2015 Ssangyong Rexton W ELX review

We drive the Ssangyong Rexton W large SUV in flagship ELX guise. Does its extra trim give the big 4x4 greater appeal?...

2015 Ssangyong Rexton W ELX review

The Ssangyong Rexton is a big seven-seat, four-wheel drive SUV that the Korean maker bills as a cut-price rival to alternatives such as the Kia Sorento. It's billed as a serious off-roader, too, and Ssangyong claims a three-tonne towing capacity. 

This flagship ELX trim adds a more luxurious interior, updated instrumentation and a multi-function steering wheel. It's powered by a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine, which is already available in the rest of the range, and drive is sent via a five-speed automatic gearbox.

What is the 2015 Ssangyong Rexton W ELX like to drive?

The motor is obligingly responsive provided you keep it revving in its sweet spot from 1500-3000rpm, but it's definitely an engine that's happiest at a steady cruise doing 2400rpm on the motorway. Given that the Rexton tips the scales at 2128kg, however, you've no choice but to work the engine hard into its more strained upper rev range if you want faster progress.

The five-speed automatic gearbox feels rather archaic compared with more modern transmissions available in pricier rivals. Its shifts are lethargic whether you want to change up or down and it has a tendency to hang on to its revs just a second longer than you'd like.

There is a considerable amount of body lean in corners, even at low speeds around town, and the steering is frustratingly slow – to the point where you're almost playing catch-up when faced with an abrupt left-right sharp sequence. There's precious little feedback through the steering, either.  

Comfort and ride quality should be high on a large SUV's agenda, but the Rexton fails to iron out bumps and undulations with any competence. Potholes and other surface intrusions send shudders through the cabin, so it's not the comfortable thing you might imagine.

The engine is quite refined when it's not being revved too hard, sending few vibrations through steering wheel and pedals, although it sounds harsh in its upper range. The large door mirrors, meanwhile, generate noticeable wind noise.

What is the 2015 Ssangyong Rexton W ELX like inside?

To mark this out over the EX variant, Ssangyong has made a concerted effort to lift the cabin's ambience. This ELX model gains beige and dark grey leather seats and door trim with matching carpets, a multi-function leather steering wheel and 18in alloy wheels unique to this trim level.

Standard equipment is generous. The Rexton W ELX comes with heated front and rear seats, an electrically adjustable driver's seat, climate control, a six-speaker audio system, cruise control, keyless entry and front and rear parking sensors. Being the range-topper, it also gains a Kenwood touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity as standard, too.

The touchscreen system is one of the most frustrating we have encountered – it's not particularly intuitive or logically presented and you have to be super-accurate when pressing icons, which is a challenge in itself due to the poor ride. The switchgear around the centre console and dashboard also feels dated and cheap.

Front passengers get plenty of head- and legroom, while finding your ideal driving position is made easier by the electrically adjustable driver's seat with three-position memory. The steering wheel has manual height adjustment but lacks reach adjustment.

Other Rexton models are available as a seven-seater, but this flagship W ELX is only offered with five seats. The airy cabin is one of the Rexton's strengths - the middle row will seat two tall adults or three small children comfortably with ample shoulder and head room. 

The highlight of the Rexton is its boot space, which is enormous even with the middle row of seats up. Large items such as suitcases and pushchairs can be loaded with ease, thanks to its deep, square shape. However, if you want to hide your luggage from prying eyes you'll have to opt for the £133 rear luggage cover.

Should I buy one?

Priced at £27,995, the Ssangyong Rexton is so competitively priced that it's hard to ignore. It undercuts the Kia Sorento KX-2 - our favourite large, low-price seven-seat SUV - by £5755, but it's £100 more than the (five-seat only) Mazda CX-5 2.2 SE-L Nav AWD diesel auto.

It has an airy cabin, a vast boot and comes with a lot of kit as standard. It also offers a demonstrably worse driving experience and is rather agricultural in its nature compared than its more established, more expensive rivals.

If you can do without seven seats but must have four-wheel drive, we'd recommend trying the Mazda CX-5 SE-L Nav. It's not quite as spacious, but it's marginally cheaper and still offers plenty of kit and superior build quality.

However, if seven seats is a must, the Kia Sorento, with its better road manners and higher-quality cabin, is more appealing. Both the Mazda and the Kia will be worth much more if you choose to sell your car on, too, which will offset the steeper list prices.

What Car? says...

The rivals

Mazda CX-5

Hyundai Santa Fe

W ELX 2.0 4x4 auto

Engine size 2.0-litre diesel

Price from £27,995

Power 153bhp

Torque 265lb ft

0-62mph 9.9 seconds

Top speed 109mph

Fuel economy 36.2mpg

CO2 206g/km