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SsangYong Rexton 2019 review

Marcus Craft
Editor - Adventure

6 Dec 2018 • 19 min read

After a two-year absence from our shores, SsangYong has re-launched in the Australian market with a four-model line-up, sharp drive-away pricing, a seven-year warranty on everything and a no-nonsense commitment to offer next-level customer service.

The company’s flagship large SUV, the Rexton, is making a comeback as part of SsangYong’s renewed campaign and we drove the top-spec model, the Ultimate, in country Victoria at its official launch.

In the past, the Rexton was much maligned for its pretty ordinary looks and only grudgingly acknowledged for its reasonable 4WDing ability, but can the fourth-generation version attract the attention and regain the respect of a fickle and, frankly, spoilt-for-choice SUV-buying public?

Read on.

Price and features - Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The 2019 Rexton range is a three-variant line-up: the entry-level 2WD EX ($39,990 drive-away) has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine – 165kW/350Nm – and a six-speed Aisin-sorced automatic transmission; the mid-spec ELX ($46,990 drive-away) and the top-shelf Ultimate ($52,990 drive-away) are both 4WD with a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine – 133kW/420Nm – and a seven-speed Mercedes-Benz automatic transmission.

The mid-spec ELX gets a 7.0-inch instrument cluster, tinted glass, power front heated/vented front seats, and heated rear seats. The mid-spec ELX gets a 7.0-inch instrument cluster, tinted glass, power front heated/vented front seats, and heated rear seats.

Among the EX’s standard features are a 8.0-inch touchscreen media unit with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, fabric seats and dual-zone climate control air conditioning, but it also gets auto emergency braking (AEB), forward collision warning (FCW), lane departure warning (LDW), high-beam assist (HBA), rear park assist and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Beyond those features, the mid-spec ELX gets a 7.0-inch instrument cluster, tinted glass, power front seats, heated/vented front seats, heated rear seats, as well as a tyre pressure monitoring system, blind spot detection (BSD), lane change assist (LCA), and rear cross traffic alert.

The top-shelf Ultimate also gets HID headlights, speed-sensitive steering assistance, a 360-degree camera, a sunroof, rear air con controls, a power tailgate, stainless-steel scuff plates and 20-inch alloy wheels.

Engine and transmission - What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

As mentioned above, the Ultimate has 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine – 133kW/420Nm – and a seven-speed Mercedes-Benz automatic transmission.

The Rexton offers a choice of either a 2.0-litre 165kW/350Nm turbo-petrol and a 2.2-litre 133kW/420Nm. The Rexton offers a choice of either a 2.0-litre 165kW/350Nm turbo-petrol and a 2.2-litre 133kW/420Nm.

In its own model-specific press releases, SsangYong variously describes the Rexton as “AWD”, a “4x4” and “a four-wheel drive”. For the record, according to SsangYong’s technical specifications, the 2019 Rexton has a part-time/selectable 4WD system with high- and low-range gearing.

Design - Is there anything interesting about its design?

The 2019 Rexton is definitely more visually appealing than previous generations of the vehicle… but that’s not too difficult because previous generations were bloody ugly.

  • From front to back the Rexton is a pretty good looking unit: nice chunky grille, smooth profile, with sleek lines all the way back to a pert rear end. From front to back the Rexton is a pretty good looking unit: nice chunky grille, smooth profile, with sleek lines all the way back to a pert rear end.
  • It’s all rather generic looking and inoffensive, but that’s what SUV buyers love. It’s all rather generic looking and inoffensive, but that’s what SUV buyers love.

The good news is, from front to back the Rexton is a pretty good looking unit: nice chunky grille, smooth profile, with sleek lines all the way back to a pert rear end. It’s all rather generic looking and inoffensive, but that’s what SUV buyers love, so that’s what they get, and that’s perfectly fine.

The interior is also a pleasant space, especially in the Ultimate. It’s a clear, clean layout with a real premium look and feel about it, with diamond-stitched quilted nappa leather upholstery, woodgrain-look sections, piano-black bits and chrome accents.

Fit and finish is also impressive in what is a rather classy cabin.

Practicality - How practical is the space inside?

The Rexton is 4850mm long, 1960mm wide and 1825mm high. When driving and riding inside, the cabin space feels very roomy with more than adequate shoulder and headroom.

Up front, driver and passenger get nicely-supportive seating, powered and heated, as well as all the touchscreen tech you could ever want and, bonus, Apple CarPlay or Google Android Auto pair up swiftly with the SUV. The 8.0-inch screen is nice and clear and offers a commanding view of the surrounding area when you use the 360-degree camera.

  • The third row is easy enough to get into, but there’s not a whole lot of wriggle room for an adult. The third row is easy enough to get into, but there’s not a whole lot of wriggle room for an adult.
  • The third row features a 50/50 split. The third row features a 50/50 split.
  • The second row features a 60/40 split. The second row features a 60/40 split.
  • Fold both rows of seats and the Rexton offers 1806 litres of space. Fold both rows of seats and the Rexton offers 1806 litres of space.

Storage spaces include twin cupholders and spots for keys etc, in between driver and passenger, as well as door bulges, seat-back pockets and cupholders for second-row passengers, and cupholders, as well as small receptacles in the third row for passengers’ small items.

Second-row seats, a 60/40 split with a folding centre armrest, offer a good amount of room for passengers; I sat behind my driving position and had plenty of leg/knee room.

The third row, a 50/50 split, is easy enough to get into but, as is typical for this row, there’s not a whole lot of wriggle room for an adult, so the back seats remain a long-trip proposition only for children, not grown-ups.

Driving - What's it like to drive?

Another pleasant surprise: the 2019 Rexton is rather nice to drive.

We drove it along twisting roads, a variety of road surfaces – bitumen, gravel , coarse gravel, mud and rocks – and the Rexton moves along fairly well.

The 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine and seven-speed auto seem a decent, tractable pairing. The 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine and seven-speed auto seem a decent, tractable pairing.

With a kerb weight of 2233kg it’s never going to win any street races – the big seven-seater taking some moments to get a move on after your right foot goes down – but it’s a large SUV, so give it a break.

Otherwise, the SsangYong-built 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine and Benz-sourced seven-speed automatic transmission seem a decent, tractable pairing, with plenty of strong low-end torque available.

Steering is rather light and precise and remains true at low and high speeds.

The body-on-frame chassis predictably contributes to fine, but not superb, ride and handling; the Rexton’s monocoque-built rivals have the advantage here.

The Euro-tuned suspension errs on the softer side of things, yielding a generally spongy ride. The Euro-tuned suspension errs on the softer side of things, yielding a generally spongy ride.

It sits nicely on the road, settled and composed, but the Euro-tuned suspension – double wishbones at the front and a 10-link independent set-up at the back – errs on the softer side of things, yielding a generally spongy ride. No worries, SsangYong is currently sourcing a local company to give the Rexton an Aussie tune-up.

Another bonus: NVH levels are well controlled in the Rexton, as a result of that stiffer body, improved aerodynamics, cabin sealing and engine isolation.

What’s it like for touring?

Despite previous generations of Rexton being ridiculed for their looks, the vehicles have over the years earnt a grudging acknowledgement, if not respect, for their 4WD capability.

We spent a fair bit of time in the Ultimate on a few dedicated 4WD tracks in Victorian bushland. The loops driving along tight bush tracks, up and down greasy-clay hills (peppered with small and large rocks), through creek crossings and along coarse-gravel roads chopped by weekend warriors and trucks.

The Rexton’s off-road weak points include its ground clearance, and its approach, departure and ramp-over angles. The Rexton’s off-road weak points include its ground clearance, and its approach, departure and ramp-over angles.

Overall, the Rexton did pretty well; low-range gearing and engine braking is good, hill descent control works well – keeping the Rexton at a steady 4.0km/h (when in low-range first) on slippery down-hill sections – and the automatic locking rear diff operates seamlessly when needed.

To switch between 2WD, 4WD High and 4WD Low, you use a small dial near the auto shifter. The Rexton must be stationary and in neutral for it to be switched between 4WD High and 4WD Low.

The Rexton’s off-road weak points include its ground clearance (a claimed 224mm between wheel axles), and its approach, departure and ramp-over angles (20.5, 22.0 and 20.0 degrees respectively).

While that ground clearance measure seems near par with its rivals, when you’re driving the Rexton it simply feels like it’s more inclined to belly-out – and those other off-road-related angles just don’t cut the mustard when you’re on tracks with big rocks, deep ruts and whoop-de-doos.

If you're planning to do any 4WDing, get rid of the Ultimate’s standard 20-inch alloy wheels and tyres – they're another weak point. If you're planning to do any 4WDing, get rid of the Ultimate’s standard 20-inch alloy wheels and tyres – they're another weak point.

Also, if you are planning to do any 4WDing, get rid of the Ultimate’s standard 20-inch alloy wheels and tyres – they were another weak point in the Rexton’s off-road arsenal – and at least get 18-inch wheels and all terrain rubber.

The Ultimate has a 3500kg towing capacity so, on paper at least, it looks like it’ll match the load-hauling large SUVs on the market.

Fuel consumption - How much fuel does it consume?

Fuel consumption is a claimed 10.4L/100km (combined) for the petrol, and 8.3L/100km (combined) for the diesel engine. At the end of our drive in the Ultimate, 11.8L/100km was on the dash read-out – but we had been doing some 4WDing – in low- and high-range – up to that point.

All three Rexton models have a 70-litre fuel tank.

Safety - What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Rexton does not have an ANCAP safety rating because it has not been tested yet.

The EX has six airbags (including full side curtain airbags stretching to the third row), auto emergency braking (AEB), forward collision warning (FCW), lane departure warning (LDW), high beam assist (HBA), and rear park assist.

The ELX and Ultimate get those safety features mentioned above, as well as two rear side airbags and a driver’s knee airbag, tyre pressure monitoring system, blind spot detection (BSD), lane change assist (LCA), and rear cross traffic alert.

Ownership - What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The 2019 SsangYong Rexton is a big step up for the company in terms of looks, design, practicality and comfort – it’s simply a big improvement over previous generations of the model.

It’s a vehicle packed with features for the price, it has a classy interior, and it feels quite refined to drive for what it is. By my reckoning, the top-spec Ultimate is the pick of the bunch.

The company’s flagship large SUV has thrown off the shackles of the past and the new-generation Rexton seems like a real good-value proposition – if only it had an ANCAP rating.

What do you think of the new Rexton? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

$39,990

Based on new car retail price

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Adventure score

3.5/5

adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'

Price Guide

$39,990 - $39,990

Based on new car retail price

This price is subject to change closer to release data