The 2019 Korando is the fourth generation of a model which started in 1983 as a general purpose utility vehicle based largely on wartime jeeps.
The 1/35 scale model on my desk is the second generation 1996 model, produced for right-hand-drive markets and designed by the eminent professor Ken Greenly, who worked on several SsangYongs.
My field green model has never been out of the box. It has spent the past 20 years, forgotten in storage under a bed. Thus it has never been exposed to sunlight. The packaging is still bright with some fiery landscape and sky. The see-through window is unblemished, as clear as the day it was given to me.
Apart from the words New Korando and Made in Korea the rest is in Korean. Two small diagrams show that it can be pulled back and then let go – what’s known as pull-push. Mine will never do that… until a new owner decides to play with it. In 2010 its full-scale replacement lost the exposed spare wheel and jeep-ish shape in a body more in keeping with main street than back roads, like a large hatchback, with 4x4 options, a rival to the big-selling Kia Sportage.
Today’s Korando takes it to a new market, the buyer who may want a small Range Rover or Land Rover but even with three-year hire deals can’t make the leap. It has the requisite bold styling with high bonnet line, raised ground clearance, protective body cladding, the “floating roof” which Range Rover popularised and is already used on SsangYong’s sweetly named Tivoli.
So, with my Mk2 Korando put away I’ll report on its descendant. The appearance has to be judged in the eye of the beholder. I didn’t find its fussy detailing to be embarrassing. Park it alongside one of its superior European betters and it has a “who cares” image about, err, image. Its TV ad campaign features tough Vinnie Jones wearing pink fluffy slippers.
Step inside, switch on and drive and you’ll notice an alarming number of warning gongs and chimes to alert you to hazards or other things. After an hour of what I thought was normal driving a gong and picture of a steaming cup suggested “take a break”. Hey, I feel fine, Korando, I can do this journey. Then came a score, a bad mark of two out of five for attention.
This may have been due to my lack of head movement and the insistent lane departure gong and presumptuous steering tug which kept me in-lane. It can be switched off but it automatically sets again with start-up. Another aural intrusion is the loud musical tick-tock of the indicators. Enough, I am not deaf.
My car was the range-topping Ultimate with a 1.5 petrol engine and automatic gears and front-wheel-drive costing £27,995. This version is extremely well equipped. Such as: decent leather seats, ventilated and heated in the front and power adjusted, a heated steering wheel, 19-inch alloys with quality tyres, a powered tailgate, a guided reversing camera, cruise control and speed limiter, TomTom navigation with safety camera recognition and speed limit information.
Most of the time this was a pleasant drive, with average suspension refinement and bump intrusion. The speed limit recognition is not live – the car doesn’t read signs but relies on storage in the navigation brain, so you must use your brain, too, for temporary and motorway matrix speed limits.
The touchscreen, digital instrumentation is thorough, with the tachometer and speedometer readings repeated digitally. The Ultimate’s décor includes lots of gloss black, with embedded glowing red stripes.
There are plenty of storage places. In the boot the lower floor is covered by two horizontal panels which can be left in place or tipped on edge to make a divider across the deck. This is helpful to separate luggage from shopping or whatever.
An unusual feature tells you when the car in front is setting off if you dawdle and don’t move quickly enough. The parking brake can be set to work whenever you stop, which is useful in stop-start traffic. A full suite of passive and active safety systems such as a too-close warning has achieved a 5-star crash safety rating from EuroNcap. All models also have automatic lights and wipers.