THE OLD REXTON drove like a car from another era. In fairness, that’s what it was, tracing its history back to 2001.
Ssangyong wants us to forget about the old car, with its bouncy ride and vague steering. With the new Rexton, Ssangyong believes it has an SUV to rival the likes of the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento.
First impressions are good. You’d struggle to call the new car handsome but it certainly has more personality and presence than the old car. Step inside and the standard of finish suggests the Rexton has leapt ahead by a couple of generations. There’s a big touchscreen infotainment system, a solidity to everything you touch and a design which finally belongs in this decade. Space is good, too, whether you choose five or seven seats.
Start the engine (an updated version of the 2.2-litre used in the old car) and you can tell Ssangyong has put much effort into making the car more refined – while there’s a gruffness to the engine note, it sounds more distant and subdued. The engine pulls the Rexton at a respectable pace and the Mercedes-benz-sourced seven-speed auto (there’s also a six-speed manual) slurs changes with agreeable smoothness.
With 310lb ft of torque, the 2.2-litre’s pulling power is right on the money compared with the Santa Fe and Sorento. That should be enough for determined acceleration towing most caravans. We had the chance to pull a horsebox weighing 1400kg and the Rexton quickly towed it up to speed. The Rexton felt stable, too, although we’ve yet to try it with a caravan.
The ride is noticeably more controlled than the old car’s, and the steering is now on speaking terms with the front wheels. But it’s not as enjoyable to drive as a Sorento. In part, that’s probably due to Ssangyong keeping faith with body-on-chassis construction. For caravanners, this has the advantage of contributing to the Rexton’s high kerbweight of at least 2105kg.
We were thoroughly impressed with the car’s ability to handle all manner of mud and gloop and some vertigo-inducing slopes.
Prices are up considerably, with the range starting from £27,500, but that’s to be expected when the new Rexton is a much better car. It still undercuts its key Korean rivals and comes very well equipped. David Motton
Price From £27,500 Kerbweight 2105kg Towing limit 3500kg 85% match 1789kg Towball limit 128kg