First drive: SsangYong Korando Sports EX and Rexton X CSX van review



South Korean manufacturer SsangYong has been nibbling rather erratically at the edges of the van fleet market for 10 years now, but the arrival of a new set of models for 2015 has set the UK importer SsangYong Motor UK on a campaign for more fleet business.

SsangYong has been taken over by the Indian firm Mahindra and this has led to a new set of engines, offering better power and fuel economy for the Korando Sports and Rexton W CSX models.

One problem for fleets is that SsangYong only has 60 dealers at present, but there are plans to increase this number during the year to 75 to give a better coverage of the country. Fleets also question whether such a small player in the market – SsangYong sold 175 commercial vehicles last year – could fulfil any larger fleet orders.

Marketing and communications director Steve Gray candidly admits: “The factory in South Korea is pretty flexible and could accommodate a fleet order within 12 weeks but they would probably have to be the same spec and colour.”

However, there are signs that things are looking up. SsangYong’s sales figures have risen by 74% in the first quarter this year to 89 vehicles.

Rexton W CSX

This model is basically a Rexton car that has been turned into a commercial vehicle by having the rear seats removed and a load floor put in their place. With prices starting at £18,495 ex-VAT, the Rexton is powered by the same engine as the one offered in the Korando Sports with a six-speed manual gearbox. As a result, its 212g/km CO2 and 35.3 mpg are well off the pace of rivals such as the Mitsubishi Outlander (138g/km and 53.3 mpg). When going off road, the driver can select low range, which splits the torque equally between front and rear axles to provide all-round traction and ensure optimum grip across challenging terrain.

There’s a fresh look to the interior too with aluminium-effect and chrome finishes and new soft-touch materials.

The load area is completely flat and is accessable by  a tailgate or by the two rear doors. Load volume measures 2.2 cubic metres. On the road, the Rexton will tow up to  three tonnes.

Standard spec is high and includes cruise control, air conditioning, electrically-operated and heated door mirrors, leather covered steering wheel and gear knob and CD and RDS radio with iPod and Bluetooth connectivity.

The Rexton W CSX features a package of active safety features including electronic stability program (ESP), active rollover protection (ARP), ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) and hill descent control (HDC), as well as dual front and side air bags. 

On the road, the Rexton has pleasing manners and feels chunky and solidly built. As with the Korando Sports, there’s a five-year warranty, so if anything untoward does occur, fleets will be able to get their vehicles fixed without  incurring expense.

Korando Sports pickup

The Korando Sports, which is offered in two trim levels, goes head-to-head with off-roaders such as the Great Wall Steed and Isuzu D-Max and gives both rivals a good run for their money, weighing in from £14,995 ex-VAT. The cheapest Steed costs £3 more, while the 4x4 D-Max starts at £18,749.

The old 2.7-litre five-cylinder unit gives way to a more modern 2.0-litre four-cylinder, offering 155bhp and a meaty 265lb-ft of torque, while the truck’s towing capacity is 2,700kg. Official combined fuel economy is 35.3mpg, better than the Steed’s 32.8mpg but not up to the D-Max’s 38.2mpg.

Such is the importer’s faith in the technology that it is offering a five-year unlimited mileage warranty – unique in the sector. Standard specification on the EX, which costs £18,495, is comprehensive. It includes a six-speed auto gearbox, leather upholstery, power-heated front seats, 18-inch alloys and rear parking sensors, along with the usual array of safety features such as ABS and stability control, which are now a legal requirement. The Korando also has active rollover protection and hill-start assist (HSA) for those tricky off-road moments.

In the back, the cargo area will carry a one-tonne payload, making it eligible as a commercial vehicle for VAT recovery, and will swallow a Europallet. Meanwhile, a load liner and lashing points come as standard. The Korando has a definite American look about it, with a dash of south east Asia thrown in. It’s certainly as macho-looking as its rivals.

Some of the plastics feel a tad ‘last generation’, but all  the doors close in a  satisfactory manner and there is nothing about the Korando’s build quality to suggest corner-cutting, despite the bargain basement price.

The leather seats are big and comfortable and, under way, the auto box offers totally seamless changes. While ride and handling are almost up with the more established contenders, with plenty of power on offer, the Korando suffers from that typical budget-vehicle problem of light power steering, which doesn’t give the driver much feeling for what’s going on between the steering wheel and the road.

At the cargo end, the tailgate is massive and heavy, so heavy loads can be placed on it, but the standard load liner didn’t feel as though it would stand up to much abuse. Also worth pointing out is that the hard-top in the pictures here comes at a cost of £1,995, which bumps the truck’s price up.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.