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Cut-price SUV by SsangYong

Just as the green-welly brigade now seem happy to be filling up their shopping trollies in budget supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl, they could be ripe for a cut-price SUV.

And that's what Korean car manufacturer SsangYong is hoping with its latest range of few-frills mud-pluggers now being marketed in the UK.

It rolled out three of the latest models at the famous Ace Cafe on London's North Circular— which, while miles away from any serious off-roading, provides enough speed-humped, broken and potholed tarmac to give the cars' ride qualities a decent workout.

Top of the wish list for many of SsangYong's agricultural customers will be the Korando Sports Pick-up, now boasting a full one-tonne payload potential.

The manufacturer was pressured into uprating its multi-link coil sprung rear suspension after customer criticism that the previous model's payload didn't match the magic one-tonne offered by its competitors' leaf-sprung suspension.

Instead of taking that retrograde step, SsangYong simply beefed up the rear coils to hit the payload target. So how does it drive?

Well, the ride is now much more fidgety at the back with no load to damp it down and, to be honest, has little or no advantage over good old fashioned leaf springs.

That said, I suspect the higher payload, together with such a budget starting price of just £14,995 excluding VAT, will tip the scales in favour of what is a big strong workhorse. For the money, build quality is surprisingly good with chunky solid door handles and well-fitting body panels. Inside, too, the quality of the instruments, switches and facings don't scream 'cheap' but feel rather appropriately rugged for what is a utility vehicle after all.

Probably most pleasing of all is the lusty performance of its 2.0-litre turbo diesel motor. This is a bright little motor boasting 155ps and 360Nm of torque, enough to embarrass some heavy-weight premium competitors in this sector.

Given its long wheelbase and kerb weight of 2,110kg, neither is it too bad on fuel with SsangYong providing refreshingly 'real-world' economy claims of 35.3mpg on the combined cycle.

Emissions are 212g/km and the Sports has a 0 to 60 time of 11 seconds with a top speed of 107mph.

The list of standard equipment on the Sports EX range topper I drove, costing £18,495 (ex VAT), is equally impressive for the money including a six-speed automatic gearbox, heated leather seats, powered driver's seat, 18-inch alloys, rear parking sensors, heated windscreen, front airbags, electronic stability (ESP) with active rollover protection, ABS and electric brake force distribution, speed sensitive door locks and a decent four-speaker sound system.

With the uprated payload and the price plus a five-year unlimited mileage warranty the Korando Sports Pick-up makes a powerful argument to be your next 'shires' workhorse, even if it will spend a good deal of its time loading up at the supermarket car parks.

For more information on the SsangYong Korando Sports please click here

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