First Drive: SsangYong Rexton W

We all thought the Rexton had been killed off but, after a seven month or so hiatus, it’s back. Despite looking sharper with its new lights and grille, it’s what’s under the bonnet that explains the reappearance of this chunky SUV.

Don’t get too excited, though. There’s a new 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine that meets the latest EU5 emissions regulations, something the old model just couldn’t manage. There’s 265lb ft of torque to get you moving through the wilds of Northamptonshire, and if things get tricky then you’ll also find all-wheel drive and a locking centre differential.

You get all this for £21,995, which must be something of a bargain, especially when you factor in that there’s seven seats and a hefty smattering of equipment.

Of course, as is always the case, SsangYong has provided us with the top-spec model, which adds delights such as plush leather seating (electrically adjustable, of course), fake wood trim, cruise control, climate control, keyless entry, flash wheels, parking sensors all round and an automatic gearbox to make life a little easier. Amazingly, this still costs just £25,995, so the metal/money equation works out very well.

Step inside and you can see where some of the money was saved, with a dashboard that looks a generation out of date. The shiny buttons, tricky to read screen and massive button-laden steering wheel remind you that this is a bargain effort, but there’s something refreshingly honest about it all.

There is plenty of equipment, everything works as it should, and it’s screwed together well enough to feel like it’ll survive anything the A14 can throw at it.

Sadly, it can’t actually cope very well with that. The ride quality is, at best, dreadful. Every crack in the surface, every bump on the road, even every manhole cover, sends the bodywork shuddering and disturbs what should be a relaxed cabin. Cornering becomes a game of chance as the vague steering, hefty weight and poorly controlled suspension combines to leave nerves jangling.

Take it off-road and it fares better. The agricultural suspension makes mincemeat out of most obstacles, and the five-speed automatic gearbox that’s inadequate on the road smoothes out power delivery on the rough stuff.

And therein lies the appeal. The Rexton W is not a luxury 4×4 and won’t be stealing any sales from Land Rover, or even Kia and Hyundai. It fills a hole that’s been left by other manufacturers racing to become more ‘lifestyle’ and less useful – this thing can tow three tonnes without breaking sweat – and doesn’t hide from the fact that it’s a value-led proposition.

Add in a five-year warranty and it will start to make sense, at least to some people. As the SUV turns into nothing more than a style icon, this SsangYong brings some honesty to proceedings, and that will attract the landowners, farmers, caravanners and horse riders.

For everyone else, a second-hand Land Rover Discovery might be a better bet.

Model Tested: SsangYong Rexton W 2.0 EX Auto
Good and Bad

Good Stuff: Off-road ability, high equipment level, very practical and exceptional value.

Bad Stuff: Terrible road manners, aged cabin, still quite thirsty.

Performance

Maximum Speed: 109 mph
0-60 mph: N/A seconds

Economy and Costs

Official combined fuel economy: 36.2 mpg
Front Seat Driver Test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 206 g/km
Road Tax Band: K / £295.00
Company Car Tax at 40%: £3,342

Technical Details

Engine: 2.0 litre 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Power: 153 bhp / 155 PS
Torque: 256 lb-ft / 347 Nm

Length: 4,755 mm
Width: 1,900 mm
Height: 1,840 mm
Wheelbase: 2,835 mm
Kerb weight: 2,128 kg

Phil Huff

Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, DAD.info and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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