Road test: SsangYong Rexton
The much-improved Rexton is a competent and well equipped SUV.
What is it?
The Rexton is the Korean car maker’s new range-topper, a big but relatively affordable 4×4 to take on the likes of the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Kia Sorento.
How safe is it?
Oh dear, this isn’t the Rexton’s strong point. There’s only one diesel engine which returns no better than 36.2mpg on the combined cycle and emits at least 204g/km of CO2.
Who should buy one?
If you expect lots of equipment, you need a car with a high towing limit, or a 4×4 that’s truly capable off road, the Rexton is worth a look.
Road test by Sue Baker, January 2018
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
It hardly matters that the new Rexton is much more capable than its predecessor; the poor old thing had been around in one form or another since 2001. What really counts is whether this big 4×4 can genuinely rival the likes of the Kia Sorento and Skoda Kodiaq.
SsangYong has opted to stick with body-on-chassis construction, whereas just about every modern 4×4 uses a monocoque. The old-fashioned way of doing things usually makes tough vehicles which work well off-road, and that’s the case here. We took the Rexton around a muddy off-road course complete with steep climbs and vertigo-inducing drops, and were really taken with the car’s prowess. The surround view system, which blends images from different cameras to show the car’s immediate surroundings from above, is really useful when avoiding tree stumps and
other obstacles. It comes in handy when parking in narrow spaces, too.
The downside to the old-school contruction method is that the Rexton is a seriously weighty car, with a kerbweight of over two tonnes. That contributes to poor fuel economy and high carbon dioxide emissions. It also compromises the car on the road, especially as all that weight is carried so high off the ground. There’s a lot of of lean if you corner with any enthusiasm. What’s more, the ride is rather lumpy, and potholes send a shudder through the body.
On the plus side, anyone with a trailer or caravan to tow will be reassured by the car’s weight and its 3500kg legal towing limit.
The only engine is a 2.2-litre diesel, an uprated version of the unit fitted to the old car. It’s not the last word in hushed refinement, but only really sounds strained if revved hard. Since maximum pulling power (310lb ft) is available from 1600rpm, there’s little need for high revs, although with so much bulk to shift acceleration is dogged rather than quick.
There are manual and auto models. We’ve only driven the seven-speed auto, which swapped ratios smoothly
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
If the Rexton’s driving experience has taken a step forward, the interior has made a leap. The cabin design is more modern and appealing, and the materials and finish are in a different league to the old car’s.
The driver sits high up, as you’d expect in an SUV, and there’s enough adjustment for both short and tall people to be comfortable behind the wheel.
There’s a digital display between the rev counter and speedo, and a touchscreen satnav and infotainment system that’s straightforward to use.
In the second row, there’s enough legroom for a six-foot passenger to sit comfortably behind an equally tall passenger. Air vents between the front seats help maintain a pleasant temperature, and there’s only a slight bulge in the floor for the transmission, which helps make space for everyone’s feet if sitting three abreast.
There are five- and seven-seat versions. The third row of seats eats into luggage space slightly, even when folded, but the five-seater has bags of space for, well, bags.
The Rexton hasn’t an official rating, but company insiders say they would expect a respectable four-star result. The roster of safety kit is long, including autonomous emergency braking on all models, as well as forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and traffic sign recognition. Ultimate spec cars have lane change assist, blind spot detection, and rear cross traffic alert.
The basic EX model comes with cloth upholstery, air conditioning rather than climate control and 17-inch alloys. Step up to ELX for dual-zone climate control, heated wheel, leather upholstery, powered adjustment for front seats, satnav with a 9.2-inch touchscreen and more. Extras on the Ultimate model include powered tailgate, and LED front fog and cornering lights.
Prices start from £27,500. That’s a stiff increase compared with the old car, but £1350 less than the cheapest Kia Sorento. Top-spec Rextons cost £37,500, nearly £4000 less than the most expensive Sorento. The car’s biggest issue in terms of cost is fuel economy. Depending on the specification chosen, the official combined figure is between 34mpg and 36.2mpg. Even for a car of this size and weight, that is poor.
AT A GLANCE:
Performance: 0-62 in 11.9 secs
Economy: 34mpg combined
Figures for the Rexton Ultimate Auto.