Rexton is SsangYong’s first new model since it disappeared from the market a few years ago and falls between the compact and large SUV categories. It features up 7 seats on some models, for the price of a RAV4 or X-trail. It might appear to customers be a bargain. But those who have driven a modern European or Japanese 4x4 will be unimpressed. The Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe are less pretentious and would be far more worthy targets for those looking for a bargain 4x4.
SsangYong Group was founded in 1939 and now it is a great industrial company, having branches in several different areas: concrete, oil, paper, financial information. In 1986, SsangYong bought Ha Dong Hwan Motor Company, which had been producing integrated traction automotives and trucks since 1954.
Behind the wheel
The vehicle provides bright plastic wood and an old-school layout interior. The steering wheel adjusts for height and there’s the usual commanding view of the road but the blacked out rear windows on the higher spec models does impair rear visibility at night. Taller and larger drivers may find it a little cramped given that it’s a large car. Although the radio buttons are fiddly to operate, the seats are comfortable enough for long trips.
Having enough room for 5 adults and their luggage, Rexton is almost a full size 4x4. The interior proportions are decent, too. The material used may be functional, but are completely at adds with SsangYong UK’s claims that the Rexton is a premium vehicle. It certainly isn’t. The dull grey color and smooth hard surfaces are typical of products designed for the Korean market. Diesels are noisy.
All models have dual airbags with pretensioners side-airbags, side impact beams, ABS, traction control, a 3.5 tone towing capacity, air-conditioning, a CD player, leather steering wheel, alloy wheels and roof rails. SE and SX models get deluxe leather seating.
Initially 2 engines were offered: a 2.9 liter diesel and a 3.2 petrol. The 290 diesel is an older technology unit, that’s why it’s noisy and needs to be worked hard to get performance. Fuel economy is acceptable for a car of this size – we just got over 28 mpg with the diesel. A 2.7 liter five-cylinder modern turbodiesel arrived mid-2004 with an auto transmission option, replacing both previous engines. Fuel consumption can’t match that offered by diesel compact 4x4s like the Honda CR-V, Nissan X-trail and Toyota RAV4 but the engine offers plenty of pulling power. The manual gearchange is notchy.
The Rexton is narrower than most large 4x4s, causing it to have a higher centre of gravity. Suspension is set firmer to reduce body roll and results in a harsh ride over bumps. In 2-wheel-drive mode, it can slip around, but is more sure-footed in 4-wheel-drive. Being very light, the steering wheel fails to provide enough feedback to have full confidence in the car. However it makes maneuvering easy as does its tight turning circle.
The cupholders are 2 different sizes. One’s too big for a cola can, the other’s too small. There is a selection of small storage bins, roof rails, door pockets, plit-fold rear seats and even somewhere for your sunglasses. An extra 2 seats are available at a $450 premium, but can then say goodbye to luggage space when all seven are used. With just 5 seats in place the boot is very large.
SsangYong has a reputation for mechanical durability, but this is a new model so time will tell. Some interior trim did feel as though it could work loose over time. Some electrical problems have been reported in the past.
SsangYong hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP, but the car is provided with twin airbags standard, seatbelt pretensioners and traction control. Side airbags are available as an option with leather seats. A Thatcham Category I alarm and immobilizer and remote central locking are fitted as standard.