After so many years in the job it is not often that John Swift is surprised by a new car but a short test in the latest generation SsangYong seven-seater model due here next month left him amazed...
Anyone who has watched Kia accelerate into the fast lane knows what the Koreans can do. SsangYong is also Korean but has taken a more evolutionary approach, building on what it does best which is selling practical, solid and value for money cars.
However, in recent years its pace of development has picked up a bit as the excellent Tivoli compact SUV proves. But with this new Rexton it’s making a huge leap, not just a step, forwards.
Wow, where did this come from? This is by far and away the area where it has put in the most effort and investment and the result is amazing, just extraordinary.
Earlier this week I tested a left hand drive, pre-production model and if the UK cars are better still (which they will be) I can only say that owners and their passengers are in for a treat.
Forget the cheap and cheerful image associated with the SsangYong badge because this has quality leather on the seats with quilted Nappa leather, not dissimilar in look to what you would find in a Bentley (honestly), leather trim on the fascia and doors, convincing alloy look plastic and satin wood-effect as the highlights.
he front and back seats are roomy, comfortable and it can be ordered in seven seat form with a third row or as a five-berth. Mid-row seats are heated in some versions.
SsangYong is especially proud of what it has done for its media/connectivity kit although I was told the stuff on this pre-prod car was different to the UK spec.
SsangYong knows what its customers want so there is nothing particularly flashy about the Rexton from the outside. It’s a big, neat and unpretentious.
I said before that SsangYong has played to its strengths and done what it’s best at and one market it excels in is among caravanners or those towing a horsebox, boat or some such.
Quite rightly it has stuck with the `body-on-chassis’ design which is by far the best way for pulling heavy loads rather than the monocoque favoured by most newer SUVs.
One consequence of the body on chassis approach is that the ride can be rather bouncy and not composed but again, I was surprised by the Rexton. It rides well and handles well for a car of this bulk.
I don’t imagine many owners will drive it like this but I couldn’t resist the chance to point this big car through an S-bend at high speed to see how it behaved. Impressively, is the answer.
Not cutting edge but you need a torquey diesel to pull the 3.5 tonnes this car will so you’ll find a 2.2 engine here and a choice of a six speed manual of the seven speed Mercedes-Benz auto I tried. By the gear selector you’ll find a rotary control for the various four wheel drive modes you can have for off-roading/low grip driving.
Always a strong point, the Rexton once again demonstrates that SsangYong gives you a lot for your money.
This is a seven seater SUV with exceptional towing and off-road capability and a brilliant interior, finished and fitted to a very high standard.
And yet the range starts at £27,500. For another new seven seater, the Skoda Kodiaq, of roughly similar engine size and spec, you’re looking at mid-£30,000 money.
The company says Rexton prices are typically ten per cent less than the competition, pitched well below the equivalent Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento, and on a par with a three/four-year-old Land Rover Discovery.
A five year, limitless mileage warranty will help drive strong residual values, making ownership a lot more affordable. We await some official figures but I do know that SsangYongs tend to hold their value well.
How could it be anything else? On an admittedly short test in a non-UK spec car I was blown away by how good it is and what a huge advance in quality and desirability it represents for SsangYong.
As soon as you open the door you know the Rexton is as far removed from the popular image of SsangYong as can be. The good news is that the company is promising at least one new car a year from now with similar advances in quality. Bring it on.
Even after more than 25 years in the job there are still some things which surprise me!
Price - From £27,500
Sixe - Five or seven seat SUV
Performance - To be confirmed at launch
Economy - Also to be confirmed at launch