Ssangyong has thoroughly updated its largest car, the Rexton 4×4. There’s a new eight-speed automatic gearbox and an upgraded 2.2-litre diesel engine. The suspension hall also been revised, and Trailer Sway Control is now standard, to combat snaking while towing.
In addition, the 2021 Rexton’s styling has been refreshed, with a prominent new front grille and LED headlights, along with LED lights at the rear.
Some things haven’t changed, though. The Rexton still has space for seven, and a kerb weight of almost 2.2 tonnes. And the big SsangYong still undercuts most other SUVs of similar size.
What are we looking for?
The Rexton its priced to undercut most rivals, but have corners been cut to make the SsangYong affordable? Is bigger always better when it comes to towing a caravan?
The SsangYong Rexton’s specification makes very impressive reading.
The kerb weight of 2180kg provides an 85% match figure of 1853kg. So even if you take a belt-and-braces approach to matching car and caravan, there’s not a lot that the Rexton can’t sensibly tow. The legal towing limit is 3500kg.
With 202hp and 325lb ft, the engine has the muscle to cope. Power goes to the road through two wheels or four, depending on the transmission mode. We matched the big SsangYong to a Swift Fairway Platinum 850 with a MiRO of 1679kg.
Even with the eight-speed automatic gearbox in ‘eco’ mode, the Rexton pulled away briskly. On an uphill slip road joining a dual carriageway, car and caravan were soon up to 60mph with no need to bury the throttle.
From time to time, the gearbox is a little slow to change down, although that’s easily fixed using paddles behind the steering wheel or by switching the gearbox to its sportier setting. Otherwise the ‘box is well suited to towing, rarely caught in the wrong gear and changing ratio very smoothly.
On hilly country roads the Rexton has no difficulty maintaining speed, even when pulling a big twin-axle caravan uphill. And if you need to stop on a slope, the electronic parking brake holds car and caravan still. Apply the throttle and the brake releases smoothly without the car rolling backwards, and on dry Tarmac the Ssangyong pulls away cleanly, even in two-wheel drive. In bad weather, a twist of a knob sends power to all four wheels for better traction.
Our route took us on to the motorway, and the Rexton initially felt surefooted. At 60mph the SsangYong was stable and seemed to be keeping the big Swift on a short leash.
However, the Rexton wasn’t quite so happy when overtaking HGVs. The disturbed air would move the caravan, which in turn would gently nudge the SsangYong from side to side.
Slight steering corrections were sometimes needed, but car and caravan settled down again moments later.
We didn’t feel worried or uncomfortable at any point, but the Rexton didn’t cope as well as the Kia Sorento that we have also tested.
Arriving at our destination, manoeuvring was easy. In Ultimate spec, the Rexton has a 360-degree camera system, and the rear-view camera gives a clear view of the towball for hitching up.
The towball fitted to our test car was detachable, although SsangYong also offers a fixed ball. Unfortunately, neither is compatible with having a full-size spare wheel. Instead, you must make do with the standard tyre repair kit. We could see no warning in the handbook against using this if you have a puncture while towing.
The Rexton’s engine and gearbox are well suited to the demands of towing, and the four-wheel-drive system will make short work of bad weather. However, in choppy air the Rexton isn’t as secure as the best big 4x4s, and this has cost the SsangYong a better score.
The Rexton’s weakness is its ride. Around town it thumps and thuds into potholes, and doesn’t really settle down on patchy road surfaces at higher speeds. It is at its most comfortable on the motorway, where the suspension shows its softer side and the high-and-mighty driving position delivers mile after mile of comfort.
The engine is clattery rather than gruff when accelerating, but it sounds subdued once cruising along. Although there’s some wind and road noise at speed, the cabin is quiet enough for conversation without the needs for raised voices.
You probably won’t be too surprised to discover the Rexton isn’t the sportiest of sport utility vehicles. But it’s not as cumbersome as you might expect, handling neatly as long as you drive smoothly.
Although SsangYong claims a fairly pedestrian 10.7-second 0-60mph time, the turbodiesel engine’s low-down pull means the Rexton never feels slow. It won’t appeal to keen drivers the way a BMW X3 might, but the Rexton has other qualities.
Although we didn’t take it off-road, experience with the pre-facelift Rexton suggests the SsangYong will run rings around most 4x4s in the mud. There’s a low-ratio gearbox setting to tackle steep slopes.
Driving in town, the light steering and 360-degree camera make for easy manoeuvring.
Space and practicality
Even compared with other large 4x4s, the Rexton is a big car. SsangYong has made good use of that space. You sit high in the front seats, with eight-way adjustment for the driver’s seat and six-way for the passenger’s seat. There’s lots of adjustment for the wheel, too.
The dashboard and cabin are solid, with materials that are a huge improvement on earlier models. But the Rexton isn’t as plush as the new Sorento.
Both spec levels have a fully digital instrument cluster, which can be set to prioritise different information. You can have the map screen directly in front of you, for example. There’s an easy-to-use 9.2-inch infotainment and sat-nav screen in the centre of the dashboard.
The second row has plenty of head- and legroom for adults, and the width of the car makes it more comfortable for sitting three abreast than most rivals. There are air vents between the front seats so the driver doesn’t have to turn the fan up high.
Seats six and seven are more cramped. The middle seats fold out of the way, but you need to be agile to climb into the back. Once in, there’s not a lot of room for your feet, but adults should manage for short trips.
Boot space with all three rows upright falls short of a seven-seat Škoda Kodiaq’s, but there’s more room for bags than in a Kia Sorento. There’s enough luggage space to keep a family of five happy with the rearmost seats folded down.
Buying and owning
‘Cheap’ isn’t really the right word for a car costing £40,665, but the Rexton is good value. If you can forgo a few toys, the Ventura costs £37,995, and still has a long list of standard kit. That compares with £41,520 for the Kia Sorento diesel.
The top-spec is Ultimate by name and by nature, with leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated middle-row seats, a powered tailgate, keyless entry, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, cruise control, and a suite of driver aids including lane-change collision warning.
Running costs will be high. The official combined figure is 32.8mpg, and we saw 23.1mpg while towing the Swift.
Ultimate spec pushes the price over £40,000, so the car tax bill for five years after the first year costs an extra £335. That makes the Ultimate £1675 more expensive to tax than the Ventura would be over the course of those five years.
With either of the two spec levels, the big SsangYong also comes with a seven-year 150,000-mile warranty.
The updated Rexton is arguably SsangYong’s best car to date, combining a roomy cabin with a strong engine, a long list of standard equipment and keen value.
You certainly get a lot of car for your money. It’s heavier than a Hyundai Santa Fe or Kia Sorento, and much heavier than a Škoda Kodiaq. That makes the Rexton a sensible match for just about any caravan.
It tows well, too – up to a point. We found the big SsangYong was pushed around by the bow wave of large HGVs. But there’s still plenty of muscle for pulling a twin-axle tourer, and in still air, the SsangYong feels settled and secure at 60mph.
In everyday driving, the low-speed ride is the Rexton’s biggest weakness. However, the suspension settles down at speed,, and motorway journeys are relaxed and comfortable. If you do need a 4×4 that can cope with proper off-roading, the Rexton fits the bill.
Although the cabin isn’t made from the plushest materials, you have the impression it’s built to last. There’s lots of room if you’re travelling in the first two rows, and being squeezed into seats six and seven is less of a hardship than in many rivals.
The SsangYong reminds us of big Mitsubishi and Toyota 4x4s of a decade ago, with some of the rough edges smoothed off. It’;s as rugged and tough as they come, but with a luxurious spec and bang-up-to-date safety equipment. But for a little more money, the new Kia Sorento is a more sophisticated and stable tow car.
How much will it cost on finance?
SsangYong is offering buyers Personal Contract Purchase deals with a 4.9% APR. A four-year PCP with an initial deposit of £10,084.31 has monthly payments of £429. Owners can drive 9000 miles per year, after which an extra charge of 9p per mile applies. To own the car outright at the end of the agreement, you would need to make a final payment of £14,410.
Are you looking for a new caravan as well as a tow car? Then be sure to check out our guide to the best caravans on the market.
Or, maybe you’re looking for the ideal destination for your next tour? If so, our guide to the best caravan sites is sure to help!
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On hilly country roads the Rexton has no difficulty maintaining speed, even when pulling a big twin-axles caravan uphill
|Engine Size||2157 cc|
|85% KW||1853 kg|
|Towball Limit||145 kg|
|Maximum Towing Limit||3500 kg|
|Torque||325 lb ft|
|Offical MPG||32.9 mpg|
|Towing MPG||23.1 mpg|