The worst thing about most pick-ups is the ride. Just about every example has leaf-spring rear suspension. Fill the load space with bags of cement and rough-but-tough leaf springs are just the job. But without a hefty weight in the back most leaf springs are about as supple as freshly set concrete.
Ssangyong’s new pick-up, the Korando Sports, has coil springs at the rear just like a regular passenger car. While this means the 643kg payload is much lower than most rivals’, which can carry over a tonne, it makes the Korando Sports surprisingly, well, car-like to drive. Really big bumps still send a shudder through the cabin, but for the most part the Ssangyong smoothes rough roads well.
The engine is surprisingly good, too. It’s slightly down on power and torque compared with some, but pulls cleanly from very low revs, and with real urgency from as little as 1500rpm. With 265lb ft of twisting force to call upon, there’s enough muscle to haul any suitably matched caravan.
The legal towing limit is 2300kg. Again, that’s less than some rivals can tow but much more than a typical twin-axle tourer weighs. Kerbweights start from 2097kg, which gives an 85% match figure of 1782kg.
I drove 200 miles or so in a Korando Sports last week over a mixture of A-roads, motorways and minor roads. Even at 70mph the cabin is quiet enough, and engine noise stays in the background as speed builds. In fact, I’d say this engine is quieter than the one fitted to Practical Caravan’s Korando long-term test car.
Judged as a commercial vehicle, the Korando Sports has its flaws. The low payload doesn’t only restrict the Ssangyong’s practicality, it also makes it more difficult for a VAT registered business to reclaim the tax paid on the purchase price, since having a one-tonne payload is one of the measures HMRC uses to decide whether the VAT will be paid back.
To some extent keen pricing offsets this disadvantage, and not everyone who buys a pick-up runs one on business. If you’re looking at a pick-up as an alternative to a family estate car, crossover or SUV, whether or not a small business can reclaim their tax won’t make any difference to your buying decision. I imagine you’ll be more interested in post-VAT prices which start from £18,295, rising to £22,745 for a top-spec model with an automatic gearbox and a hard-top. That’s far less than you’d pay for the equivalent Ford Ranger or Nissan Navara.
I still don’t like pick-ups. But if more of them drove like the Korando Sports, I might eventually change my mind.