SPACE, the final frontier…to family harmony.
As we squeeze two adults, a burgeoning 10-year-old and a fortnight’s holiday luggage into the Abarth for the airport run, it strikes me how useful the last test car had been.
Chuntering floats from the back as bags collapse on number one son and are echoed in the front by a mum quick to bemoan the lack of carrying capacity the Fiat 500 bodyshell possesses. I was fine in the driving seat, in case you were worried.
By stark comparison the final test car before the States trip – the new SsangYong Rexton – had swallowed everything we had casually hurled its way. People – up to seven – their luggage and even my mountain bike one day when I couldn’t be bothered to ride back from the café; well it has been hot.
They had all disappeared into the capacious Rexton with an indifferent shrug because this is one behemoth of a motor.
In a world gone crazy, when full-sized SUVs set you back 50-100K, the SsangYong is incredibly sensibly priced. I think the buying public are beleaguered, their wallets and purses battered by modern living and the prospect of the faltering pound. So this clever Korean manufacturer’s timing could not have been better.
In every respect the Rexton offers stunning value for money. Firstly, it is gargantuan and therefore extremely practical. Seven seats mean families will be able to drop to one car if necessary and still take grandparents along for the ride.
Build quality is peerless. This is not cheap and cheerful but ultimately flawed. It is good value, superbly built – reflected in the five year warranty – with comprehensive specification, including excellent infotainment, silky smooth Mercedes automatic gearbox, and swathes of Nappa leather. There is never any feeling that corners have been cut; quite the opposite in fact, with SsangYong demonstrating what can be achieved in a car costing less than £40,000.
So Rexton not only matches the competition and beats it on price, it also surpasses them in key areas. This is a proper off-roader where many SUVs on our roads have gone soft. The 2.2 litre diesel is extremely powerful and will tow 3.5 tonnes. Those who pull boats, trailers and caravans are going to love it.
Rexton also boasts the most flexible of transmissions; so it will chug along in two wheel drive in normal conditions for maximum economy, but will also switch to four wheel drive high and low ratios for the tricky stuff. It even has a diff-lock for the most challenging of surfaces. With leisure and lifestyle and unpredictable weather patterns at the forefront of many buyers’ minds nowadays, these features are real deal-makers.
Treated gently, with power just going to the rear wheels, it is also amazingly frugal. I saw the trip computer read 42mpg on a gentle bumble home.
All these pluses could be undone if the Rexton were suddenly unenjoyable to drive, but it isn’t, it is exceptionally good.
My commute is long and demanding for a driver already weary by workload and age. The Rexton absolutely cossets. It is just so easy to drive. The motor bowls you along, the auto box requires no thought or action. The controls and dials are a fingertip and glance away and their operation is intuitive.
Rexton is huge but somehow manageable, more so than a premium SUV I drove recently which was half the size but strangely difficult to handle particularly when trying to judge where its extremities lay. Rexton is a doddle to manoeuvre, a breeze around town and even stress-free on single track roads because you know with this amount of ground clearance and 4×4 you can leave the tarmac if necessary to allow oncoming vehicles to pass by.
Ride is controlled and the steering positive so it feels comfortable and self assured through the bends.
SsangYong is definitely a brand to watch and the new Rexton is typical of its latest offerings being dynamically sound, beautifully built and incredible value for money. Is there space for yet another SUV in the market? Well, when it’s as good as this one, there certainly is.
SsangYong Rexton 2.2 ELX
Engine: 2.2 litre turbo diesel
Max Speed: 115mph
0-62mph: 11.9 seconds
Max towing weight: 3,500kg
Transmission: seven speed Mercedes E-Tronic
CO2 g/km: 218