SsangYong, a name you won’t know unless you’re in the know. Generally, this South Korean manufacturer is under the radar. In some regard, we think that SsangYong is absolutely bonkers for entering the midsize SUV market – a fierce segment with many well established brands and nameplates.
Here we have an addition, not a revolution, to the segment: the 2019 SsangYong Rextonin its top-of-the-line 4x4 trim. And here’s our full review.
Squared, curved, creased, and bulked in all the right places, the Rexton does have a handsome exterior. Like its brother, the Musso, the design is elegant and not too outlandish compared to other PPVs. In fact, it resembles one such midsize SUV, but it stays different at the same time.
You get clean lines from the front all the way to the rear, while there are lines that come from the lights then curves downward. Up front, the grille is positioned high with the SsangYong logo seated in. The headlights are a set of HID projector units with halogen high beams. These are supplemented by LED daytime running lights that also serve as turn signal indicators. On the bottom section of the bumper, you have LED fog lights. At the rear, you have LED taillights with two rear fog lamps on the bottom part of the bumper.
You’re going to love the 20-inch wheels that come with the car, if it were the early 2000s. It’s not noticeable in the pictures because rain poured everyday during the review period, but these wheels are finished in shiny chrome – good for some, but I’d rather have it in a metallic finish to go with the understated look of this SUV. These rims are also a tad too big and do hamper some comfort, which we will touch up on later.
Stepping into the interior of the Rexton is different. Because the unit we had wasn’t equipped with step boards, it made getting in and out a slight challenge. There are also no grab handles in the front, which would have aided ingress, but once you’re in the cabin is just laden with Nappa leather with black accents that make for a very warm and welcoming atmosphere. Couple that with dual-zone climate control, heated and cooled front seats, heated middle-row seats, a USB charging port and AC port for the middle, and you have a vehicle that will keep everyone happy.
Finding a comfortable seating position is easy thanks to the electric motors. The interior color is a nice combination that does incite a feeling of warmth and comfort. Couple that with the subtle touches and detailing, and you have a nice interior; save for the piano black plastics, which I had to clean often.
At the middle row, passengers get amenities like the mentioned heated seats and an arm rest. As for toys, there are two sockets, one for a European style power outlet and the other is a USB port for charging smartphones.
The rear seats are spacious for the category, which means that it beats other SUVs in this area. The only drawback is the air conditioning vents are only on one side, while the third row visibility is compromised thanks to a small window, which could be a good thing since it isolates the passengers from the sun.
The style of the interior is not only welcoming, it is also of high quality. You will find it difficult to find hard plastics you won’t like in the cabin. There is a nice sense of depth and contrast thanks to the contrast stitching and the quilted nappa leather.
You can seat up to seven passengers comfortably. All of them will not be starved for space provided they are 5‘8” and lanky like me, but surprisingly, larger individuals were able to fit in even the rear of the Rexton without any complaint.
Cargo space is as modular as ever. Folding the rear seats will get you 820L of cargo space, while folding the middle row – which does fold flat, gets you 1,977L of space. If you put the rear seats up, you can opt for more space with the false floor.
The tech in this car is adapted to the consumer of today, or rather, younger consumers. Starting out with the gauge cluster LCD display, you get the option to show your fuel economy, speed, or your radio. There are also settings that you can play with that let you change quite a few things, including the sound that your turn signals make. You can even control at what speed do the doors lock, starting from 15 kilometers per hour.
The head unit here is an 8-inch capacitive touch screen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto playing through a 6-speaker audio system that boasts good clarity and loudness. You do get front and rear parking sensors, and backup camera that make the Rexton seem smaller than usual. There isn’t too much technology, but there is enough to keep up in some areas, and tower over other SUVs especially with Apple Carplay and Android Auto integration.
Airbags, the Rexton’s got them. A lot of them. From the front all the way to the third row, there are airbags all around. You also get ABS with EBD as well as stability control. The car also comes with a 4x4 system that allows low-traction situations to be handled with ease.
Driving & Handling
Up front, you get a 2.2L turbocharged diesel motor that makes 181 hp and 420 Nm of torque. The engine is quite spritely for its size, but as expected it runs out of air if you try and squeeze every bit of power out of it. While this is the case for pedal to the metal action, the problem disappears when you just use the car normally. There is a lot of usable power in the Rexton, and I didn’t find myself stabbing the throttle randomly looking for power. The engine is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission which handles upshifts and downshifts smoothly. The lack of paddle shifters is fine, but using the switch on the gear lever is hard and unintuitive.
The Rexton sits on a set of 20-inch wheels with a five-point rear multi link suspension. Save for the wheels, the suspension alone should have been enough to make this car rival crossovers in terms of ride, but alas, it only manages to trump other midsize SUVs, which is a good thing. I did set my expectations quite high with this review, as I do enjoy using a car with all four wheels on a fully independent suspension. Sad to say though, but the 20-inch wheels took away from the smoothness. If a set of 18-inch wheels were on this Rexton, it would make more an even more comfortable ride, maybe one that could rival top tier crossovers.
Handling was surprisingly well. In a closed course, I tried a few emergency maneuvers with the Rexton. Taking a corner at speed was no problem with tire squeal being the only obtrusive thing. Turning at speed is also quite comfortable, as the suspension tends to lean respectably. The chassis doesn’t fling itself side to side, but it remains composed in even the tightest corners. And as long as you are turning responsibly, the car won’t tip over.
The SsangYong Rexton earns its 6.1 kilometers per liter in the city. While it is quite low, it should be known that I took this car through EDSA from Makati all the way to Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City, for one whole week of work. The figure may be low, but that was done with at least 2 hours worth of traffic everyday. On better days I was able to get 7.5 km/L, which is very respectable for the class.
On the highway, the Rexton was able to net 15-16 km/L, which is quite good. Mixing city driving with highway driving you get around 12 km/L, which is substantially good considering that some of its rivals also hover around the same consumption rate – Oh, and it’s a diesel, so filling up will not cost an arm and a leg.
There are a few gripes I have with the Rexton. Number one is the chrome finish on the wheels, while I am a fan of the design, that finish just doesn’t do it for me. My expectations were set much higher because I knew that this SUV has a rear multi link suspension, though I was disappointed, and so was my grandmother. It’s not as comfortable on paper thanks to the 20-inch wheels, or maybe it’s just the streets of Metro Manila, still it’s pliant enough, more so than other vehicles in its class.
Apart from those two omissions, for its class the Rexton is a head above the rest. The interior is plush enough and it has a lot going for it. I can definitely recommend this vehicle based on the interior quality and feature set alone. Driving the Rexton was quite enjoyable simply because the engine was responsive, and the interior was nicely padded. For P2,230,000, it’s not a steal, but because the interior is so nice, we can’t help but overlook the higher than average price tag.
On that note, I do like the Rexton for what it is, a respectable if not valiant effort from a South Korean company, looking to topple big time Japanese manufacturers in a popular category of vehicles. While it is a good effort, it’s a little too late. Which brings me to another con of the SsangYong Rexton: It didn’t come sooner.