There was a time when the Land Rover Defender was the default car in the countryside. Today, sales of the 65-year-old stalwart have dwindled and even some of the keepers on a certain ducal estate near me drive Toyotas. Rumours are the current car will cease production in 2015, a year or two before a new one is launched.
The problem is the game has moved on and modern pick-ups are just as practical as a Land Rover while being considerably more comfortable. They even have seats that enable someone more than six feet tall to drive without smacking their ears with their knees. Toyota Hiluxes, Ford Rangers and the like are now seen on shoots and at livestock markets in ever-increasing numbers, and not without reason, especially when you take their VAT-friendliness and favourable company car tax status into account. However, even the most modern – like the Volkswagen Amarok I tested a few issues back – still cause you to make some compromises over a regular car, mainly because they use anachronistic leaf springs in order to maintain their ability to carry a huge payload.
The plastic interior of the SsangYong Korando Sports SE is a tad basic but is still thoughtfully designed.
SsangYong, Korea’s biggest manufacturer of SUVs, has looked at how these medium-sized pick-ups (pretty big by European standards but tidgers compared to the American behemoths) are actually used. They reckon that an ability to tow 2,300kg is probably plenty and carrying nearly 25 sacks of game feed should do most keepers – and so have fitted modern and very upmarket multi-link suspension to the back. They have also done phenomenally well at isolating the punchy 2.0 litre turbo diesel from the cabin, which means it is quite astonishingly refined.
The SsangYong Korando Sports SE is also pretty good off-road, with a proper low range gearbox and switchable four-wheel drive, although it is lacking diff locks and the standard tyres fill with mud pretty quickly. While the quality of the plastics of the interior won’t be worrying the competition yet, it has been very thoughtfully designed, and the £22,745 one I drove had aircon, electrically adjusted leather seats, satnav, a Test Match Special-friendly DAB radio and a smart integrated loadspace cover. The range starts at £18,295 and all models come with a five-year warranty.
The SsangYong Korando Sports SE had a busy week with me. It transported me comfortably down the M6 to a meeting in Coventry, while a few days later it carried enough Chablis, Champagne and claret to slake the thirsts of 220 shooters at our Abbeystead charity clay shoot, where it also transported the photographer from stand to stand round some very wet Lancashire fields. With the exception of the rather fiddly satnav and a deeply irritating alarm, it’s a vehicle I can wholeheartedly recommend.
I’d still probably rather have the Defender and the inevitable chiropractor’s bill, but I’ll warrant we’ll start seeing a few SsangYong Korando Sports about before long.
Specifications for the SsangYong Korando Sports SE 2.0 e-XDi EXT 155PS Auto
Top speed: 106mph
Conbined: 35.3 seconds
Ben Samuelson is the managing director of PR and events agency Samuelson Wylie Associates. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/bensamuelson