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The SsangYong Korando is a medium-sized SUV passenger car, but in common with rival vehicles such as the Dacia Duster and the Mitsubishi Outlander, it is available as a light commercial vehicle – now badged the Korando CSE.
SsangYong calls it a van, and in this guise, the rear seats are removed and replaced with a flat load floor that stretches from the tailgate to a lip just behind the remaining pair of front seats. The Korando commercial keeps its conventional rear side doors, but the glass is fixed and tinted black for additional security.
A similarly-sized van will still carry far more, but conversions like this are aimed at buyers looking for something that doesn’t instantly scream commercial vehicle when it’s parked on the drive. They are also likely to place a greater than usual emphasis on driving and comfort – the Korando CSE is as car-like from behind the wheel as its non-LCV siblings.
Being SUV-based, compared with a traditional van it also offers the prospect of greater ground clearance and even some off-roading ability, and indeed the Korando CSE is available with a choice of front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, the latter labelled the CSE 4x4.
The model was first introduced in 2013, when it launched as the Korando CS (or CSX with four-wheel drive) and was powered by the regular version’s then current 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine producing 149hp and 360Nm of torque.
However, in 2016 the CSE was updated with the introduction of SsangYong’s more modern 2.2-litre turbodiesel. This is a Euro 6 engine, making it cleaner and more efficient – so it uses less fuel – but at the same time it is also more powerful, producing 178hp and 400Nm. This is the version we have driven for this review.
Regardless of engine, the Korando commercial has always majored on value. The pricing is low, standard equipment levels are high, and as with all SsangYongs, the Korando CSE comes with a five-year, unlimited mileage warranty.
With an exterior design by Italian styling house Giugiaro it’s a good looking vehicle, too.
Continue reading our Ssangyong Korando review to find out more.
Climb into the front seats of the CSE and you could be in an ordinary Korando – which is, of course, the point. There’s a car-like dashboard, modern instrumentation and clearly laid-out controls that are finished with silver accents in a manner you just don’t see in regular vans.
The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake, the driver gets lumber-support adjustment and the seats are finished in what appears to be a hard-wearing fabric. The steering wheel and gearknob are wrapped in leather as a further little touch of luxury, and as a high-riding SUV-based vehicle, you get a commanding view of the road ahead.
Standard equipment is generous, with all of the following included in the asking price:
You can pay extra for rear parking sensors – though with the glass rear window visibility is better than most vans and this is a relatively compact vehicle – and a Kenwood touchsreen infotainment system with sat-nav and DAB radio is also available as an option.
What you don’t get inside the cab area of the Korando is the same degree of practical storage that you would expect from a regular commercial vehicle, this being limited to the relatively small door bins, the glovebox, cupholders and centre console cubby.
We also suspect the plastics may be more susceptible to damage than the tough stuff fitted in most vans – though if part of the reason for buying the Korando is that you want a nicer cabin then you’re probably going to look after it better anyway.
Idiosyncrasies of this kind of conversion include having switches in the front for rear electric windows that no longer exist and that the inside of the rear doors retain all their trimming – which is surely at risk of damage from whatever’s placed in the load area. A plain, tough door-card would make more sense, but both these curiosities are present in other SUV-derived commercials, too.
While the Korando CSE may not be a match for a conventional van when it comes to practicality, it counter-punches with its car-like driving experience. If your cargo capacity needs are small but you have a lot of miles to cover – delivering precious samples to customers, for example – then you’ll certainly be more comfortable in one of these than a compact van such as the Fiat Fiorino.
Fitted with the larger yet more efficient 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine introduced in 2016, the Korando is a fast, composed commercial. The ride is a touch firm – which helps limit body roll in the corners, always a concern in a high-riding SUV-type vehicle – and it can feel a little bouncy on rougher surfaces when driven unladen, but compared with an ordinary van it still seems like luxury.
The 178hp engine is generally refined as well as powerful, although it does get noticeably noisier if you wring it right out to the top of its revs; fortunately, with 400Nm of torque 1,400-2,800rpm you rarely need to thrash it that hard to make good progress, regardless of how much you’re carrying.
The Korando’s greatest weakness from a driving perspective is the steering, which doesn’t give you a great deal of feedback. And while the six-speed manual gearbox has a surprisingly sweet mechanical action, it did rather blot its copybook during our drive by refusing to select reverse at one point. Not even pumping the clutch would free it; instead we had to drive forward slightly – luckily there was room to do so. We fear this might be a weak point for reliability further down the line.
The Korando commercial 4x4 uses what SsangYong calls a Torque-on-Demand all-wheel drive system. This means it functions largely as a front-wheel drive vehicle to save fuel but if it starts to detect the front-wheel slipping automatically directs engine torque to the rear as well to boost traction.
You can also lock it into a 50:50 front:rear split using a button. This lock mode works up to 25mph, and is intended to help you cross particularly slippery surfaces such as wet grass, or improve start-up traction when towing on loose surfaces like gravel.