By on August 26, 2010

Since Mahindra doesn’t seem to be giving its self-destructed US distribution channel much attention, we couldn’t help but wonder what exactly is more important to the Indian firm than a little PR the world’s second [sigh] largest car market in the world. The answer, of course, is its acquisition of Ssangyong, a South Korean automaker known only to Americans as the maker of the legendarily ugly Rodius (to be fair, regular TTAC readers may also recall Ssangyong’s bid for world’s ugliest bankruptcy declaration). But the meeting point between Ssangyong and Mahindra isn’t styling, it’s diesel and four-wheel-drive.

Despite the fact that Ssangyong is still technically in receivership, there are still 25 dealers selling its products in Australia on the strength of the motto “We Live Diesel,” while Mahindra has 40 diesel-only Australian dealers. Recently Ssangyong revived the nameplate given to its original product, Korando, for a new model that reportedly launches in Australia later this year. Looking at the evolution of the Korando, from original CJ7 clone to the forthcoming model (which reportedly boasts a 174 hp, 337 lb-ft “German-designed” diesel engine, and available FWD or AWD), one can’t help but wonder where Mahindra sees itself going.

The second generation Korando (1996) was styled by the same guy who penned the Rodius. And thus, the awkward years began.

The Korando was updated in 2001. It didn’t help much.

The Mk II Korando is still built by TagAz for the Russian market. Evolution, as you can see has slowed to a crawl.

Ssangyong broke with its Korando roots by replacing the model in 2006 with this monstrosity, known as the Actyon. The trends at Ssangyong towards car-based baby utes, horrendous styling, and ultimately, bankruptcy, were clear by now.

And for good measure, here’s its cousin, the Actyon Sports.

With the exception of the show-car grille and lights, this is said to represent the new Korando that Ssangyong hopes will save its skin. In fact, Mahindra has just announced it will build this and possibly other Ssangyong models in India. And so the evolution of the Korando, from ruggedly handsome to awkwardly geeky to utterly lost, has come full circle to blandly handsome. Or at least that’s the plan…

Ssangyong’s present is still quite uncertain, as evidenced by its malfunctioning website and still-hideous product line. The next new Korando will help break Ssangyong’s rep for eye-watering styling, but it’s not as if mature markets like Australia and the US are desperate for more varieties of generic-looking crossover. Here’s hoping Mahindra keeps to its rugged roots better than Ssangyong did,

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19 Comments on “Bonus Gallery: The Evolution Of The Ssangyong Korando...”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I actually like the CJ rip-off and it’s immediate predecessor the best. If sold here with reliability that was on pace with the rest of the industry in NA, I’d have had to give it serious consideration. But then there are days when I wish I could still buy a new Geo/Chevrolet Tracker with a stick and 4X4.

  • avatar

    Ahh yes. The Rhodius.

    From Wikipedia:L

    “The car was designed by Ken Greenley,[3] former head of the automotive design course at the Royal College of Art in London. The design goal was to capture the essence of a luxury yacht[citation needed]. In 2005 the Rodius won the dubious distinction of being voted “the ugliest car ever made” by visitors to motoring website CarData, and is described by Top Gear Magazine as a car “that looks like it got bottled in a pub brawl and stitched back together by a blind man”[4] as well as being described as “having a face like a burnt thong” by the Australian magazine Wheels.[5] In 2010, the Australian magazine liftout of the Sydney Morning Herald, Drive Life, described the car as being “so cack-handed in every aesthetic department it makes the average people-mover owner feel like they are getting about in an ultra-stylish Italian sports machine”, later going on to calling it a “collapsing bus shelter on wheels”.[6]”

  • avatar

    I have seen the 2nd gen Korando and it’s not that bad looking.

    The Actyon, looks different, more bearable than the Rodius.

    They usually use Mercedes Benz drivetrains, so the “german sourced” blah blah blah, must have Daimler written all over it.

  • avatar

    The Rodius reminds me of the ‘brainbug’ in the film version of Starship Troopers.

    I’d go for a 2nd-gen Korando with a TDI motor and traditional part-time 4wd.

  • avatar

    Actually, a hookup between Ssangyong and Mahindra makes sense. Ssangyong made CJ7 clones and Mahindra made Jeeps under license for a long time, ending in the late 1990s.

  • avatar

    The Actyon is a petroleum-powered blobfish. The Mark II Korando, on the other hand, looks like third runner up in an Eastern European SUV design competition circa 1985.

    A Taiwanese guy I worked for owned a Mark I SsangYong Chairman. The build quality of the Chairman was decent and the car felt fairly solid (probably owing to its E class Mercedes-Benz platform). You don’t get much respect tooling around in a Chairman, however. It’s a bit like slathering yourself in fake Gucci and then feigning a double ear blockage whenever someone challenges you to debate the morality of cloning sheep.

  • avatar

    There are cars, as you opined in your Juke review, that look better in the flesh than in pictures.

    Ssangyongs are like this. Depending on the light, the angle of viewing and your blood alcohol level.

    The Korando is weird from some angles… especially those that highlight the incredibly long schnoz… but it’s not without its charm.

    The Actyon is actually much better looking than many of its stablemates. It’s truly bizarre, but the proportions are interesting and it’s certainly eye-catching. Interiors are complete garbage, though.

    Those “german designed” engines, as Stingray says, are actually Benz units. I’ve sampled Ssangyong’s 2.7 liter common-rail diesel, and performance is actually commendable… comparable to common-rails from other manufacturers, though certainly not up to the high level of BMW or Hyundai powerplants (wow… imagine putting those two names together just ten years ago…)

  • avatar

    I remember seeing the second gen Korando at the Dallas Auto Show back about a decade ago, more or less. At the time, they were considering entering it into the US market. Considering what direction their designs took, not coming over was a good move.

  • avatar

    Ken Greeley and Chris Bangle.

    They thought that if separated at birth, the twins would would do less damage.

    They were wrong.

  • avatar

    Oh… these cars are looking stunning , and the Mk II Korando is the most stylish one!

  • avatar
    Will from oz

    Neither Ssangyong or Mahindra sells well in Australia. They are more viewed as comic relief when sighted, and that offers only extremely rare comic relief. Mahindra have sold a few budget pick-up variants, however punters tend to purchase more powerful and established units, the Hilux for example. I am surprised there are so many dealerships here…very lean low overhead operations.

  • avatar

    Lucky Australians getting diesels… I just wish us guys in the states could get diesel Wranglers.

  • avatar

    My brain hurts!

  • avatar

    You gotta like “German-designed Diesel.” Since Rudolf D was a German, you’d have to say that all diesels are “German-designed.”

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    The Actyon hatch is pictured from its best angle. The back isn’t so good.
    You shouldn’t slate Ken Greeley for the Rodius – Ssangyong told him exactly what they wanted , and he made the best of it.

  • avatar

    Well, the “German” aspect were the diesel motors built under license from Mercedes Benz. The Ssangyong Chairman was based off the Mercedes Benz W-124 platform. The Musso was sold as a Mercedes Benz in other markets (I have no idea why). The Kyron was allegedly based off the Mercedes M class platform (under license of course). Most models use transmissions based off of MB tech as well. I will say, my guilty pleasure is the Chairman W. The Chairman W (looks nothing like the regular chairman) looks like a MB/BMW derivative. If the price/quality were right (as well as the interior) it could be a Genesis competitor.

  • avatar

    No wonder the Kyron drives so nicely. Not a great steer, but it feels solid and the door slams are pretty good.

    Too bad the styling is just plain frumpy.

  • avatar

    Russian ski-tourists used to drive Ssangyong Mussos around here.. Looked like a cheap Pajero. Now they drive Land Cruisers, Lexi and Range Rovers.

    I’ve seen a Rodius live once in Scotland, it was even more hideous than in pictures if even that’s possible.

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