Ssangyong recently returned to the UK with its new Korando, but its long-serving Rexton model is also available in passenger and commercial variants.
While the Korando fits squarely into the crossover SUV market – and the massive Rodius is a massive MPV – the Rexton is a mid-size 4×4 that competes with the likes of the Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan X-Trail, Mitsubishi Outlander and Suzuki Grand Vitara, Chevrolet Captiva and Kia Sorento.
As is Ssangyong’s way, the Rexton undercuts virtually everything on the market in terms of asking price and standard specifications.
It also offers seven seats and all-wheel drive, which is something of a rarity in this sector.
While the Outlander, Sorento and Santa Fe can combine seven seats with 4×4, you need to look at the Land Rover Discovery, Audi Q7, Volvo XC90, Mercedes GL or BMW X5 after that.
On the road prices start from £19,995 for the 270 S manual, rises to £21,495 for the automatic transmission and tops out at 270 EX Auto.
There’s also a commercial variant, the Rexton CS, from £16,399 (excluding VAT) with the rear seats removed and a flat 2.2m3 load area, with either manual of automatic transmissions.
Ssangyongs pack in a lot of kit as standard, so the Rexton S gets keyless entry, cruise control, electric windows automatic headlight levelling, heated electric door mirros, aircon, CD radio with Bluetooth, fog lights, alloy wheels and roof rails.
Move up to EX trim and you gain electronic front heated seats, full leather, sunroof, privacy glass, 18″ alloys and side steps.
Two airbags as standard is very mean on safety kit – side airbags are only available on the top spec – but ESP, ABS with brakeforce distribution, rollover protection and speed-sensing door locks are standard.
Because the Rexton is built to head off-road there’s Hill Descent Control too, while the powertrain has a low-gear ratio and there’s also a Winter button that selects second gear on start-up.
A digital radio, factory-fit satnav, metallic paint and rear parking sensors are the only options.
The interior is more functional than anything else, but the dashboard is laid out logically and with a lack of fuss. Materials don’t look or feel great, but are perfectly acceptable for what the Rexton is.
You can have seven seats and 250 litres of boot space or use five and have luggage space of 1,338 litres – although the rear bench doesn’t look like something you’d want to sit on for too long. There are plenty of clever cubbies and ‘thing’-holders throughout the cabin too.
Engines, Towing And Performance
Power comes from the same ageing 2.7-litre turbodiesel from Mercedes. It only packs 165bhp but there’s plenty of torque at 340Nm from very low down – between 1800-3250rpm – so it’s excellent for towing. Torque-on-demand distribution system send more twist to rear-wheels when the Rexton detects a need for it.
The Rexton can manage to drag a massive 3.2 tonnes of weight behind it, so it’s ideal for towing. Is there a better towing-weight-to-asking-price ratio on the market? We haven’t looked into it, but we doubt it.
The Rexton will get up to 112mph and is relatively sprightly off the mark thanks to all that low-down grunt. Combined fuel economy is 32.8mpg with the manual and CO2 emissions are 229g/km. With the auto box both figures worsen, at 20.1mpg and 250g/km.
That will mean a hefty first-year rate of £790 at today’s prices, followed by £445 a year afterwards in road tax – but bear in mind that the on-the-road prices include a year’s road tax. Insurance is Group 27 for the manual and 29 for the automatic models.
Bear in mind, too, the generous Ssangyong unlimited five-year warranty – especially if you’re going to be doing plenty of hard miles.
Driving the Rexton is no different from any other more, er, affordable mid-size SUV. It’s not especially dynamic or fun to drive but it feels planted and solid on the road and it cruises on the motorway in a relaxed manner.
There is body roll in the corners and the steering is rather light, so aggressive driving is discouraged. The light steering will help in the city, though.
Accelerating hard means the Rexton sounds gruff and unrefined, and neither the turbodiesel engine nor the Tiptronic autobox are anwyhere near the best on the market. But they feel up to the job of load-lugging and towing – and feel quiet when cruising, which is when they make the most sense.
A light spot of off-roading down a dirt track gave the impression that the Rexton can handle itself in the mud – and there are enough driving aids to suggest it can more than hold its own off the tarmac.Ssangyong