Driven: SsangYong Korando Sports DMZ

It might look like an extra from the set of a Hollywood war blockbuster, but this is actually the Korando Sports DMZ - the latest special edition one-tonne pick-up from SsangYong.

Inspired by the pick-ups used by the South Korean military, to guard the demilitarized Zone from the North, the Korando Sports DMZ was initially created as "bit of fun", according to SsangYong. However, after the trial run of vehicles sold out, SsangYong decided to put it into full production as a special edition. 

Despite the camo paint work, the Korando Sports DMZ is not an imported military grade vehicle. On the contrary, it's actually based on the top of the range Korando Sports (in EX trim), albeit with loads of kit fitted as standard. Prices start from £19,195 (excluding VAT) and the DMZ features heated leather seats, cruise control, roof rails, parking sensors and 18-inch alloy wheels. The eye-catching camouflage paintwork is also included. 

Like the standard Korando Sports, the DMZ is powered by a 155PS 2.0-litre turbodiesel, which lacks refinement, but delivers where it matters, with 360Nm of torque flowing from 1500rpm. The DMZ also gets a five-speed automatic gearbox as standard, which does a decent job of distributing the power. However, its claimed 35.3mpg is somewhat short on the 40+mpg that the Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux and Mitsubishi L200 promise.

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The Korando Sports is a great little off-roader though, with its compact dimensions and on demand four-wheel drive making it perfect for ploughing across muddy tracks and rain soaked fields. The switchable all-wheel drive also has a low-range setting, which provides additional traction for tackling steep inclines.

Unlike many of its rivals, the Korando doesn't have leaf sprung rear suspension. Instead, it uses a coil spring multi-link set up, which makes the ride much more composed on the road. Unlike the L200 and Hilux, which have a tendency to bounce along when not carrying anything in the back, the SsangYong feels smooth and composed, especially on the motorway. 

That said, it does suffer from a lot of body roll in the corners, which means it can feel a bit of a handful on B roads. The numb steering doesn’t help matters either and rarely gives any meaningful feel of connection to the front wheels. The steering is slow too, which makes parking a bit of a pain, with lots of turns to navigate roundabouts or fit into moderate parking space. 

Like most pick-ups, the Korando Sports DMZ will carry a tonne in the back, but it isn't the most practical of load spaces. Indeed, the load bay is around 400mm (16 inches) shorter than the Toyota Hilux. The SsangYong also lags behind the competition on towing, with its 2.7 braked limit a long way behind the modern benchmark of 3.5 tonnes. 

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Inside, the Korando Sports DMZ is spacious enough for four large adults, but the interior does feel drab and dated with cheap plastics and flimsy switchgear. The layout of the dashboard is poor too, while the button-heavy steering wheel feels like it has been lifted from a vehicle 10 or 15 years older. 

The decision to buy a SsangYong over a Mitsubishi L200 or Toyota Hilux will - for the majority - come down to price. While the Korando Sports DMZ is nowhere as impressive as its rivals for towing, load carrying or refinement, it does undercut them all on price and spec. 

The entry-level Korando Sports start from under £15,000, before VAT, which is almost £5000 less than the L200 and Hilux. This range-topping DMZ version pushes the price up to £19,195, but that's still roughly the same price as a basic Toyota or Mitsubishi. Cheaper and better equipped as its rivals, the DMZ makes a compelling case as a cheap workhorse - especially when you factor in its five year unlimited mileage warranty.

Obviously its camo paint scheme is a talking point, but we're sure that it will find favour with builders, gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts who want their pick-up to make a bold statement. That said, even with the eye-catching looks and impressive spec, there is no hiding the fact that the Korando Sports is a long way behind the competition on quality.

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