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Korando jumps the Wall

Cheap transport has to be poor transport, right? Not necessarily, as we discover in this month’s double-cab pick-up test… Blue ‘Wall’ plays a white ‘Yong’

 

Setting owner pride to one side, there is something to say for buying low-cost transport for the farm – particularly if someone else is going to drive it.

Self-interest and special deals aside, the cheapest 4WD double-cab pick-ups currently on offer are SsangYong’s Korando Sports and the just-revamped Great Wall Steed. The first comes out of South Korea, the second from China. How cheap is cheap? Although hair-shirt spec gets either in your yard for under £15k, we opted for a mid-range Korando Sports EX at £18,375 before VAT and a 2015-spec Steed SE at £16,998. ‘Opted’ is a bit of a strong: that’s what the makers had on their press fleets, which explains why one had a manual gearbox and the other an auto.
Great Wall also has the Tracker: while aimed at farming, £1,000 cheaper and fielding off-road tyres, rubber mats and a tow bar, it’s based on the original Steed rather than the 2015 car.

Both test candidates are 2.0-litre five-seat diesels in a market where a 2.5-litre lump is the norm, and the price includes a hard-top. Looks-wise the Korando Sports has an unusual wedge profile and deep back-end, while the Great Wall stays block-nosed conventional.

Cabin, load space

There’s not much wrong with the basics in the current Steed. A firm seat, good space and rake-only wheel adjustment give a fair driving position; visibility is OK and control effort likewise. Build quality is reasonable too, with improved plastics and better leather on the seats. Yet the Great Wall still manages to live down to its price, providing no seat height adjustment, limited stowage and utilitarian design. Yes, there’s seat heating, electric mirrors, basic air-con and (strangely) even tyre pressure monitoring; but these are dressings on a plain salad.

By contrast SsangYong’s designers put a bit more overtime into the Korando, while its bean-counters stretched to classier plastics, more storage, electrics for the driver’s seat, power-fold mirrors and a fuller set of steering wheel buttons. As a result SsangYong cab is rather better to be in. Not the Ritz, mind; just a step up from the Steed’s now-acceptable baseline. Both have USB/Bluetooth connectivity via aftermarket entertainment centres, with SsangYong adding a satnav system.

Rear seat passengers enjoy a better deal in the Steed. Its bench seat is softer and, while headroom isn’t quite as generous, there is more space to fold in long legs. And a fifth passenger doesn’t have to fight a wide transmission tunnel and a sticking-out console.
Both rear seat backs drop down, revealing a tidy finish; neither seat back has a hard shell, but both can double as a temporary, flattish storage surface. SsangYong adds a useful lidded box behind the rear seat that’s almost half the width of the car.

Noise matters even in a pick-up, and here the Korando Sports surprises – subjectively it’s very quiet. The Great Wall is always more vocal and becomes rather agitated when revved out, yet levels in normal travel are no problem. Both trucks generate substantial roar from the wind/tyres at higher speeds so aren’t long-distance fodder.
Load bays are similar, although if you regularly carry a lot of weight the Korando’s 0.63t payload won’t impress (importantly, SsangYong has recently increased payload to over 1t; see profi 06/15). The Great Wall takes just over 1t and is king on bed length (just), but the Korando pips it on with between the wheel arches, tailgate load-over height (lower) and the existence of lashing points (four against none).

Take off the hardtops – four clamps on the Korando, six on the Steed – and you’re left with taller sides on the SsangYong, a consequence of its wedge shape. The hardtops are lockable, but only SsangYong ties this in with the car’s central locking. Both have opening side windows and sliding front glass: handy with animals in the back. And while the hardtops integrate well with the rest of the truck, the Korando’s Pegasus unit has an awkward-opening upper tailgate while the Great Wall’s Aeroklas item leaked.

 

On the road

Like this pair, VW also fits a 2.0-litre engine to its full-size Amarok pick-up – a twin-turbo 177hp chunk of goodness. Alongside that the SsangYong’s 153hp, and particularly the Great Wall’s 137hp, don’t look sharp.
The Chinese product weighs comfortably under 2.0t which helps to offset the power shortage, leaving performance leisurely but not terminally slow. Its 2.5t towing capacity sits below the Korando’s 2.7t; on top of that, swapping cogs in the Steed’s six-speed manual box is clunky and sixth gear is very optimistic in hilly country. The SsangYong’s extra engine output and a smooth-shifting six-speed auto put it ahead on acceleration; it also feels a lot more eager at any speed. And fuel use? There’s nothing between them – The Great Wall returned 25.8miles/gal, the Korando Sports 25.5miles/gal.

Ride and handling are rather different. The Great Wall has the unhappy knack of making smooth tarmac feel like a farm track, and a farm track like something purpose-made to put your kidneys out of kilter. But as they say, you get used to it. One consequence is that the Chinese product doesn’t (can’t?) roll much in corners, although a light, lifeless steering set-up and the slightly aggressive turn-in do boost your concentration when pushing along. By contrast the SsangYong serves up a gentler ride and more settled cornering, the latter thanks to equally feed-back-free but more linear steering. It’s also handier in confined spaces, with a conventional 12m+ turning circle against the Steed’s liner-like 14m+. Brakes are OK in both camps if you don’t count the SsangYong’s irritatingly offset handbrake.

 

Off the road

The basics come from part-time 4WD and a low range box, Great Wall helpfully puts button selectors for both functions high in the dash, and then unhelpfully loses 4WD on switching off the ignition. SsangYong consigns selection to a less-obvious rotary switch but retains engagement. And where the Korando Sports has electronic traction control and hill start assist, the Steed has no grip-boosters. That made very little odds with no weight in the back and on slippery test ground, but in kinder going traction control will be an advantage. Axle travels are limited, and, where the SsangYong’s under-body clearance is good, the Steed’s is spoiled by SE-spec side bars.

 

Summary

The 2015 Great Wall Steed is a better prospect than the original. Performance, handling and ride still all need a leg-up, but now it’s a real contender – at a price which means it can be knocked about without too much guilt. SsangYong’s Korando sports costs more, brings more and rewards more, although the implications of a sub-1t payload (recently addressed) need thinking through. Impressive warranties smooth away some of the angst that comes with buying at the bottom of the market, leaving only the small problem of pride.

For more information on the SsangYong Korando please click here

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