Toby Hagon’s 2019 SsangYong Rexton Review With Price, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict And Score.

In A Nutshell Seven-seat SUV with ladder-frame chassis that dreams of serious off-roading and heavy-duty towing – but value key to the Rexton’s appeal.

2019 SsangYong Rexton Specifications

Price $39,990 drive-away Warranty 7 years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 12 months, 20,000km Safety Not rated Engine 2.2-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel Power 133kW at 4000rpm Torque 420Nm at 1600-2600rpm Transmission 7-speed automatic Drive Part-time dual-range 4WD (diesel only) Dimensions 4850mm (L) 1960mm (W) 1825mm (H) 2865mm (WB) Ground Clearance 224mm Kerb Weight 2233kg Angles 20.5 degrees (approach) 22.0 degrees (departure) 20.0 degrees (ramp over) Towing 3500kg (diesel only) Towball Download 350kg GVM 2960kg Boot Space NA Spare Full-sized Fuel Tank 70 litres Thirst 8.3L/100km

THE Rexton is a large seven-seat SUV that can tackle some serious off-road tracks if you opt for the diesel-powered four-wheel drive models.

But even as a two-wheel drive it’s a competent tower, able to lug up to 3500kg. That it sneaks in under $40,000 is a key part of the appeal of a car aimed at families and adventurers alike.

What’s In The Range And How Much Does It Cost?

The Rexton starts from $39,990 drive-away. For that you get seven seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors and a safety suite that includes lane departure warning and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).

That entry-level model is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine mated to a six-speed auto and driving the rear wheels. But it’s the diesel that will be more appealing, in part because it includes a part-time four-wheel drive system as part of the deal. It also gets a seven-speed automatic transmission.

The diesel engine also brings with it more equipment, only available in the ELX ($46,990) and Ultimate ($52,990). The ELX picks up a partially digital instrument cluster, tinted windows, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, a knee airbag for the driver, heated middle row seats and electrically adjustable front seats with heating and ventilation built in.

Step up to the Ultimate and you get 20-inch alloys, a sunroof, powered tailgate, air vents in the third row and a 360-degree camera, as well as speed variable steering.

What’s The Interior And Practicality Like?

The faux-wood finishes are restrained enough to bring some elegance to an otherwise basic but clean cabin. Designers have done well in choosing decent quality finishes and created a cohesive space. Silver speaker grilles and some knurling around the dials on the centre console continue the theme that show some effort has been injected.

The Ultimate picks up quilted leather on the doors, dash and parts of the seats, adding some visual flair; it’s bordering on trying too hard but is at least different.

Space is decent up front and there’s good adjustment to seats and steering wheel, although the seats could do with more side support. Legroom is also generous in the middle row and there’s enough space under the front seats for sizeable hoofs. Getting in and out of what is a tall vehicle is also made easier with well positioned grab handles in the middle.

Those in the back can also fight over a single USB port, enough to keep tablets and phones powering along. Getting that middle row to fold is a two-lever job, first flipping the backrest then folding the base, something that requires the front seat to be forward slightly to allow for the whole motion.

It’s a shame the 60/40 split-fold is biased towards the right-side of the car, where the smaller of the two seat segments are. That’s something more likely to impact families wanting to utilise the full seven-seat capacity.

The third row of seats is a mixed bag, with much tighter leg room and a high floor. It easily folds into the floor with a simple split-fold system, allowing a larger boot for the most times you’re not fully loaded. But it does without child seat tether points in the very back, limiting those under eight-years-old to the middle row.

Those in the third row do without air vents, at least until you get to the Ultimate, which also allows access via a powered tailgate. Even then, it’s a curious ventilation setup that looks like an afterthought, with two air vents around hip height on the right-hand side, alongside separate flow controls.

While there’s only a small slit of space for luggage when all seven seats are in play, with the third row folded there’s a far more useful 820 litres. Fold the middle row and that expands to a cavernous 1806 litres.

What Are The Controls And Infotainment Like?

SsangYong hasn’t tried to reinvent the wheel with the placement of major controls – that’s a good thing. There’s a sensible collection of controls for the ventilation system and it’s all very accessible in the centre console. Above it is an 8.0-inch touchscreen that allows basic radio and phone operation as well as access to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Having that smartphone functionality also accounts for the lack of satellite-navigation, the phone providing apps to keep you on track. Even things such as the seat memory settings integrated into the speaker grille on the door of the Ultimate is done neatly.

In the centre console there’s a useful smattering of storage areas as well as an electronic park brake as well as auto hold, the latter great for letting the car do the thinking when you’re stopped in traffic.

Plus, if you delve into some of the vehicle settings there are some interesting options. If you want to have some fun you can change the sound the indicator clicker makes. There are various beeps and dings – and you can even choose a tweeting bird. Cute, although more party trick than genuinely useful addition.

What’s The Performance Like?

The 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine was absent at the media launch; indicative of its market appeal.

While the 165kW/350Nm output should deliver punchy performance – even with 2.1 tonnes of SUV underneath – the thirsty fuel use may frighten many off. Claimed consumption is 10.4 litres per 100 kilometres, rising to 13.9L/100km in an urban environment. Keep in mind, too, that those laboratory-determined figures are often difficult to achieve in the real world, with many cars comfortably adding 20 or 30 percent to the tally.

Enter the diesel, the only one available for us to try at the Rexton’s launch. It steps the price up substantially but promises claimed average fuel consumption of 8.3L/100km. It’s no hot-shoe on the performance front, but nor is it meant to be, the diesel instead relying on its low rev muscle for effortless urge. There’s 420Nm available from just 4200rpm and it’s delivered in an effortless way, decent refinement ensuring things are respectably muted in the cabin. Acceleration is relaxed and stout.

The seven-speed auto that was sourced from Mercedes-Benz does a better job of holding gears than the six-speed in the Musso ute that uses a version of the same engine. It’s less intent on diving into a tall ratio, instead seeming to read the road ahead – and the driver’s intentions – more proactively. It makes for more relaxed progress. None of which is particularly exciting, but it focuses on getting the job done.

What’s It Like On The Road?

We didn’t get to try the base car, instead being offered the ELX and Ultimate, each of which swaps a live-axle rear end for an independent set-up with apparent on-road benefits. Even so, there’s no hiding the commercial architecture and high centre of gravity, something that leads to some leaning through bends if you’re keen through corners. Ultimately the tyres have the final say on how fast you can push on, some front-end push gently creeping in as the pace is ramped up.

As for driver involvement, there are mixed messages, especially from the Ultimate. Its speed sensitive steering loads up unnaturally around 70km/h, almost fighting the driver through bends with too much resistance. At lower speeds it’s quite light but at least more consistent in its feel.

Steering generally isn’t particularly sharp, although it’s in keeping with the moderate dynamic ability of the vehicle. Riding on a truck-like ladderframe chassis (similar to that used in the Toyota Fortuner, Ford Everest, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and others) there are compromises to how it behaves on road, something noticeable over bumps. There’s the occasional shuddering as it fends off bumps, for example.

Riding on lower profile 20-inch tyres, with less air between the wheel and the road, the Ultimate jiggles more, its temperament less relaxed on poor quality surfaces. Those 20-inch Kumho Crugen tyres do bring a touch more cornering precision, though. Load it up with a few people and the rear suspension isn’t as convincing, the tail floating more as it reacts to big bumps. It’s basic motoring, rather than anything outstanding.

What’s It Like Off The Road?

With the exception of the rear-drive base car, the Rexton diesel (with 4WD) very much has an eye for rough terrain, bringing a part-time four-wheel drive system with a set of low-range ratios.

There’s 224mm of clearance, although some of the ambition is diluted with relatively shallow approach and departure angles (20.5 and 20.0 respectively). There’s also no proper underbody protection, with flimsy plastic instead used for air flow at higher speeds.

Ssangyong Australia acknowledges the issue and has engaged aftermarket supplier Ironman to look at a factory-approved protection kit, among other accessories. Back to the core package, and more issues begin to surface the more you challenge it.

Key to that is the traction control, which isn’t as intelligent as the latest systems, allowing wheelspin in challenging situations. If you cross axle the car, for example – where diagonally opposing wheels are fighting for traction – there are situations where it simply won’t pull out. Without a locking rear differential it exposes further traction issues with the Rexton. Like the lack of underbody protection, that’s something potentially fixed in the aftermarket, which costs money – diluting some of the its appeal.

Does It Have A Spare?

A full-sized spare tyre is standard in all Rextons. And, if you get the diesel 4WD versions there’s also a tyre pressure monitoring system that is great for an early warning of a puncture.

Can You Tow With It?

Towing is a big part of the appeal of the Rexton, although for now it’s limited to the diesel models with an auto transmission (a tow kit hasn’t been developed yet for the petrol model). Still, if you opt for the diesel it’ll tow a full 3500kg, which is half a tonne more than most rivals. That 3.5-tonne tow capacity puts it on a par with a Toyota LandCruiser or Range Rover.

What About Ownership?

The Rexton is covered by a seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, which makes it unique in the serious four-wheel drive market. If you’re planning to do plenty of bush bashing it’s good to know you can cover plenty of ground safe in the knowledge that a factory warranty is backing your adventures.

What Safety Features Does It Have?

Airbag protection covers the first and second rows of the Rexton, but those in the rear-most row miss out. Curiously, only the diesel models get the added protection of a driver’s knee airbag to reduce the chance of leg injuries.

Active safety levels are good courtesy of standard autonomous emergency braking (AEB). Whereas more advanced systems pair a long-range radar with a camera, the Rexton only uses a camera, limiting its operational speed to 45km/h. So it’s more about reducing low-speed nose-to-tail crashes than saving lives. There’s also lane departure warning, while diesel models pick up blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert, the latter warning of cars approaching from either side when backing out of a parking spot.


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About Author

Toby Hagon

From Porsches to LandCruisers, Toby Hagon loves all things cars and has been writing about them for more than 20 years. He loves the passion and people that help create one of the world's most innovative and interesting industries. As well as road testing and chasing news he more recently co-authored a book on Holden. These days he crosses the world covering the industry but still loves taking off on the Big Trip in Australia.


    1. Its 420Nm is available from 1,600 rpm, not 4,200 – its a typo – and it is delivered in a beautifully smooth way. Compare the torque curves, not the maximum numbers, and you’ll find that this engine is putting out a lot more torque than say a Paj Sport at normal driving RMPs. Its built for towing. The engine and transmission are incredibly smooth and quiet and the car as a whole is far more refined than its competitors. Better engine, better cabin, more features, stronger chassis, I could go on, than all its competitors, its really in a class above. People don’t buy them simply because they don’t know that they even exist. SsangYong should have run a far more wide ranging advertising campaign when they launched. SsangYong is a company that makes great value cars but doesn’t advertise – the opposite to Jeep who make rubbish cars but advertise a lot – and sell more cars! People prefer to buy socially acceptable or trendy cars above unfashionable better cars.

      1. I actually fully agree with everything you’ve said Mat, I was just having a bit of a dig.I regularly have to correct misinformation from the motoring fraternity, so this time I thought it was time to give him a dig.
        The Rexton is actually at the top of my list for all the reasons stated you above, when I replace my ute in 12 to 18 months. Providing of course Ssangyong can survive their present financial predicament.

        1. John, you might want to wait for the updated 2021 Rexton as it has 2-3 years worth of testing and improvements. Search YouTube and you’ll find some Korean videos that have some spy shots. European testing indicates that the suspension is getting a rework, so that hard drive might vanish and then it will be close to perfect 🙂

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