IT’S BEEN A tough couple of years for Ssangyong, globally and in the UK. For a while it seemed as if the Korean car maker could go under, scuppering the UK importer’s plans to expand.
After so much uncertainty Ssangyong Motor UK is now looking forward to the future with more confidence, with the new Korando SUV and the towcar market central to its plans.
The Korando, which we tested for the Towcar Awards in the spring, is finally starting to arrive at dealers in numbers. The spec sheet looks tempting. The four-wheel-drive model has a kerbweight of 1747kg, which makes tourers weighing 1485kg an 85% match. With 175bhp and 266lb.ft of torque, the engine is considerably stronger than those fitted to similarly priced rivals.
Prices for the 4×4 start from £21,445 (the front-wheel drive costs from £16,995). That’s £1700 less than the cheapest Ford Kuga 4×4, which is much less powerful and not so well equipped.
Ssangyong knows that the combination of a chunky kerbweight, strong engine and low price is just what many caravanners are looking for. Ssangyong Motor UK’s CEO, Paul Williams, expects 60-70% of Korandos to be sold with a towball. “Every dealer demonstrator will have a towbar,” Williams told me. “If a customer wants to know how well the Korando tows they can take it home, hitch up and give it a try.”
The Korando is expected to be the best-selling model in the Ssangyong range. It should be, as the small SUV/crossover sector is the fastest growing part of the UK market. The Korando joins the larger Rexton 4×4 and the Rodius MPV. A pick-up and a smaller crossover (think Nissan Juke) will be added to the line-up next year.
Ssangyong’s dealer network will also expand. Today’s 40 outlets should be 50 by January, and 70 by the end of 2012.
“Most of the network is rural or semi-urban,” says Williams, “although we have just appointed a dealer in Edinburgh and are just about to appoint a dealer in Cardiff.”
Londoners are likely to be the last to find a Ssangyong dealer on their doorstep. Williams jokes that brand-conscious southerners are “too far up their own exhaust pipes” to choose Ssangyong over rivals with a more upmarket image.
Are the brand snobs missing out? A full review will appear in the March issue, but for now let’s say I was impressed with the car’s performance, decent ride quality and roomy cabin. However, vague steering and the noisy engine are obvious flaws.
Even so, we can see plenty of caravanners towing with the Korando next summer.