SsangYong design has come a long way since the awkwardly styled Ken Greenly-penned Musso pick-up that was this Korando's predecessor. Premium brands don't usually sell in this sector, but if they did, a dynamic yet sophisticated look would epitomise the kind of shape they would want to deliver. Something like this? You might well think so. The mesh front grille, the trapezoidal bumper and the smart black headlamp bezels combine to create a purposeful front end, while in profile, a sharp belt line runs to the rear bumper, emphasising a sleek and, to some eyes, even mildly sporty stance.
Inside, there's a light and airy environment thanks to large front, side and rear windows, while the careful blending of black and metallic finishes along with an LED illuminated cluster has created quite a smart and refined interior. It's at the rear though, where this Korando Sport holds an important advantage over its most direct rivals. The back seat in many a Double Cab pick-up seems often to be something of an after-thought, cramped for the feet and uncomfortably upright for the back. Some don't even provide the middle occupant with a proper three-point belt. There's none of that here. Not only is there plenty of room for head, shoulders, knees and feet but, rather uniquely, you can recline the rear seat back by up to 29-degrees.
SsangYong's car-like claims for this Korando Sport might to some be suggestive of compromise in commercial practicality. That's not the case when it comes to size. A large, flat rear deck provides a 2.04m2 load area complete with a standard load deck liner and anchor points so that you can easily tie things down. And can those items be really heavy? Well yes - to a point. The use of car-like coil springs rather than a utilitarian leaf-sprung set-up means that early versions of this Korando couldn't match the one-tonne payload boasted by some rivals: this was put right later in the production run, so make sure you know what you're getting. Early variants offered a total payload that could be anything between 630 and 645kgs, depending on your choice between manual and automatic transmission. That may well be sufficient for most.
Many original owners decided to add the optional rigid hardtop for all-weather protection and load bay security. It comes with a hinged rear window that closes behind the tailgate so that the car's central locking secures and protects the contents. And it's been styled and colour-matched to complement the rest of the car, so it doesn't look like a tacked-on after-thought, as do many retro-fit hardtops.
The Korando Sports has proved to be reliable, the old problems SsangYong had with some of its earlier engines banished with this model's more up to date 2.0-litre e-XDi diesel engine. As with any pick-up, steer clear of examples that have obviously led a very hard life, unless they really are very cheap. Check underneath for signs of over-tough off road use. Most examples you'll come across may well still have some of the original new model's 'Limitless' manufacturer warranty still to run, five year cover that wasn't limited by the usual mileage ceiling.
(approx based on a 2014 Korando Sports pick-up) SsangYong parts aren't too expensive, given that it's a low volume importer. You'll need to set aside around £145 for something like an alternator, but most other parts are pretty cheap. An air filter will typically be around £11, though you could pay up to around £22 for a pricier brand. A fuel filter will be between £2 and £7 and an oil filter between £6 and £8. Brake pads are between £14 and £21, though you could pay up to around £30 to £35 for a pricier brand. Brake discs sit in the £75 to £85 bracket. Brake shoes are around £30. A drive belt sits in the £18 to £30 bracket. A thermostat is between £8 and £20, though you could pay up to around £35 for a pricier brand. Tyres will be around £35 each and a water pump is around £30.
Proper pick-ups must come complete with a proper separate frame chassis - the mark of a serious off roader. This might not be a recipe for car-like handling but it'll deliver you a vehicle fit for purpose anywhere from the sands of the Serengetti to the pampas of Patagonia. Or as in this case, the industrial estates of Ilford to the building sites of Bolton. It's the formula that all serious contenders in this sector use, but some brands have perfected it for pavement better than others. SsangYong for example.
You wouldn't call this Korando Sport's ride absorbent, but if you're used to the crude bumpy experience that most other pick-ups provide, it'll be impressive. Enough perhaps, to make the difference between having to buy a conventional passenger car for driving around when the work day is done - or continuing to rely on the varied talents of this SsangYong. And there's a reason for this. Here, we have the only pick-up in the segment from this era with car-like coil springs, rather than the rudimentary leaf suspension used by rivals. That makes all the difference to the way this Korando feels on-tarmac. Around town, it'll feel much like one of the better rugged SUVs to drive, with urban manoeuvrability aided by a surprisingly tight 6.2m turning circle.
Under the bonnet lies a piece of technology the brand was especially proud of in this era, its 2.0-litre e-XDi active diesel engine. First and foremost, this is one of the more refined diesels you'll find in this class - far better than something like, say, an Isuzu D-Max. That's one of the key reasons why the cabin is so relatively quiet on the move for a vehicle of this type. Even more important is the fact that this engine puts out significantly more power than many of its rivals - 155PS - and has been optimised for torque - pulling power - 360Nn of it on tap between 1,500 and 2,800rpm, enough for example to haul a braked trailer of up to 2.3 tonnes in weight. Flat out, you'll cruise happily at and just above the legal limit, powering forward until the squarical aerodynamics bring a stop to proceedings at around 107mph.
Off road, this Korando's more than ready to get tough on the rough stuff. It uses a part time selectable 4WD system that's been reliably proven over some of the most demanding terrain in the world, aided by design that optimises this pick-up both for gradient and water-logged ground. So you can start off on a slope of up to 22.6-degrees (or 30-degrees in the automatic model) and once on the move, can tackle all but the most extreme ascents and descents thanks to a healthy 25-degree angle for both approach and departure, courtesy of short overhangs. There's also a useful 20-degree ramp angle and ground clearance of up to 188mm at the front and 212mm at the rear.
There's a lot to think about when it comes to picking out a pick-up. You're buying one in the first place because you want practical, go-anywhere ruggedness. Yet if at least some of the time, it's to serve as your only means of transport, then you also need car-like qualities - real refinement, supple suspension and a comfortable cabin. Ideally, you want all of this, a high specification and a price that looks like a misprint. You'd be asking a lot.
Yet here, SsangYong has struggled to provide exactly that and got remarkably close to delivering it. There are, it's true, more sophisticated, higher profile choices you could make in this segment from the 2012 to 2016 era, but all are painfully pricey and in most cases, fairly crude to drive on-road. This, the alternative, is not only as honest, reliable and highly capable as every pick-up should be, but crucially thanks to car-like coil sprung suspension, is also better suited to a life on-tarmac than any of its contemporaries. Plus there's the after-sales support every pick-up should have and even a bit of a sense of style. All from a brand you've maybe never heard of but might like to start to get to know. 'Korea Can Do' is what the name 'Korando' stands for. Try one of these and you might well start to believe it.