vastly improved interior bristling with technology, this is now a car that can stand its ground in a crowded marketplace.
A purposeful stance is given a sporty edge by the wide grille, alloy wheels, rear spoiler and high gloss skid plate as well as the distinctive character lines along the flanks and looks-wise the Korando is now fully aligned to the smaller Tivoli and larger Rexton, between which it sits in the SsangYong range.
Inside, though, the advances made are even more evident.
Where once scratchy, utilitarian plastics predominated and colours were dull now you find soft, tactile surfaces and a variety of finishes and textures - enhanced in our range-topping Ultimate test car by leather upholstery and what the manufacturer calls its Blaze Cockpit.
This consists of a nine-inch touchscreen multimedia interface, 10.25-inch customisable digital instrument cluster and colour-changing ambient light panels across the dashboard and in the door panels, and gives the Korando an upmarket feel.
Of course, as with Hyundai and Kia, improvements in quality mean increases in price, and the Korando no longer undercuts rivals by as much as it used to.
However, you can still get the entry level model for a fiver less than £20,000 and pricing remains competitive when compared like-for-like against some of its more established rivals.
Four trim levels are available - ELX, Ventura and Pioneer as well as Ultimate - with power coming from a 1.5-litre petrol engine or a 1.6-litre diesel, only available with higher grade models, that also offers an all-wheel-drive option. Manual and automatic transmissions are available, both with six-speeds.
It is in this department though, that SsangYong still lag behind their more established rivals with neither unit being particularly economical or clean, meaning higher running costs will have to be weighed against the lower purchase prices.
The diesel powerplant is mated exclusively to the automatic gearbox and is aimed at the Korando's following among the caravan and trailer fraternity, offering a towing capacity of up to two tonnes.
Our car was powered by the 163ps turbocharged petrol unit, though, mated to the automatic transmission, which can pull a more modest 1.5 tonnes, but offered smooth and refined performance.
It actually felt quicker and more responsive than the quoted 0-60mph time of 12 seconds might suggest and offered sufficient punch on the move for easy overtaking.
The steering is accurate and weighty enough, without offering high levels of engagement, while dynamic abilities are what you would expect of a sizeable SUV.
The firm suspension offers decent poise and effectively reduces body roll when cornering without negatively impacting ride comfort, however, and the Koando is an uncomplicated, relaxing car to drive - which is what most people want from a family-focused SUV.
They also want space and practicality and it scores highly in this department too.
Head and leg room is good throughout and four adults will be very comfortable while five will have no difficulty on all but the longest journeys thanks to the decent rear shoulder room. There are plenty of storage cubbies and the boot is capacious enough for most needs.
Creature comforts such as heated and ventilated power adjustable front seats, dual-zone air conditioning, digital radio, Apple and Android smartphone connectivity, navigation, rearview camera and rear privacy glass all make living with the Ultimate trim Korando a pleasant experience, while all models get an impressive array of safety kit.