SsangYong Rexton review
The SsangYong Rexton is a rugged, full size off-roader with a compact SUV price
If you’re looking for the biggest SUV bang for your buck, then the SsangYong Rexton deserves to be on your shopping list. As big as the mighty Toyota Landcrusier, the seven-seater SsangYong has prices to match much smaller models, such as the VW Tiguan and Kia Sportage. Better still, the Rexton’s slightly ungainly looks hide proven Mercedes mechanicals and genuine off-road ability. And while it can’t match newer rivals for sharp driving dynamics and refinement, it comes loaded with standard kit and is backed by a generous five-year, unlimited mileage warranty.
Our choice: 2.7D EX
The SsangYong Rexton certainly isn’t going to win any awards for its styling, but there’s no denying it has plenty of presence. A high-riding stance, gaping chrome grille and large headlamps help give it a more upmarket look than you’d expect given its bargain basement price tag. Buyers can choose from S and EX trim levels, with the latter getting eye-catching 18-inch alloys and rugged-looking running boards. Inside, the Rexton is attractively styled, with a surprisingly modern-looking dashboard. Sadly, the cabin quality doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny, as the hard and shiny plastics have an extremely low-rent feel. At least it’s solidly screwed together, and all versions get keyless entry, climate control and a multi-function steering wheel. The range-topping EX adds leather trim, heated seats and a sunroof.
Look beneath the Rexton’s imposing bodywork and you’ll discover tried and tested Mercedes mechanicals. The gruff 165bhp 2.7-litre five-cylinder diesel isn’t the last word in refinement and feels breathless when extended, but it delivers decent mid-range muscle. Entry-level cars get a cumbersome and notchy five-speed manual gearbox, while a smooth, Mercedes-sourced five-ratio auto is standard on the EX and optional on the S. An old-fashioned separate ladder frame chassis, poor body control and vague steering mean it’s best to drive the SsangYong sedately on the road –it certainly can’t match the car-like composure of the Kia Sportage. Still, a low range transfer box, hill decent control and excellent ground clearance make the Rexton a capable companion off-road.
The Rexton hasn’t been subjected to the Euro NCAP tests, so its ability to protect in a crash is unknown. Solid underpinnings mean it is likely to be strong, while all models benefit from electronic stability control. However, entry-level models only get driver and passenger airbags, while the range-topping EX adds side bags. At least reliability shouldn’t be a concern, as the bulletproof Mercedes-sourced five-cylinder diesel in the SsangYong can trace its roots back to the eighties. The rest of the Rexton’s mechanicals are equally rugged, so breakdowns shouldn’t be a concern. Only the cheap feeling cabin fittings could be vulnerable to hard use.
This is an area where the Rexton is able to shine, as all versions get a versatile seven-seat layout. And while the third row is best used for children, there’s enough room behind the chairs for 248-litres of luggage. Fold the rearmost seats away and you liberate estate car-rivalling levels of carrying capacity. Elsewhere, the cabin is equally spacious, with generous head and legroom for occupants in the first two rows – no off-road rival offers as much room for the money. A quick inspection of the cabin reveals plenty of useful cubby holes and storage boxes, plus a large glovebox. And if you’re planning on towing large loads, then the SsangYong’s grippy four-wheel-drive system and impressive 3,200kg weight limit make it a strong choice.
While the Rexton is cheap to buy, it could cost a small fortune to run. The combination of a 2,000kg kerbweight and old-tech Mercedes powerplant results in CO2 emissions of 229g/km for the manual model and 250g/km for the auto. What’s more, you’ll struggle to return more than 30mpg in everyday use. As you’d expect for a big off-roader from a budget brand, the SsangYong sheds its value at a terrifying rate – so you’ll get very little cash back after three years of motoring. Still, the rugged underpinning should be relatively inexpensive to service, while a five-year, unlimited mileage warranty adds extra peace of mind.