SSANGYONG is certainly going places. After the successful launch of the Tivoli and Korando compact SUVs, the ambitious Korean company has just launched its third completely new model in two years.

This time it’s hitting the UK with a new Rexton - a Range Rover-sized 4x4 that costs less than a Qashqai.

Boasting new suspension, a vastly improved cabin and class-leading towing capability, the Rexton looks set to become a popular choice among caravanners - and off-roaders - everywhere.

No wonder company CEO Johng-sik Choi reckons he’ll be able to double worldwide sales to 500,000 units a year by 2022.

ON THE ROAD: Rexton is no ball of fire - especially when the diesel engine is hitched to the Mercedes-sourced automatic gearbox - but it’s smooth and comfortable. Bowling along the motorway at 70 mph you can barely hear the power unit. Ditto road roar and wind noise which are both well suppressed.

The 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine delivers 181PS at 4,000rpm and 420Nm of torque for impressive flexibility. It’s no supercar, but the Rexton can effortlessly keep up with fast-moving traffic and it’s quiet and comfortable at 70mph. Cruise control takes the hard work out of motorways and the automatic gearbox changes ratios seamlessly.

At its core the Rexton is still a traditional 4x4. It sits on a ladder chassis in an era when many SUVs have switched to cheaper - but less impressive off-road - monocoque chassis for their car-like characteristics.

Ssangyong has more than 60 years experience of making 4x4s and the Rexton represents everything it has learnt. The 4x4 system is user selectable - drivers can choose from 2WD for tooling around on roads in dry conditions, 4WD for bad weather and light off-roading and low range 4WD for really challenging conditions. The latter is an all-too-rare feature these days and splits the torque equally between the axles to provide the optimum grip.

I was very glad to have the Rexton when it snowed heavily during the test . The car dealt with the conditions - several centimetres of snow sitting on a bed of black ice - easily.

If you venture off the road you’ll also be thankful for the Rexton’s hill descent control (HDC) system that automatically slows the vehicle’s rate of descent on steep gradients. Originally developed by Land Rover for the Freelander, HDC has since become de rigueur for all serious 4x4s.

ON THE INSIDE: The old Rexton really showed its low-cost roots when you climbed aboard and looked out across a vast expanse of cheap ‘n’ nasty plastic. Things didn’t get any better when you gripped the steering wheel which was so big it wouldn’t have disgraced an old tanker or flicked the fragile indicator stalks.

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Thankfully nothing has transferred from that cabin to the new one which now looks thoroughly modern and sensibly laid out. It won’t trouble an Audi Q7 for materials quality or finish, but you won’t feel as though you’re sitting in a coal bunker, either.

The quilted leather trim doesn’t feel (or look) like vinyl anymore and the steering wheel is both smaller and nicer to grip with buttons for the colour LCD trip computer, cruise, audio and smartphone. Those seats are really comfy, too, and both the front and second row are electrically heated (as is the steering) for those freezing mornings when leather is just too cold to the touch. If you move up to the Ultimate specification, the chairs are also ventilated to keep you cool in summer.

The only irritant is the electronic bing-bongs the Rexton makes when you climb aboard or switch off; something Asia car buyers seem to quite like but guaranteed to raise a condescending eyebrow or two in the car park at Sainsbury’s over here.

WHAT DO YOU GET: Leather upholstery is standard from mid-range ELX models as is eight-way power adjustment for the driver's seat (6-way for the front passenger). The heated steering is also standard on the ELX model as are 18-inch alloys (20-inch on Ultimate models).

Electronic cruise control is standard on all models, along with automatic headlamp leveling (handy if you tow a caravan or horsebox), parking radar, a 220V power inverter, Apple Car Play/Android Auto phone connectivity, DAB radio module and Bluetooth connectivity and rain-sensing wipers. Base models feature a monochrome trip computer but ELX and Ultimate trims get an impressive 7-inch colour TFT-LCD.

The 9.2-inch sat nav solution is provided by TomTom, the European leaders, and uses the Dutch company's latest GO software with full speed camera alerts.


If maximum space for the money is important to you the Rexton is unbeatable SUV value. The roomy cabin seats seven and still leaves a split level boot big enough for rucksacks, swimming gear or skateboards.

If you need more luggage capacity it’s a simple job to drop the third row of seats by tugging a loop and pushing the seat backs into the base. The second and third rows both fold flat into the floor creating a massive 1,800 litre cargo hold. Farmers will love the Rexton’s ability to carry bales of hay or sacks of feed.

Caravanners will appreciate its towing ability, too. Not many SUVs - at any price - can match the Rexton’s impressive 3.5 tonne capacity which makes light work of pulling a ‘van or a horse box.

The front wipers also have a de-icing system should sticky rubber should be a thing of the past.

RUNNING COSTS: The Rexton may be cheap to buy, but it won’t be cheap to run. The diesel engine may be smooth and relatively pokey, but it has a petrol engine’s thirst for fuel.

In town I was lucky if the fuel computer showed an average of more than 20 mpg and the best I ever saw - on a very gentle motorway canter - was 33.1 mpg. It would take some real effort to beat 35 mpg in this SUV. Thankfully the large fuel tank still gives the vehicle a genuine touring range of 500 miles between fill-ups.

VERDICT: If nearly £30,000 sounds like a lot for the Rexton, just consider that you could have two for the price of a similar-sized Range Rover and, while the Ssangyong isn’t a match to the Rangie nor is the British vehicle twice as good. This is another big step forward for the ambitious Ssangyong.

Price: £37,500 (Ultimate 2.2 auto)

Spec: Engine: 2.2-litre, four cyl, turbodiesel Power: 181PS Torque:420Nm Top speed: 116mph 0-62mph:n/a Fuel cons: 33.1 mpg on test