The big new Rexton 4×4 is the latest offering from SsangYong – and it’s a bit of a revelation.
Along with its smaller sibling, the well-received Tivoli (launched in 2016), the Rexton is arguably one of the company’s first mainstream cars.
At a time when SUVs are selling like hotcakes, it’s no surprise that SsangYong (which claims to be the equivalent of Land Rover in South Korea) is going from strength to strength.
Of course, SsangYong also has another couple of aces up its sleeve. Its range of cars is competitively priced, and all boast a generous five-year warranty.
In terms of size the seven-seater Rexton fits somewhere between its South Korean rivals, the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Sante Fe and more upmarket European vehicles ranging from the Volvo XC90 to the Land Rover Discovery.
Priced from £27,500 for the entry-level EX to £37,500 for the range-topping Ultimate, the Rexton not only represents serious value for money, but it’s also a huge improvement on its predecessor.
With sharp lines, chunky styling and rugged, durable feel, the Rexton is a solid piece of kit.
It is powered by a 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine producing 179bhp and is available with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed Mercedes-Benz automatic transmission (a £2,000 option for buyers of the EX and ELX, but standard on the flagship Ultimate).
Considering its size and weight (4.85m in length, 1.960m wide, 1.825m high and 2.2 tonnes), it’s fairly sprightly, managing 0-62mph in a 11.9 seconds and a top speed of 115mph.
There are more economical, cleaner large SUVs out there though. The Rexton has a claimed 34mpg with CO2 emissions of 218g/km.
However, with its impressive 3.5-tonne towing capacity, this is a car designed more for rural life or for those used to towing trailers, horseboxes and caravans, than for school runs.
So no shortage of pulling power, even if the engine is not as refined as some competitors’ units – especially under heavy acceleration.
It’s also a more traditional four-wheel drive – a selectable system with a separate low-range gearbox controlled via the gear selector and a knob alongside.
Climb up into the Rexton and it’s clear that SsangYong has listened to feedback because it’s genuinely stylish with good quality materials – there’s even quilted Nappa leather trim on Ultimate models.
It’s well equipped with an 8.0-inch infotainment screen, power/folding door mirrors, front/rear parking sensors, automatic headlights and wipers, cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking system, lane departure warning, high beam assistance and traffic sign recognition all standard on the entry-level EX.
The ELX adds the likes of dual zone/rear air conditioning, Tom Tom navigation with a 9.2-inch screen, heated steering wheel and rear privacy glass, while Ultimate gets goodies including interior mood lighting and even heated rear seats.
Talking of seats, the third row is not for children only, like some so-called seven-seaters. Adults up to six-foot can squeeze in, and I should know because I tried it. And if it’s luggage space you’re after then the Rexton is a superb package. Rear boot space with all the rear seats down is 1,977 litres – or 820 litres with the second row up.
The cabin is spacious and comfortable and, needless to say, the view is commanding. It cruises well on the motorway and can even be hustled along more challenging roads thanks to well-controlled body roll and light steering.
However, on rougher roads it’s no quite such smooth going. If you go for a test drive, maybe try the ELX, which is probably the sweet spot in the range anyway, because it comes with 18-inch wheels. We suspect these may be a little more forgiving than the 20-inch set fitted to the Ultimate we tested.
The Rexton is impressive off-road too. It’s not a hardcore 4×4, but certainly more capable than many rivals. The hill descent system was effortless, while it also managed tight, thick mud tracks and slippery grass stretches with ease.
Verdict: The new Rexton is a real step-up for SsangYong and represents a lot of car for the money. Good looking, solid and easy to drive, it will make light work of towing and can take on terrain many big-name SUVs twice the price would shy away from.
Review in association with www.automotiveblog.co.uk