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Forging a business in a highly competitive new car market such as Australia's is tough work for any newcomer. But the SsangYong Rexton isn't a newcomer, per se.
The Rexton has been sold here before - in fact, you could say it has a rich history in Australia, having been sold here (on and off) since 2003... a damn sight longer than many of its competitor hardcore off-roaders.
But as the SsangYong brand went on hiatus in Australia over the past couple of years, so did the Rexton.
Now it's set to return in fourth-generation guise, with SsangYong claiming the new model will "provide a new benchmark for large SUVs in Australia". Them's fighting words.
So, can it live up to the claim? Well, the initial signs are promising.
|Ssangyong Rexton 2018: SX (4x4)|
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
SsangYong does things the other way around: the Musso is built from the Rexton's platform, where lots of the others use a ute as the basis (Isuzu D-Max is the MU-X, for instance). And the result is it looks good. Seriously, SsangYong has done a terrific job with the Rexton's exterior design.
From the sculpted and masculine front-end, consisting of shapely headlights and a muscled grille and front bumper combination, to the bold design lines that hip over the tops of the wheelarches, to the elongated rear lights and Grand Cherokee-like back end design - the Rexton has plenty of road presence. And while it may be positioned as an option for the coin-conscious, it doesn't look cheap at all.
It'll be interesting to see if the third-row is a comfortable place to be for occupants, because the windows at the very back are quite small, so outward vision may be pretty compromised. The interior design is a step up from ute-based SUVs, too - see the interior section for more detail.
The Rexton's dimensions are as follows: 4850mm long (on a 2865mm wheelbase), 1960mm wide and 1825mm tall. So, in terms of size, it's pretty much bang on compared with the rival set.
But it can't quite match some of the more aggressively designed off-road SUVs out there for off-road specifications and figures: the approach angle is shallow at 20.5 degrees, the departure angle is 22deg, and the ramp-over angle is 20deg. Its ground clearance is decent at 224mm, but there's not as much travel to the suspension as you might hope for. More on that in the driving section below.
The SsangYong Rexton is roomy, and it looks and feels nice inside, too.
The big difference, of course, is that rather than being a workhorse ute transformed into an SUV, the Rexton is an SUV that just happens to be the basis for a ute, too. So, unsurprisingly, it feels more SUV-like than ute-like, and the design of the dashboard, the materials used and the features available all add to the better-than-the-rest ambience
Even with nice stitchwork and decent quality leather on the seats, if you're comparing it to a Kia Sorento or Hyundai Santa Fe, the ‘other Korean brand' can't quite match what you can get elsewhere. Some of the plastics are more hardy than plush, and the switches and buttons feel a touch cheaper... but still better than the ute-based SUV brigade.
The vehicle I tested in Korea was a local-spec five-seater, so I can't offer up much in the way of impressions of third-row space and comfort. But I can tell you that the Rexton will come with 60/40 sliding second-row seats, and 50/50 third-row seats.
According to SsangYong, the cargo capacity is sizeable (in truth, the following figures seem more than a little bit optimistic!) - with seven seats in play, the cargo capacity will be 649 litres (VDA). There is no figure for five seats up, but with the back row folded and part of the the second row folded the number varies between 1201L (40 per cent side folded down) and 1477L (60 per cent side flattened), while with all rear seats folded down, the number is claimed to be 1806L.
Second-row space was easily enough for me to sit behind my own driving position (I'm 182cm tall), with enough knee, toe and headroom to sit in the back comfortably. It feels pretty wide, too, so three across should be doable.
If you have children, you'll be pleased to note there are ISOFIX child seat anchors in the second-row window seats, plus three top-tether hooks. It's not clear if there will be child seat points in the third row. It is expected the Rexton will have air vents for all three rows, too, and a rear fan controller in the back row - which is very important for passengers, particularly on hot days.
The seats are very comfortable and quite supportive up front, and not too bad in the back, either. A few of us did some four-up driving in the Rexton, and there were few complaints in terms of space - but the suspension was another matter... more on that below.
Unlike some SsangYong models that have come before it, the controls are all logically laid out, and storage choices consist of cupholders up front and in the back in a fold-down armrest, bottle holders in all four doors, and some loose item bins, too.
Most modern-day expectations for media will be met through an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus USB connectivity, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and DAB digital radio.
It's a guessing game as to where SsangYong will end up positioning the Rexton, though an educated guesser would suggest it will be at the budget end of the hardcore off-roader segment, competing with the petrol-only LDV D90 (from $36,990 RWD auto, $42,990 4WD auto) and diesel-auto-4WD-only Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (from $45,500).
So, imagine there's a two-strong model range, with the entry-level petrol at $37k, and the diesel at $42k, or even $45k. It could be pretty tempting.
Final specifications are to be confirmed, but all models are set to have seven seats as standard, plus tech highlights such as an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with a reversing camera, plus a 7.0-inch colour driver information screen with digital speedometer.
Other standard gear is expected to include cruise control, climate control, projector halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights and LED tail-lights and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The top-spec model is set to benefit from nappa leather trim with a quilted finish, a surround-view camera, an electronic tailgate, and may gain bigger wheels, too. Extra safety kit is expected on this grade as well.
SsangYong is expected to offer a range of accessories for the Rexton, possibly including a nudge bar and roof racks. A bullbar is also expected to be available.
Overall, I've given the Rexton a 7/10 because it should offer decent equipment. That score could end up increasing if the pricing and spec strategy is good, or down if the company gets it wrong...
Your choices are a petrol turbo engine, or a diesel turbo motor.
The entry-grade powertrain will be the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol, which has 165kW of power and 350Nm of torque. It uses a six-speed automatic transmission only, and is only available in rear-wheel drive.
The other drivetrain is a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel with seven-speed automatic, and selectable four-wheel drive. It produces 133kW/420Nm (so, an extra 20Nm over the Musso ute), but still lower than most diesel competitors.
The kerb weight is claimed at 2095kg for the petrol and 2233kg for the diesel. And if you're interested in towing, you'll be happy to learn that both the petrol model and the diesel version have the same high towing capability - 750kg of unbraked trailer, and 3500kg for a braked trailer.
With one petrol and one diesel drivetrain, there are more options for buyers in the Rexton range than plenty of its rival off-road SUVs.
The petrol version uses a claimed 10.4 litres per 100km. We didn't get to drive it, so we can't say if that's realistic or not.
The diesel Rexton offers up claimed fuel consumption of 8.3L/100km - which isn't bad for a diesel AWD seven-seat SUV with a ladder-frame chassis. Competitor vehicles are close: Ford Everest (8.5L); Isuzu MU-X (7.9L); Toyota Fortuner (8.6L); Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (8.0L).
On the dashboard, the Rexton I (and several other reps from media outlets) was driving (across mixed disciplines and terrain) was showing 8.9km/L, which works out to 11.2L.100km.
Both versions have a 70-litre fuel tank.
While it may not be a ute-based SUV, it's still an SUV with ladder-frame chassis underpinnings - even if the front suspension is a double wishbone configuration and the rear suspension is a sophisticated 10-link independent set-up.
But based on my very, very limited drive in the Rexton in Korea, it's not the worst off-roader out there. The steering is pretty light and communicative, and it reacts honestly to inputs at low speeds.
My impressions of the ride weren't as positive. It is very softly sprung, and as a result it lacks the body control of most SUVs in its category, feeling wallowy when you change directions at speed. The rear suspension is the main culprit here, because that's where the wishy-washy softness comes from - and the back end was also more prone to bottoming out over big bumps. The front, by comparison, was pretty well composed.
While the story may be different when you have six passengers on board with you, or a two-tonne boat behind you - I suspect it will be too wobbly for a lot of rubbish Aussie road surfaces.
SsangYong knows the risks involved here, and the company has mooted a plan to perform a local ride and handling tune, much like Kia and Hyundai have done with their models. It would be money well spent if the company can do it.
The drivetrain seemed perfectly adequate for the designed intent of the vehicle: it's no powerhouse, and exhibits some turbo lag from a standing start, but the response is decent on the move, and the seven-speed automatic from Mercedes-Benz does a better job of hustling between the gears than the Aisin six-speed fitted to the Musso ute.
In fact, the refinement on offer was impressive, with limited gruffness to the engine, and hardly any road noise.
Sorry for the brief impressions - I simply didn't get a lot of time behind the wheel of the Rexton. I look forward to driving it more extensively when it launches in Australia.
3 years / 100,000 km warranty
The SsangYong Rexton does not have an ANCAP crash test rating, and there is no Euro NCAP score, either. I, for one, would like to see an ANCAP score for this SUV and its sibling ute, the Musso.
There's some good safety technology available, but we don't know yet what will be standard.
All models are set to come with seven airbags (dual front, driver's knee, front side, and curtain airbags - including third-row coverage). A reversing camera is expected as standard, and there will likely be an available surround view camera system - it is very good, too.
The ownership plan SsangYong will offer locally is yet to be confirmed. However, we expect the brand could offer a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty for its vehicles. At the very least, it'll be a five-year plan.
SsangYong is also likely to offer a form of capped price servicing, stating it wants to be transparent with potential shoppers. It is expected the brand will offer 12 month/15,000km service intervals - we'll have to wait to see what the company decides, and how much those services might cost.
The SsangYong Rexton looks like it could offer a very intriguing alternative to some of the better-known names in the off-road SUV segment - provided the Korean brand manages to position it well.
Like the Musso, if it's too pricey it could be just another little-known SUV in the mix. But if SsangYong manages to nail the value equation, offer enough safety equipment, and get a local suspension tune done before the Rexton launches locally in November, then it has the potential to do quite well.
|ELX (AWD)||2.2L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO||$43,990 – 46,990||2018 Ssangyong Rexton 2018 ELX (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|EX (2WD)||2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$30,690 – 36,960||2018 Ssangyong Rexton 2018 EX (2WD) Pricing and Specs|
|SX (4x4)||2.0L, Diesel, 5 SP AUTO||$24,310 – 30,030||2018 Ssangyong Rexton 2018 SX (4x4) Pricing and Specs|
|ULTIMATE (AWD)||2.2L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO||$41,580 – 48,950||2018 Ssangyong Rexton 2018 ULTIMATE (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||7|
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