Few people in the U.S. have heard of Korean automaker SsangYong, and those that have probably know them as the creators of the ugliest SUVs and pickups ever to grace the roads of planet Earth. SsangYong is now in its 65th year, though, making it the oldest continuously operating nameplate in South Korea, and its refreshed Korando is a compact SUV with surprising appeal.
The Korando (a portmanteau of “Korean Can Do”) first launched in 1983 as a Jeep CJ-5 clone, but by the mid-’90s has morphed into a family-friendly SUV with a comically long nose. The latest generation is much more conventional and pleasant. There’s a whiff of VW in the headlights and hood creases, and a blacked-out strip atop the rearmost pillar gives the roof a floating effect that recalls the Nissan Murano. Only the door handles—mounted high on the rear doors and low on the fronts—hint at SsangYong’s history of awkward styling.
Power for the Korando comes from either a 161-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine or a 134-hp 1.6-liter turbo-diesel, either available with an automatic or manual transmission and front- or all-wheel drive. Inside, the Korando gets a 9.0-inch touchscreen stereo with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, as well as a 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster. The Korando can be had with a suite of driver-assistance applications, including automatic collision-avoidance braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist, which tie together to bestow semi-autonomous driving capability via a system SsangYong calls (and we swear we are not making this up) Deep Control.
The Korando goes on sale in Europe in the middle of 2019, and SsangYong says an all-electric version, with range still to be announced, will follow soon after. Will it come to the U.S.? The form factor and powertrain are certainly right, but we’ve heard the brand has hedged on its entry to the American market, which was planned for 2020. Parent company Mahindra may not be willing to invest the money required to launch a new brand in such a large market, which would be a shame, because as enjoyable as it is to poke fun at SsangYong’s old styling, the Korando would seemingly fit in nicely among the current crop of compact SUVs.