Despite being an unfamiliar name to the majority of people in the UK and having sold few light commercials to UK buyers, SsangYong Motor is nevertheless confident that it can grow its registrations and market share in this country.
Three-quarters owned by Indian engineering conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra and with a bit of a chequered history, the South Korean manufacturer has just increased the payload capacity of its four-door five-seater double-cab Korando Sports 4x4 pick-up to just over a tonne. The change is vitally important to cost-conscious business customers and will boost the truck's appeal because it means they can reclaim the VAT.
SsangYong's line-up also includes a couple of 4x4 five-door car-derived vans; the Rexton W CS and the Korando CSX, sold in 4x2 guise as the CS.
What with Ford with the Ranger, Volkswagen with the Amarok and Isuzu with D-Max derivatives such as Eiger, Yukon and Utah, Korando Sport is up again stiff competition.
Furthermore, the manufacturers concerned all have one thing in common. They are all better-known than SsangYong, with all that implies for acceptability and - most importantly - residual values.
So what does the Korando Sports have to offer? We decided to find out by sampling the top-of-the-range EX with a six-speed automatic gearbox - a six-speed manual box is available too.
The automatic comes with cruise control operated by a stalk on the steering column.
On the short side and with a high loading height thanks to the ground-clearance mandated by four-wheel-drive, the lined 2.04sq m cargo bed comes with half-a-dozen load tie-down points. Mounted on a separate chassis, it will take a Euro pallet.
The optional lockable Top-Up cover makes it weather-proof and gives it some security, but the mechanism that raises and lowers the cover steals space. Released by a single, centre-mounted lever, the tailboard drops down horizontally, but does not drop down completely.
Ranger Double Cab's cargo floor is 274mm longer than Korando Sports is while Amarok's Double Cab offers 280mm more length. In automatic guise both the Ranger and Amarok offers marginally more payload capacity at 1071kg and 1077kg respectively.
Isuzu's D-Max Utah Double Cab automatic can handle a 1058kg payload and offers 210mm more bed length than the SsangYong.
All three of Korando Sport's competitors can tow more weight. Ranger can haul a trailer grossing at 3.5 tonnes, so can the Utah while Amarok can pull 3.2 tonnes.
For an EX user to make full use of its carrying capacity may be problematic however as we cannot see where one would fit a tachograph.
Cab and equipment
Korando Sports is available with two different specification levels.
Opt for SX and the goodies include manual air-conditioning, tinted glass, a leather-covered steering wheel and gear knob and a Kenwood MP3 and CD player with a RDS radio plus a USB and auxiliary port and Bluetooth connectivity (our truck was equipped with the optional Kenwood sat nav package). Included too are remote audio controls, electric windows front and rear, electrically-operated and heated door mirrors and dual front airbags, speed-sensitive door locks and front fog lights.
Step up to EX and you also get leather upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way electrically-adjustable driver's seat, power-folding door mirrors, rear parking sensors and 18ins alloy wheels, shod in our case with 255/60 R18 Nexen Roadian 542 mud and snow tyres. Restrict yourself to SX and you get 16ins alloys - good to see, incidentally , that all Korando Sports come with a full-size spare wheel - and you will not be able to specify an automatic gearbox.
That is restricted to EX models only.
Equipped with a folding armrest, the back seat can be reclined by up to 29 degrees.
All the usual electronic safety devices - some mandatory, some voluntary - are provided whichever trim level you pick including Electronic Stability Programme, Active Roll-over Protection, and ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. Disc brakes - vented at the front, solid at the back - are installed all round and EX comes with front driver and passenger airbags.
So what does the competition have to offer?
The Double Cab Limited is the closest model to the EX in the Ranger line-up with an eight-way electrically-adjustable heated driver's seat, power-foldable door mirrors, automatic air-conditioning, rear parking sensors and 17ins alloys. The Amarok Double Cab equivalent is Highline, with leather upholstery, heated driver and passenger front seats and automatic air con.
Isuzu's Utah Double Cab too boasts automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats and an electric driver's seat.
Despite what the foregoing may suggests, electric operation of the driving seat is of course rare on a light commercial. Employing a single switch on the right-hand side of the seat base, on the EX it works absolutely fine with the - admittedly somewhat restricted - up and down movement of the steering column making it easy enough for most drivers to find a comfortable position.
If you have been loading and unloading 25kg bags of gravel - or 12.5kg bags of spuds - in cold weather then you will be almost pathetically grateful for the seat's built-in heater when you get back behind the wheel. The warmth soaks through to your very marrow.
As you sit back and appreciate it you may want to take a quick glance around the cab. Aside from a holder above the windscreen for your sunglasses, storage for oddments includes a glove box (which cannot be locked); a bin in each of the four doors; a cubby-hole at the bottom of the dashboard which plays host to the discretely-lidded aux-in socket and a lidded box between the front seats with a couple of small trays in front of it.
Next to them is a dinky little cup-holder with enough space to accommodate a dinky little expresso cup. There is nowhere convenient to put a great big steaming mug of builder's tea alas.
There is however a curry hook located in the passenger footwell which is where you will also find a 12v power point. Interested to see that the oh-so-naughty cigarette lighter remains in place too.
With magazine nets on the backs of the front seats and to the rear of the centre console, at least rear passengers will have somewhere to put their copy of What Van? once they have finished reading it from cover to cover.
They enjoy more legroom than we expected and it is good to see that all three seats have headrests. Over the years some double-cab manufacturers have not bothered to fit one to the centre seat which has always seemed to us to be a disgraceful dereliction of duty so far as safety is concerned.
The middle passenger is still only held in position by a lap-strap however which suggests to us that SsangYong views it as an occasional seat. If it is not occupied then the two outboard passengers can fold down a, rather stumpy, armrest and sit in something approaching style.
Good to see nice, chunky switches and knobs controlling features such as the air-conditioning and the four-wheel-drive system. If you want to venture off-road then it is one turn of the appropriate knob to bring in 4x4 with a low-ratio set of gears and a second turn to stay in 4x4 and drop down to low ratio.
The quality of the plastic employed in the cab is not up to Volkswagen standards and the leather trim looks a little like reconstituted E-leather rather than hide. Overall though the impression created is a favourable one for a working vehicle.
Korando Sport EX's 2.0-litre 155hp e-XDi diesel is up against rivals such as Amarok's
180hp 2.0-diesel with 420Nm on tap. When equipped with permanent four-wheel-drive it comes with a hugely-impressive eight-speed automatic box sourced from ZF.
At 150hp Ranger's 2.2-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel generates less power than either of these engines and can be matched to a six-speed auto box. Move up to top-of-the-range Wildtrak specifications however and you can have the same box but linked to a 200hp 3.2-litre Duratorq TDCi.
Isuzu's D-Max Utah is fitted with a 163hp 2.5-litre diesel which can be specified with a five-speed automatic.
Should you feel the need to - and you well may do if you venture off-road - then you can put EX's gear shift into M and either use the tip switch on the side of the shift or the tip switches on each side of the steering wheel to change gear manually; a useful facility. Flick the rocker switch next to the shift to W and you are in Winter mode, which enables you to move away in second gear on a slippery surface; a sensible arrangement.
Chassis and steering
SsangYong has beefed up the vehicle's carrying capacity by slotting up-rated coil springs into the rear suspension's five-link set-up. A live axle is fitted, while at the front you will find coil springs again but with MacPherson struts.
Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is installed offering a 6.2m minimum turning radius.
With no shortage of poke EX scoots quickly through the gears with only a slight amount of harshness under acceleration.
That is the only, minor, concern we have about noise. Otherwise your progress is remarkably quiet.
Use the cruise control if you happen to be on motorways and dual carriageways. Fail to do so and you will be breaking the speed limit before you know it the little truck runs away with you so quickly.
Aside from the occasional muted pitter-patter from the tyres and suspension when you tackle a rough section of road, EX rides well. The handling is not so good however because of the degree to which the steering is over-assisted.
Tackling one of our favourite stretches of road - the twisting and turning A40 as it crosses the Herefordshire/Gloucestershire border - we found we were wallowing way too much for our liking. Memo to SsangYong - tighten things up.
Off-road EX happily tackled a selection of (admittedly bone-dry) Herefordshire farm tracks with ease with no need to engage the low-ratio gears.
Buying and running
Nobody is going to argue against a five-year unlimited-mileage warranty.
All the key components are covered including the wheel bearings, the steering joints and the shock absorbers. Even the audio system is embraced.
Any restrictions? The battery and paintwork are protected for three years and a one-year/12,000-mile limit is imposed on wearing items such as brake friction materials and clutch discs.
At 12,500 miles the service interval is a little on the short side for a modern light commercial but you shouldn't have too much trouble locating a dealer. SsangYong has got around 60 and the network is steadily expanding.
The official urban mileage figure is 27.7mpg. On extra-urban runs you should be achieving 41.5mpg while the combined figure is 35.3mpg.
Remember that these figures only represent a (very) rough guide to what you are likely to achieve in the real world. That said, our real-world mpg wasn't far off the combined figure.
A lot better than we thought it would be and well worth a look, but the name doesn't do it any favours.
SsangYong Korando Sports EX automatic pick-up
Price (ex VAT) - £18,215
Price range (ex VAT) - £14,715-£18,215
Load length - 1275mm
Load width (min/max) - 1050mm/1600mm
Load bay height - 600mm
Loading height - 750mm
Gross payload - 1050kg
Gross vehicle weight - 2740kg
Braked trailer towing weight - 2700kg
Residual value - TBA*
Cost per mile - TBA
Engine size/power - 1998cc, 155hp @ 4000rpm
Torque - 360Nm @ 1500-2800rpm
Gearbox - six-speed automatic
Fuel economy - 35.3mpg
Fuel tank - 75 litres
CO2 - 212g/km
Warranty - 5yrs/unltd mileage
Service intervals - 1yr/12,500miles
Insurance group - 6E
Price as tested - (ex VAT) £21,271
Options fitted (ex VAT)
Top-Up load area cover - £1,379
Kenwood touch-screen sat nav, DAB MP3 CD/DVD with iPod and Bluetooth connectivity - £832
Metallic paint - £416
Fixed tow-bar with seven-pin electrics - £371
Bumper protection pad - £58
* after 48 months/20,000 miles p.a – source – KWIKcarcost