Ssangyong Rexton long-term test review

Our chief photographer needs a car that's spacious, comfortable and can go anywhere. Could the seven-seat Ssangyong Rexton be just the thing?...

Ssangyong Rexton long-term test review lead graphic

The car Ssangyong Rexton 2.2 Ultimate Run by John Bradshaw, chief photographer

Why it’s here To find out if you can run a big, rugged SUV without it costing the earth 

Needs to Tackle all terrains in any weather, cut the mustard as a photographer’s workhorse, and prove comfortable and economical on a mix of journeys

Mileage 4687 List price £40,705 Target Price £40,705 Price as tested £42,150 Test economy 34.2mpg Running costs (excluding depreciation) Fuel (£833), Trade-in value now £33,363 Dealer price now £37,474 Private price now £33,310 

9 August 2021 – Too much of a good thing?

My Ssangyong Rexton certainly served the purpose I had in mind when I chose it. I wanted a large SUV with a stout pair of off-roading trousers and a huge boot for lugging my photographic gear deep into the sticks, and it definitely ticks those boxes.

2021 Ssangyong Rexton LT Goodbye

It's in its element when the road ends and the rough stuff starts, and this has given me immense confidence in tricky conditions. It shrugged off standing floodwater and jagged paths that would have stopped most cars in their tracks, and it felt like this kind of work was its bread and butter. This was a real asset on photo shoots; if access to the location meant leaving the Tarmac, I could forge ahead as a scout party to check that the path was passable before the photo subjects followed behind me.

It's a very purposeful thing, and the £40,000 it costs evidently goes on hardware rather than a flashy designer badge. It also pays for an interior that’s full of standard equipment, as well as a standard of fit and finish that’s rather higher than you might expect in a car designed with a tortured off-road existence in mind. Its boot is simply immense, too, so I didn't have to forward plan which camera kit I'd need to take on a shoot, I could just chuck it all in and pick when I get there. 

2021 Ssangyong Rexton LT Goodbye 2

However, it doesn’t seem there was much left in the budget for handling or body control. No matter how nicely upholstered and finely stitched the sofa, it won’t be all that comfy to ride down a flight of stairs – and that rather sums up how the Rexton feels quite a lot of the time. While it put me at ease off road, and I’ve been impressed by its smoothness on fast, straight roads, it's somewhat disappointing on anything in between.

2021 Ssangyong Rexton LT urban

The steering is wooly in corners, the suspension bounces you up and down and undulating roads have you swaying from side to side. A lot of that comes down to physics, it being so tall and riding so high, but I suspect that a suspension rethink would make a world of difference. That would probably put the price up, though.

For me, these limitations turned out to be a compromise too far. It’s very capable at the extremes of its abilities, but not so clever for mundane trips on urban streets or country roads. Not being able to have my cake and eat it, I’d have willingly sacrificed a bit of its off-road potential if it enabled it to be better on it.

I also wish the tow-bar – an option I added because Ssangyongs have a very strong following among the towing fraternity – was a folding design rather than fixed. I ended up removing it because it added extra peril when reversing, as well as taking chunks out of my shins when I forget it was there before walking around the back of the car.

2021 Ssangyong Rexton LT fording stream rear

As I said in my first report, Ssangyong is far from the household name that Land Rover is, for example, and from that perspective you could say that investing £40,000 on a car from a lesser-known brand represents a bit of a risk. Indeed, not very long into my ownership, the rear-view camera packed up and – by incredible coincidence – the rear-view mirror fell off. However, the way I was looked after by my nearest Ssangyong dealer was professional and courteous, leaving me confident in buying from the brand again.

I was impressed, too, by how well my Rexton held its value. Even with the purchase price swollen by the options I had fitted, its part-exchange value is very decent, and that goes to show that there’s a ready market for these machines. That doesn’t surprise me; it really is quite a specialised piece of kit – a bit too specialised for me, it turns out.

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