Road Test: SsangYong Rexton

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SsangYong’s durable flagship puts the focus on roadgoing luxury, explains Alex Grant.

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SECTOR Large SUV PRICE €30,000-€45,000 FUEL 7.6-10.4l/100km  CO2 199-242g/km

Given its specialism in rugged off-roaders, SsangYong feels well placed to take advantage of a European market recording inexorably rising demand for SUVs. And, with a portfolio of new, higher-quality products, electrified drivetrains and plans to grow its sales share in the region, it’s a brand set to become more familiar with fleets.

The Rexton is its flagship; slightly larger than key rivals, the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe, but with a price advantage over either, as an aid to visibility. Most markets will be offered a five-year warranty, though that’s extended to seven years and 150,000 miles (240,000km) in the UK, reflecting confidence in the durability of the products.

There is an established, if small, market for this car across the region. So the foundations are pretty similar to the old Rexton; an ultra-stiff body-on-frame construction, where most rivals have a monocoque chassis, and the 3.5-tonne maximum towing weight that’s made its predecessors a favourite with horse and caravan owners. Switchable four-wheel drive and a sophisticated multi-link rear axle, to aid traction off-road, are standard fit.

The difference here, is a much-needed focus on making what had been quite an agricultural machine a lot more civilised on the road. So anything you can see and touch is worlds apart from the previous generation – still a little plasticky, compared to rivals, but surprisingly plush with its wood inlays and soft nappa leather upholstery. It’s no driver’s car, but the Rexton offers quiet, comfortable high-speed cruising ability, with a commanding driving position even compared to other large SUVs, and a quick, intuitive touchscreen infotainment system too.

Hyundai and Kia have shown there’s a market for near-€50,000 Korean luxury SUVs, and top-spec Rextons can certainly meet those same expectations, getting 20-inch wheels and soft, diamond-stitched Nappa leather upholstery, but typically priced under €45,000. All European markets get SsangYong’s 181hp, 2.2-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine, though some also get the alternative of a 225hp 2.0-litre gasoline option. Both can be equipped with two or four-wheel drive, and six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmissions sourced from Mercedes-Benz.

We tested it with the diesel engine, which is likely to be the more popular option with business users in Europe, and four-wheel drive. The Rexton remains a durable workhorse, despite gaining a softer side, but it’s ultimately not as car-like as its main rivals; sluggish and noisy under load, with a tendency to shudder over rough surfaces because of the stiff chassis. Fuel consumption of over 8.5l/100km is typical on a mixed route, running in the selectable two-wheel drive mode, but that’s close to brochure figures and the 70-litre fuel tank means drivers needn’t be too familiar with their nearest forecourt.

Of course, SsangYong’s volume aspirations in fleet rest more with the Qashqai-rivalling new Korando due next year, and the same-size EV due shortly afterwards. But for those who need the space and capability of this flagship 4×4, the on-road compromises are far fewer than its predecessor.


What we think

The Rexton manages to be a true ute, with a softer side for on-road use. It’s become well placed to capitalise on a growing part of the fleet market.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.