Monday 11th July 2016
Road Test: SsangYong Rexton ELX
Perhaps not an immediately obvious choice in terms of a big SUV, but Roy Woodcock says SsangYong's Rexton will repay serious consideration.
Large, luxury SUVs are all about image and the badge it wears. Well not quite all, but you know what I mean.
Away from the realms of Range Rover, Mercedes GLE, BMW X5, Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne, however, there remains a demand for a large, capable and well-equipped 4x4 that can be yours for sensible money. Enter the SsangYong Rexton.
For an on-the-road price that undercuts more or less everything of a comparable size on the market (and smaller, mid-size SUVs as well), you get a vehicle with plenty of space (seven seats if you want them), that's well specced, that is as much at home off-road as on, and can make light work of towing the biggest of caravans.
The Rexton is the South Korean manufacturer's largest vehicle and while it's been around for a while, improvements for the 2016 model year have seriously upweighted its competitiveness. This is particularly the case with its new 2.2-litre diesel engine (the only choice), which is Euro 6 compliant and can be specified with either a six-speed manual transmission or a new Mercedes-Benz seven-speed automatic gearbox.
With 400Nm of torque available from just 1400rpm, the new engine exhibits great flexibility, with a selectable 4x4 system that provides reassurance whatever the job and whatever the weather.
It's not precious about getting up to its axles in mud either and when the going gets really tough, you can select low range options, which splits the torque equally between front and rear axles to provide all-round traction and ensure optimum grip across the most challenging terrain.
The Rexton is built on a steel ladder chassis which provides a substantial towing platform – in fact, there's a three tonne towing capacity, which means it will make light work of hauling a large caravan, horsebox, boat or work trailer.
Entry level is the Rexton SE (£22,995 on the road), rising through EX, EX Auto to the top of the range ELX at £28,995. It was the latter model being driven here. All but the ELX come with seven seats and the option of specifying five seats if you prefer additional loadspace; the ELX is a five-seater.
A neat chromed grille framed by projector headlamps gives this SsangYong a contemporary look that certainly isn't immediately suggestive of a budget brand. SE models get automatic air-conditioning, CD player and RDS radio with iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, electrically-operated and heated door mirrors, electric windows all round, cruise control, front fog lights, alloy wheels and roof rails.
Step up to EX and you'll also get the addition of leather seats, heated front seats, rear privacy glass, rear parking sensors and bigger alloys.EX auto is obviously the same trim level with the addition of the seven-speed automatic gearbox, which also comes as standard fit on the ELX.
The top-of-the-range Rexton also features a luxurious beige/grey leather interior, new multi-function leather covered steering wheel, distinctive 18-inch Diamond cut alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, front and rear parking sensors, electrically-operated sunroof, auto-dipping rear view mirror, heated rear seats and sat-nav.
It's out on the road where you'll have to accept some compromises; the car is not particularly quick but the biggest problem I found was the way it wallowed, sometimes quite alarmingly, on corners – the bodyroll forcing me to power off as I entered bends to keep things on course. Passengers found it noticeably uncomfortable at times.
Official fuel consumption figures are not headline grabbing at 40.4mpg (combined) for manual versions and 38.1 for the auto. Expect to get far less in real world driving conditions.
Emissions, although improved from the previous Euro 5 engine, remain high, at 184 g/km of CO2 on the manual and 194 for the auto. All that said, for the money SsangYong is asking you'd expect something pretty cramped.
Instead, what you get is a car that, thanks to a wheelbase some 30mm longer than a Toyota Land Cruiser costing nearly twice as much, is a family-friendly vehicle and incredibly spacious, too. It also boasts that great towing capacity and proper off-road capability.
My advice is make sure what boxes need ticking before deciding on your chosen vehicle. You might be surprised where your choice finally lies – SsangYong might still be an unheralded and little-known brand but deserves consideration.
Approach a drive in a Rexton with expectations based around the things this car has been designed to do, and you're likely to be very satisfied with what it delivers.
Model: SsangYong Rexton ELX
Price: £28,995 on the road. Range from £22,995.