Review and road test of the SsangYong Rexton (2015 - 2017)
MORE JOY OF REX
By Jonathan Crouch
Want a large SUV that can walk the walk as well as talking the talk? What about one you probably aren't familiar with, SsangYong's Rexton? The second generation version of this model was launched in 2006, then continually updated by the Korean maker. In 2015, towards the very end of this design's production life, the brand installed a lustier 2.2-litre e-XDi220 diesel engine beneath the bonnet and it's this last-of-the-line MK2 model that we look at here as a used buy.
5dr large SUV 4x4 (2.2 diesel [SE, EX, ELX - 4WD])
Increasingly, large luxury SUVs are all about image, all about badge-equity, all about fashion. Or at least most of them are. Here's one that's more practically grounded - SsangYong's Rexton.
Of all this South Korean brand's products, the Rexton is probably the one provoking most familiarity amongst UK buyers. That's because it's been around so long - since 2001 in fact, sold in first generation form until 2006 when a second generation version offered much the same kind of solid, practical proposition - and much the same aging 2.7-litre Mercedes diesel engine. A big step forward though, was made in 2013 with the launch of the 'Rexton W', the end letter a designation for this revised model's worldwide remit. That sales challenge was much aided by the installation of a properly modern 2.0-litre e-XDi diesel engine that was fully Euro5-compliant.
It was a package that reawakened customer interest in this car and created a sales momentum that SsangYong hoped would continue when in 2015, they further improved this large SUV with the installation beneath the bonnet of a cleaner, more powerful Euro6-compatible 2.2-litre e-XDi220 diesel. This could be optionally paired to a smoother 7-speed Mercedes-sourced E-Tronic automatic gearbox. The resulting model, merely badged 'Rexton', also featured an updated interior, smarter looks and added extra equipment. In the Autumn of 2017, it was replaced by an all-new third generation Rexton model.
What You Pay
What You Get
SsangYong says it designed this Rexton around the principle of 'practical elegance'. Did they achieve that? Well if you fit into the target demographic, you might well think so. You don't get the sophisticated avant garde looks you'd find with a premium-badged German rival, but then that's not the kind of SUV that this car is trying to be. Instead, the shape speaks of tough but very nicely finished seven-seat sensibility - and manages to do so using design language smarter than maybe you'd expect from a budget brand. So far, so good.
And behind the wheel? Well a proper off roader should have a properly commanding driving position - and this one does: this is certainly old-school SUV motoring. But then in some ways that's rather refreshing. And in the second row? Well for the kind of money SsangYong is asking, you might expect the kind of slightly cramped family packaging you'd find in, say, a Qashqai-sized family Crossover model. 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, offers decent space for two or three folk, even though the seats themselves don't slide or recline.
That long wheelbase means there's room for third row seating too. And boot space? This five-seat model gives you the kind of capacity that all Rexton owners will be more likely to be using on a regular basis - about 475-litres. Fold the second seating row and a very reasonable 1,338-litres of space is opened up - around 35% more room than you'll get with a rival Toyota LandCruiser.
What to Look For
The Rexton offers a decent blend between rugged engines and no-nonsense componentry. Even after being subjected to quite arduous off-roading, this SsangYong can come through unscathed. That said, do check the wheelarch liners for rust-inducing punctures make sure the alloy wheels haven't been mangled. Get under the car and take a look at the suspension and exhaust for signs of damage. The car should not pull to one side or the other as this can be a sign of steering damage and groaning sounds while cornering can spell a damaged differential.
The Rexton has proven reliable and the 178PS e-XDi220 2.0-litre diesel engine is a tough unit; just keep an eye on oil levels once a month. As with all 7-seat SUVs, look for signs of child damage in the interior: as ever, stains and scratches are a good negotiating point. The interiors are also fairly indestructible but the metallic plastic finishes can quickly lose their lustre.
(approx based on a 2016 Rexton W ELX 2.2) SsangYong parts aren't too expensive, given that it's a low volume importer. You'll need to set aside around £180 for a starter motor and £140 for an alternator with tyres costing around £90 per corner. A battery should cost just over the £100 mark. Front brake pads should be no more than around £20 a set and brake discs can be had for around £70 a pair.
On the Road
Under the bonnet, this improved Rexton model's 178PS 2.2-litre e-XDi220 Euro6 diesel powerplant puts out a useful 400Nm of torque - enough to facilitate a hefty 3-tonne towing capability: that's up to a tonne more than many notable rivals can manage. The Rexton's great off road too, thanks to its solid ladder-framed chassis and heavy duty low ratio 4WD set-up that splits the torque equally between front and rear axles to provide all round traction and ensure optimum grip, even in the most challenging conditions. That kind of set-up is never going to make a car like this a class leader when it comes to ride and handling on tarmac terrain, but SsangYong has done is best to improve things in recent times.
Avoid the entry-level model and you get more supple multi-link rear suspension and the option of finding a car fitted with the smooth Mercedes-sourced 7-speed E-Tronic automatic gearbox. With this transmission fitted, this Rexton can return 38.1mpg on the combined cycle and 194g/km of CO2. That's a useful improvement on the figures the previous pre-2015 era 2.0-litre model could manage and makes this car cheaper to run than rivals of similar capability like Mitsubishi's Shogun, Toyota's LandCruiser and Land Rover's Discovery.
Let's get down to the facts here. There is no other properly capable large SUV in the same price bracket as this one. If you want something really comparable with up to seven seats that can tow as much or go as far off the beaten track, then you'll need to pay around 30% more for a Mitsubishi Shogun - or potentially nearly twice as much for a Land Rover Discovery or Toyota LandCruiser.
Old school virtues then, from Korea's oldest and most experienced brand. Just the way loyal SsangYong buyers like it.
SsangYong Rexton (2015 - 2017) review by Jonathan Crouch