Life Motor Reviews

Monday 22 September 2014

Motors: Sometimes we so easily overlook the obvious

Published 02/08/2014 | 00:00

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New Ssangyong Koranda
Interior of the Ssangyong

I used to have a teacher who regularly upbraided us for overlooking the obvious.

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He was correct, of course, though when it came to maths and science it was also obvious to him and others, I think, that I hadn't much by way of logic or deduction.

We all work within our limitations, I suppose, and try not to dwell too much on our shortcomings.

Which is what I intend doing with those in the latest incarnation of the new SsangYong Korando sports utility/crossover. SsangYong, the South Korean carmaker, has only relatively recently returned to the market here.

Bill Cullen is very much the man identified with it on the retail side of things as I'm sure you know. The Korando I had on test is easily the best looking of their line-up - without in any way breaking design moulds. They have put a lot of work into reconstituting and upgrading it, but they overlooked one obvious, simple, element.

The words on the little (it's tiny) screen in the centre of the dash are virtually illegible. The background is a sort of light amber and, apart from the radio station lettering, the rest of the information is effectively obliterated in ordinary light. And because it is facing straight out rather than angled towards the driver, it is even further obscured. It drove me mad.

Whatever about the mechanical and technological case, the rest of the car could make, I would not buy it for that reason. It is such an obvious thing, I can't understand how it got through the practical testing.

Anyway, that's the steam well and truly let off now so let's have a look at the less obvious, but important, elements that make this feel like it's better than the sum of its parts - if my maths are correct.

They have lifted the outside - it looks crisper. My version had leather seats. They were extremely comfortable and supportive. The plastic on the dash was soft and of good quality. However, that around the gear shift felt hard and cheap. It's quite a narrow car on the inside, though I wasn't rubbing shoulders with my passengers.

And it was handy enough around town - the rear parking sensors are essential these days in cars like this. There was decent room at the back; two adults and a smaller person for the middle seat. By the way, you can adjust the angle of the rear seats. Great idea.

They have the same 2-litre diesel as in the previous version only it is quieter and its machinations didn't intrude on the quiet of the cabin. It worked hard and was crisp enough.

Oh yes, there was one more obvious oversight. There was nowhere to properly put, or rest, my left foot after I had used the clutch to change gear. An uncomfortable and obvious drawback.

For all that, they have made a more-than-decent job of this 'new' Korando.

The price - just under €26,000 - compares favourably in the market considering its decent level of spec. It wouldn't have the world's greatest chassis but as a two-wheel-drive version of a genre that is so much in vogue, it was more than acceptable.

I suppose they have to make an impact to get market share and price is certainly one way of doing that. The Korando manages to do a lot of things quite well. The road tax isn't a major burden and I found it frugal enough considering the amount of city driving it had to endure.

The problem with the likes of SsangYong returning to the market is that consumers are not that willing to dip into their pockets until they see a few of them on the road. This is by no means a bad advocate for the brand. It is better than I thought it would be, though it lacks the substantial feel I look for in an SUV/crossover.

It's an option, no doubt, if you are prepared to overlook the obvious in one or two areas.

My side of the road

I DON’T know of a more ignorant thing to do, but I see it all over the place: People parking so the driver of the car beside them hasn’t a hope in hell of squeezing into their seat.

I don’t know. I think all this (welcome) talk of recovery and booming house prices has gone to some people’s heads.

They are as brash and brazen as they were at the height of the (old) boom. I frequent a well-known shopping centre and I could nearly draw you a graphic correlating the return to riches of some drivers and their behaviour and attitude towards others.

Of course that’s of little consolation to the elderly especially who, despite small and frail physiques, can not manage to squeeze through the impossible aperture left by the driver of large SUVs or saloons.

It is pathetic and I hope not a sign of things to come. I thought we’d learned some lessons in the tough times.

Closer look at  SsangYong Korando

SsangYong Korando, mid-size SUV/Crossover.

2-litre (1,998cc, 149bhp, 147g/km, €390 road tax).

Standard equipment includes: cruise control, air con, bluetooth. 6-speaker audio system with USB port.

16in alloys, heated mirrors, heated front seats, windscreen wiper heating, space-saver spare wheel, front fogs, electric windows, adjustable rear seats, steering wheel audio controls, MP3 port.

Isofix child-seat anchorage.

Version on test added climate control, leather seats, 17in alloys, rear parking sensors, roof rails, rear spoiler.

Price: 2WD ES (standard) €25,995; EL (Luxury) €29,495.

Remember: delivery and related charges extra.

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