When you first step into the new Rexton, you're instantly aware of its size and height. This is no low-roofed crossover, but an SUV that carries its occupants proudly high. At 4.85 metres long, it’s a big car on the road, though not quite as big as the established E-segment models, the Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90, whose prices the Rexton virtually cuts in half. But it’s bigger than the Hyundai Santa Fe and Jeep Grand Cherokee in the class below. Ssangyong believes the Rexton is good enough to find buyers in both markets.
The Rexton's styling is notably brick-like but cleaner and more modern than many, and it uses some family design cues from the successful and good-looking Tivoli, which sits two classes below. The Rexton's interior is both plush and very well equipped; it has all the info screens, connectivity and electronic driving aids an SUV buyer could want, and the Ultimate is trimmed with cross-quilted Nappa leather, normally a facet of much pricier offerings. In fact, the only extras you can buy for this full-house, £37,500 model - with impressive 20in alloys and Mercedes auto 'box coming as part of the package - are metallic paint and a towbar.
The three Rexton models are identical in mechanical spec and therefore performance, and their kerb weight is substantial at around 2100kg – a fact that becomes clear when you drive. Acceleration from standstill is decently quick (courtesy of low-end diesel torque and the auto’s seven ratios) but mid-range performance is no better than average. An 11.9sec 0-60mph time is acceptable rather than impressive, as is the claimed 115mph top speed, which reflects the Rexton’s mighty frontal area. However, there’s a beguiling effortlessness about the big Ssangyong’s progress on the highway, because engine, wind and road noise are all very well contained. Off-road, it displays surprising capabilities, even on road tyres, when its low range, hill descent control and other traction-keeping gadgets are deployed.
Handling is safe and secure. The front seats have surprisingly good side-support, and the Rexton grips decently in wet roundabouts taken fast, displaying a tendency to final understeer if you really insist. The primary ride is good: the car stays level and deals well with big road irregularities - while reminding you always of its built-in strength - but it’s far less capable at dealing with higher-frequency jitters, especially the Ultimate with its lower-profile 20in wheels. The ELX, on standard 18ins, is definitely more composed and supple on UK roads. The Rexton’s steering isn’t brilliant, either. It’s a hydraulic, speed-sensitive system, rather too light for European tastes at low speeds (the Korean market has a strong preference for this), but it loads up quite well once you get going, giving more acceptable, accurate centre feel.