From £39,5856
The fourth-generation Ssangyong Rexton brings added sophistication to the interior and infotainment, but does this new SUV do enough to close the gap to its rivals?

What is it?

This is Ssangyong’s flagship model, renewed for its fourth generation, offering an up-to-date suite of infotainment and electronic features and a surprisingly well-furnished interior.

But many core Rexton features remain. It retains body-on-frame construction and comes with a part-time four-wheel drive system that includes low-range for ambitious off-roading.

In the UK, the Rexton be sold with Ssangyong’s updated 179bhp 2.2 litre four cylinder diesel engine with either a six-speed manual or Mercedes-Benz-sourced seven-speed automatic gearbox.

Ssangyong considers the Rexton's key rivals to be the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Kia Sorento, both of which it is priced to undercut. The firm is also aiming the new Rexton at buyers of used, three-to-four-year-old Land Rover Discoverys, with the Rexton's five-year unlimited mileage warranty a further draw.

A major feature of the Rexton’s redesign is a substantial increase in the quantity of high-strength steel used in its body, upped to 81.7% from the previous car's 16.1%.

Ssangyong reckon the bodyshell is stiffer than that of both the Audi Q7 and a Range Rover Sport, and that’s without the addition of a stout chassis that includes extensive reinforcements within its box sections. So, the Rexton should be very robust. Inevitably it’s also quite heavy, weighing in at 2095kg in its lightest form. As a consequence, the manual’s combined 36.2mpg and 204g/km do not compare well with the equivalent Santa Fe’s 46.3mpg and 161g/km nor the Sorento’s 49.6mpg and 149g/km. Both domestic rivals out-perform the Ssangyong Rexton, too.

However, Ssangyong reckons the Rexton’s combination of 3.5-tonne towing capacity and off-road capability will appeal to a particular slice of buyers.

There are three trim levels. Entry-level EX costs from £27,500 and provides an 8.0in infotainment screen, manual air conditioning, seven seats, front and rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, high-beam assist and traffic sign recognition. Mid-range ELX adds to this 18in alloys, tri-zone air conditioning, Nappa leather, power heated seats, a heated steering wheel, a smart key and extra airbags.

The range-topping Ultimate version tested here is only available with five seats, but adds the automatic gearbox, 20in alloys, HID headlights, surround-view monitoring, a powered tailgate, heated and ventilated front seats and, most strikingly, quilted Nappa leather upholstery that helps lift this Ssangyong to previously unimaginable heights of comfort. 

What's it like?

If your first Rexton experience is in this Ultimate model, you can’t fail to be impressed by the calibre of the interior, which is at its sumptuous best when upholstered in ivory or brown leather, some of it quilted.

The comfortable seats, the diamond-stitched slice of leather upholstering the lower reaches of the dashboard, the generous 10.2in infotainment screen and the sophisticated instruments convey an aura of unexpected luxury, heightened by materials of decent quality.

You sit high up – high enough that the running boards are genuinely useful – with plenty of space. That applies in the rear, too, although those in the third-row of seats will feel confined.

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The diesel engine isn’t quiet enough for its diet to be undetectable, but it’s unobtrusive at idle and only sounds taxed towards the upper end of its rev range, a zone rarely reached when the seven-speed automatic is doing the shifting.

This gearbox shifts between ratios slickly enough, but it only has two modes; the misleadingly labelled default Sport mode and a winter shift regime.

This engine and the Rexton’s 2.1-tonne heft produce performance that’s far from electric. It's not slow, but the ease and relative quiet of cruising is more impressive than the acceleration. The zest shortfall is confirmed by an 11.0sec 0-62mph time and 115mph top speed.

If the Ultimate’s official combined fuel consumption of 34.8mpg isn't enough to get you backing off the throttle, another incentive to do so is the car's ride, which is frequently disturbed if the road is anything less than slate-smooth.

Yes, the Rexton has coil-sprung double wishbone front suspension and a multi-link set-up at the rear, but it also has a stout, separate chassis. It’s old-fashioned, providing a reminder of what 4x4s used to be like before they had Waitrose car park pretensions.

You’re quite often jostled, and any urge to tackle tight bends at speed is soon suppressed by the feeling that the car would rather not pursue such antics. The Ssangyong Rexton will get around a bend just fine unless you go mad, the task eased by steering that’s much less slack than you’d experience in old-school body-on-frame off-roaders. Still, alacritous it isn't.

On the other hand, the Rexton is likely to prove decently effective in mud, with impressive ground clearance and approach and departure angles along with selectable four-wheel drive and low ratio. Our scope for testing its robust mettle was limited to some bumpy track adventuring, but the Ssangyong Rexton certainly feels tough, with not a squeak or rattle coming from its structure or furnishings.

Should I buy one?

It’s the Ssangyong Rexton’s robust, off-roading credentials and its ability to lug 3.5 tonnes that make the strongest rational case for this SUV, which is an old fashioned 4x4 of the Toyota Land Cruiser and Mitsubishi Shogun's ilk, and there are undoubtedly buyers who require just those capabilities.

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However, there will also be plenty who will be swayed by the Rexton’s quietly handsome presence, its reasonable value for money and, higher up the range, the opulence of its interior.

Despite a ride that may prove irritatingly busy on British roads, languid performance and thirst for fuel, there’s something comfortingly likeable about the Rexton, with its robust inner core and sumptuous interior strong draws. Rationally, it makes only limited sense unless it’s needed for heavy duty tasks, but it’s an impressive leap forward for the recovering Ssangyong and certainly worth a look.

Ssangyong Rexton 2.2d Ultimate

Location Seoul, South Korea; On sale October; Price £37,500; Engine four cyls, 2157cc, turbodiesel; Power 179bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 310lb ft at 1600-2600rpm; Gearbox 7-spd automatic; Kerbweight 2130kg; 0-62mph 11.0sec; Top speed 115mph; Economy 34.8mpg; CO2 213g/km; Rivals Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento

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Flametrench 15 August 2017

They need to 'do a Hyundai'

Good to see SsangYong making a go of it but they need to get real with their prices. The likes of Kia and Hyundai built a base in the UK on good value rather than ground-breaking modernity. They kept their prices realistic and gradually increased them as quality, tech etc brought them up to speed with the rest. Now they're considered a 'real' alternative to the best Euro brands and the prices reflect that. SsangYong is pitching regular prices without having fulfilled that quality/tech/design aspect yet.

stumpys182 14 August 2017

I've had the pleasure of

I've had the pleasure of sitting in this new Rexton, in both mid and top spec and I can confirm what the article indicates re the interior. I would confidently say the quality of materials and fit/finish is easily on a par with any other mainstream offering and not far off the industry leaders. Although I havent driven it yet, I have no reason to doubt what is said in the article. As for pricing, when compared with its direct competitors (Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe etc) it still looks like good value, especially in mid spec which is around £31-32k for a 7 seater manual 4x4. When the current Sorento arrived a couple of years ago, I baulked at the £42k-plus of the KX4 models (which is now closer to £43k with a couple of essential boxes ticked) but the majority of Sorento's sold at our site are in fact those very same top-spec ones that I doubted at the start. I think SsangYong are canny in aiming at the used Disco market, especially when you consider this will tow the same 3.5 tons and is unlikely to break down and even if it does, it has the 5yr unlimited miles warranty.The Landrover may get you anywhere you want to go, but this will tow you back when the Landrovers had enough!

Einarbb 12 August 2017

An unpretentious family friendly off-roader

This appears being one of the rare vehicles with no pretentions whatsoever towards being sporty anything. Just what is says on the tin, i.e. carries the family in reasonable comfort, plus able to tow a really large mobile home, large enough for full family in comfort wherever reachable on road or even off. There are really not many vehicles with comparable capabilities out there that are available at prices a family is likely be able to afford. Mitsubishi Shogun appears the closest comparable. Land-cruiser comes also to mind. The Rexton probably will be cheaper than both and helluva lot cheaper than anything beyond the Shogun and the Cruiser. Not at all hence by any means, pointless.