First Drive

2017 Ssangyong Rexton review - price, specs and release date

The Ssangyong Rexton large SUV has moved upmarket to challenge rivals such as the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento and Land Rover Discovery Sport

Words BySteve Cropley

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Priced from Β£27,500 Release date On sale now

When it comes to toughness and value for money, no-one should doubt the capabilities of Ssangyong, South Korea’s specialist 4x4 manufacturer – its models have proved easy to buy and hard to break. But delivering big-car style and luxury has been a tougher assignment - until the arrival of this new Ssangyong Rexton, that is.

The latest version of this large SUV is an all-new design inside and out. It's offered in three trim levels - EX, ELX and Ultimate - all packed with the kinds of equipment that rival cars list as options. This makes the Rexton's on-road price range - between Β£27,500 EX and Β£37,500 for the loaded Ultimate auto - look extremely good. And, for the first time, a big Ssanyong has good-looking, modern styling across the board.

All models provide seven seats as standard, but can leave out the third row out in the ELX model if you want the biggest possible boot capacity. Ssangyong claims slightly more luggage space than the Volvo XC90, which is a slightly larger car.

The Rexton faces rivals such as the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento, as well as the Land Rover Discovery Sport – a tough crowd. So, how does it stack up?

2017 Ssangyong Rexton on the road

The Rexton is of a simple, traditional design. Its body sits on rugged and simple steel underpinnings, which Ssangyong says gives the car great strength – plus a 3.5 tonne towing capacity. The suspension is all-independent, but uses steel rather than the height-adjustable air springs that more expensive rivals have.

The engine is Ssangyong’s 2.2-litre diesel used in other models, but seen here in a cleaner, Euro 6 emissions standards-compliant guise, producing 179bhp and 310lb ft of torque from a low 1600rpm. The standard gearbox (in EX and ELX) is a six-speed manual, but most buyers will go for the Mercedes-sourced seven-speed automatic, which is a Β£2000 option on the lower models and standard on the Ultimate.

The Rexton's standard four-wheel drive system is a traditional, selectable system with a separate low-range gearbox. The car normally runs with its rear wheels doing the driving and requires you to select either high-range 4x4 or low-range 4x4 via a knob on the dashboard. This 4x4 system doesn't have a centre differential, so all four wheels always receive the same amount of power. This makes for cumbersome handling on the road, so it should only really be used in the worst conditions of wet and snow.

At 4.85 metres long, the Rexton is a big car, and its weight is substantial, at around 2100kg – something that becomes clear when you're driving. Acceleration from a standstill is good (helped by the diesel engine’s strong torque and the automatic gearbox’s seven ratios) but mid-range performance is only average.

The Rexton's 0-60mph time of 11.9sec (the manual gearbox version does slightly better) is bettered by most of its rivals, as is its claimed 115mph top speed. However, the Rexton is quiet and cruises with pleasing effortlessness. It's suitably capable off road, too, aided by its low-range gears, standard hill descent control and other traction aids.

The Rexton's handling is safe and secure and the front seats provide surprisingly good side support in corners. Big road imperfections are dealt with well, but the Rexton does pick up higher-frequency jitters, especially the Ultimate on its 20in wheels. The ELX, on standard 18in wheels, is definitely more composed. The steering is rather light at low speed, but it weights up quite well once you get going, giving better, more accurate feel.

Even so, both the Santa Fe and Sorento feel more sophisticated to drive on the road, while the Discovery Sport is more agile than all three.

2017 Ssangyong Rexton interior

All Rexton models are comfortable inside, with well shaped seats and far better quality materials than seen in previous Rextons. The interior design is impressive, and the Ultimate, which has cross-quilted Nappa leather seats, is downright luxurious.

The infotainment system is a mixed bag. Entry-level EX cars get an 8.0in colour touchscreen, but we tried the larger and higher-definition 9.2in unit found in the ELX and Ultimate. Bluetooth, a DAB radio, Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring and a USB port are all standard and the screen is decently crisp. It's responsiveness is the best Ssangyong has managed yet, too, although it still isn't the class's best system.

Beyond infotainment, the Rexton's array of standard equipment is extremely impressive. Even the entry-level EX gets niceties including 17in alloy wheels, air conditioning, a reversing camera and cruise control. The upper models are so well equipped and finished that the only extra equipment that can be ordered on the Ultimate are metallic paint and a towbar.

There’s good space for passengers, even in the third row (where it's comparable to the Santa Fe and Sorento and much better than the Discovery Sport). As we've already mentioned, ELX models can trade the folding third row seats for a larger boot capacity of 820 litres.

Next: 2017 Ssangyong Rexton verdict>

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