From £19,1503

The SsangYong Rexton is a big, old-fashioned four-wheel-drive SUV that will appeal to those who would not or could not consider the more refined alternative of a modern ‘soft-roader’, whether through a dogged determination not to follow the herd or because of enforced financial limitations.

SsangYong’s recent relaunch in the UK, with the appointment of a new importer, means the Rexton has also received a specification makeover and is now presented in a clear, two-tier trim hierarchy – S, available with a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic gearbox, and EX, driven here, which is take-it-or-leave-it auto only. 

Power still comes from a version of Mercedes’ previous-generation 2696cc five-cylinder CDI diesel engine producing 163bhp and 250lb ft of torque while consuming a claimed 30.1mpg on the combined cycle (32.8mpg for the manual S version) and emitting 250g/km of CO2 (dropping to 229g/km for the manual).

The Rexton is a crude device by modern standards — not least those set by its domestic rivals Kia and Hyundai – but it is still up to serving as an effective workhorse for those able to accept its compromises. It remains a proper off-roader, complete with a pukka four-wheel drive system, decent ground clearance and reasonably effective traction control.

That Merc-derived engine remains the highlight of the dynamic experience, delivering decent urge and driving smoothly via the standard five-speed autobox and accompanied by a gravelly resonance in the cabin. 

Refinement levels are where the Rexton feels furthest off the pace, both in terms of the road and wind noise that gets into the cabin, but also the constant heaving motions bequeathed by its old-fashioned underpinnings. And while the ride never settles down, the feel-free steering acts to discourage any attempt at enthusiastic progress, which perhaps isn’t such a bad thing.

This isn’t a trendy, modern SUV, then, but a simple, traditional off-roader. Most disappointing is the low-speed ride that thumps around town. Up the pace though and things improve, the Rexton lolloping along in a relaxed manner. The power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is very light and offers little communication, but points the Rexton faithfully. Nevertheless, it’s a reminder of just how talented modern SUVs are at replicating a car-like experience.

Standard kit is generous in both S and EX trims, with the EX model only bettering the S with the addition of full leather trim and an electric sunroof, but a fully-specced Rexton also seems to miss the point of such a value-orientated car: electrically adjustable seats and automatic windscreen wipers feel slightly out of place in a vehicle like this.

The Rexton undercuts established rivals but it’s hard not to conclude its kitchen-sink specification is missing the point of such a value brand and as such the Rexton doesn’t quite deliver either as a bargain-basement workhorse or faux-luxury SUV. It has a certain charm and appeal, but it’s unlikely that it will be enough to snare too many buyers given the competitiveness of the SUV segment.

Top 5 Large SUVs

  • Range Rover Sport
    The new Sport, from a keen driver’s point of view, might just be the best SUV in the world at the moment

    Range Rover Sport

    1
  • The Porsche Cayenne is available as a hybrid for the first time

    Porsche Cayenne

    2
  • BMW X5
    The X5 uses in effect the same platform as the previous generation, but it's been substantially revised

    BMW X5

    3
  • Land Rover Discovery
    The Discovery really is the defining go-anywhere super-utility vehicle

    Land Rover Discovery

    4
  • The Mk2 model, also based on the Porsche Cayenne, is lighter, roomier and more economical than the first

    Volkswagen Touareg

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Ssangyong range

Driven this week

  • Car review
    26 March 2015
    Does Suzuki's new city runabout have what it takes to succeed?
  • First Drive
    26 March 2015
    Collins Performance has given the Fiesta ST 270bhp and 265lb ft, but has our favourite fast Ford been ruined in the process?
  • First Drive
    26 March 2015
    The Seat Leon X-Perience is the closest thing to an SUV that you can buy with a Seat badge for now, blending estate practicality with off-road ability
  • First Drive
    24 March 2015
    Diesel-powered Mazda supermini has gutsy performance, good cruising manners and great economy. A lumpy ride is the major disappointment.
  • Car review
    24 March 2015
    BMW's facelifted M135i has more power, sharper looks and new technology. The previous version was a belter, so is this new one just as good?