TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
If you haven’t heard of the brand SsangYong then you’re not alone, but prepare to see more of the Korean automaker’s double-dragon crest on Australian roads and billboards from November, when the brand relaunches its retail operations after a two-year hiatus.
One of the four models that will form the returning fleet will be this; the Rexton four-wheel drive, diesel-powered off-road-capable large SUV. Exact local specifications, variant grades and pricing are still yet to be announced but it’s likely the model will arrive generously equipped and with a price at the more affordable end of the large SUV market – somewhere around the high-$30K mark.
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- Generous equipment levels are on offer and while the standard trim for Australia is yet to be outlined, there are some impressive features available in the Rexton’s home market of Korea. Things like a power-operated tailgate that opens automatically when you stand near, sidesteps that extend when a door is opened, xenon headlamps, 20-inch alloy wheels and heat/noise insulating glass give the Rexton a premium standing.
- The excellent specification continues on the inside with heated, cooled, and electrically adjustable first -row seats, a heated steering wheel, top-shelf Infinity sound system, attractive quilted leather upholstery in a good range of colours, and high quality materials throughout.
- Occupants in the second row are also well looked after with reclining heated seats, a 220-volt and USB socket, generous space for three adults and a low window line that allows a good view of surroundings.
- The Rexton’s multilink rear suspension set up is silky smooth on the freeway and perhaps even a little too soft for Australian tastes, although a local chassis tuning program is likely to adjust that.
- Its 2.2-litre diesel engine is surprisingly refined with very low noise levels and smooth power delivery, though it’s a little underpowered in the segment. 133kW and 420Nm is adequate at best but the Rexton would surely start to struggle when loaded up to its 3000kg braked trailer rating.
- Its seven-speed automatic transmission – borrowed from a previous-generation Mercedes-Benz – is excellent, switching gears with the refinement that you might expect from the German luxury manufacturer.
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- While many large SUVs rarely (if ever venture off-road), owners of the Rexton will be happy to know their car can handle some decent terrain away from the beaten trail. We took our test car through some deep ruts, a water crossing and some nasty exposed rocks. In fact, one lap of the test course was completed in two-wheel drive only, highlighting the Rexton’s ability.
- The four-wheel drive system is electrically switchable and easy to operate allowing more efficient rear-drive on-road, four-wheel drive on slippery surfaces and even a low range setting for more challenging obstacles.
- Safety technology is also well represented with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), 360-degree camera, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring and automatic high beam assistant all available. The Rexton also has nine airbags as standard.
- Our short time in the Rexton in South Korea wasn’t sufficient to assess driving dynamics but we suspect its generally soft suspension settings are geared more to comfort than rewarding the driver.
- The cabin décor, fit and finish is generally impressive but we found a few examples of trim and upholstery coming loose at the edges. Our test vehicle had already clocked up 33,000km and they may have been relatively hard miles, but we still wouldn’t expect to see materials going awry at this age.
- In Korea the Rexton is available as a seven seater, which would arrive at the right time to take advantage of Australia’s booming appetite for family-sized SUV wagons, but the three-row version is not yet confirmed for local launch.
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- There are some dated touches such as the gear selector and surrounding panel which are lifted from a mid-1990s Mercedes.
- Local pricing is yet to be confirmed and what SsangYong asks for a Rexton will make the difference between it being considered an accomplished large SUV bargain that is worthy of attention, or a sales fizzer.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER:
If you’re after an affordable large SUV with genuine off-road promise and don’t mind driving something with an unfamiliar badge then you should certainly consider the Haval H9. It isn’t available with a diesel engine, but offers luxurious features and good all-terrain ability.
Kia’s Sorento is another diesel-powered all-wheel drive large SUV, but from a better-known South Korean manufacturer. It isn’t quite so geared toward off-road adventures, but is offered with the company’s unmatched seven-year warranty.