Rexton 270 SPR Auto
CD editor bagged
the range-topping Rexton for a quick
700-mile weekend jaunt to Wales
and back. On her own. She not only
returned safely in one piece but
was suitably refreshed. And she
suffers from a bad back. Says it all
it. Oh yes, Rexton
prices start at just £20K...
I WAS SPEAKING TO A WEALTHY MAN RECENTLY not quite Sunday Times
Rich List but undoubtedly not short of a bob or two who turned out
to drive a Rexton. For the record, he also has an Enzo that, apart from his
wife and family, is the love of his life. But ask him why he runs around in
a brand new SsangYong and he'll tell you, with steely-eyed frankness,
that "cars don't make money".
But he's right about that. Motorists collectively spend a fortune buying cars
that impress their neighbours, office colleagues and even their teenaged
kids. One of the positive benefits coming out of the current credit crunch has
been to make people question if they really do need to be spending as much each
month to keep that designer-badged car on their drive as they do on the mortgage.
For many, the answer is a resounding No.
Which is exactly where the Rexton comes in. Just re-launched in the UK, it is
now under the control of a totally new company Koelliker UK, part of
the Italian Koelliker automotive group. At present there are about 35 dealers
in the UK but by the end of 2008 this should have almost doubled to around 60.
Currently the easiest way to find the nearest dealer to you or book a test drive
is by visiting the SsangYong
The new three-model range consists of vehicles benefiting from physical makeovers
and substantial specifications but still at prices that offer value for money:
the Rexton (large SUV), Kyron (mid-sized SUV) and Rodius (large MPV). Tested
here is the range-topping 270 SPR spec Rexton with comprehensive standard kit
and a price that significantly undercuts its rivals.
All three new SsangYong Rexton models have all-wheel drive and a 2.7-litre common-rail
turbodiesel engine for big towing capacity and off-road capability. The Rexton
line-up starts at £19,995 for the 270 S. This, incidentally, is a £2,600 reduction
on the lowest price of the previous model. Yet it comes complete with ABS with
EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution), Electronic Stability Programme with Active
Rollover Protection, Hill Descent Control, auto climate
control air conditioning and a Kenwood sound system. The Rexton S features
a manual transmission with torque on demand four-wheel drive. Like other Rextons,
it will happily tow up to 3.2 metric tons more than enough for most caravan,
boat and horse owners.
Next up the range from the 270 S for only £1,500 more is the 270
S Auto. This has cruise control and is fitted with the Mercedes T-Tronic transmission.
Heading up the Rexton line-up is the £24,995 270 SPR. What's it got? Easier
to say 'You name it and it's probably got it' the only extras are a rear
roof spoiler and a Kenwood touch-screen audio and navigation system.
Koelliker UK see the Rexton as squaring up against the likes of the Mitsubishi
Shogun, Land Rover Discovery and Jeep Cherokee. The Rexton's core selling point
is its appeal to motorists looking for a well-equipped, immensely practical
vehicle, who want value for money rather than paying the premium prices demanded
by other brands. They are also particularly suitable for anyone with a regular
or occasional need to tow.
MotorBar's CD editor bagged the Rexton for her weekend trip to Tregaron and
back to catch The Storeys playing on their home ground (those of you who don't
know their music may have seen them in the recent hit film The Bank Job
starring Jason Stratham). Wales is a great place for music and a great place
to test the Rexton up hills, down into the valleys and along narrow winding
Critics have been quick to disapprove of the Rexton's similarity to the Mercedes
M-Class but who cares the Rexton looks good. Proof of this was that,
at almost every stopover en-route to Wales, other motorists went out of their
way to come across and have a good look. Without exception, they all went way
impressed and approving of its contemporary lines. On a more practical level,
the model's durability is already established and the mechanical technology
likewise proven. More good news is that much of the drivetrain comes from Mercedes
albeit a few years behind their current products.
Pop open the Rexton's bonnet and you'll find a version of Mercedes' previous-generation
2.7-litre five-cylinder diesel. In SPR guise, this comes mated to a Mercedes
Tiptronic five-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode and shift buttons
on the multifunction steering wheel.
On the move, this TDI unit serves up smooth acceleration with clean up and down
changes from the standard-fit Merc auto 'box (a £1,500 option on lesser models)
and while not hot-hatch fast, it nevertheless feels suitably well endowed with
enjoyable performance. For the record, the top speed is 121mph with 0-62mph
acceleration taking 11.6 seconds not bad when you consider its 183bhp
and 296lb ft of torque has 2.1 tonnes of metal to move along. And during a week's
hard testing (954 miles), our automatic Rexton returned a not bad at all 32.9mpg.
Official figures are 25, 30.7 and 35.3mpg respectively for urban, mixed and
extra-urban. Needless to say, Maggie was keen to get back quickly from Wales
to catch up with her work, so wasn't hanging around!
What also can't be denied is that the Rexton is usefully space-efficient. For
a start, there's a very large boot with an easy loading height. A luggage blind
and cargo nets are provided, and an enormous load bay (flat but on two levels)
is only a one-shot 60:40 folding rear seat away. Leg and foot room is more than
adequate in the back, as is the headroom, and the large rear seats are especially
accommodating with a big comfy centre rear armrest. Front occupants are equally
well catered for when it comes to space, enjoying masses of room in all directions.
Front or back, all the doors shut with a quality feel.
Inside the Rexton, trim materials are of decent quality with good fit and finish;
the creature comforts 6-speaker Kenwood CD/radio (with USB), leather
upholstery, cruise control, electrically-adjustable and 5-stage heated seats
(driver and front passenger) with three memory settings and a powered easy-access
facility for the driver, auto climate control A/C, sunroof, electric windows,
electrically-adjustable and heated door mirrors with power-fold (with auto-tilt
for easier parking), auto lights and rain-sensing wipers, reverse parking sensors,
privacy glass (rear doors, quarter and tailgate), auto-dimming rear-view mirror,
etc all confer welcoming
The fascia wouldn't look out of place in any of its rivals. Dials are crisp
and clear with large white graphics. Up front there's plenty of stowage compartments
including a drop down glasses holder in the roof console. There are four electric
windows although only the driver's is fitted with one-shot auto up/down.
However, the electric sunroof does have a one-shot open/close facility along
with one-shot tilt open. In addition, there are three memory settings for the
driver's seat as well as a powered easy-entry/exit facility (you can, if you
wish, turn this off). There's good built-in lumbar support to both the well-shaped
front seats, with manual adjustment for the driver. Welcome, too, is drive-off
central locking. Thanks to the amount of powered seat adjustment, the height-only
adjustable part-leather, part-laminated steering wheel doesn't prevent you achieving
a decent driving position.
From behind the wheel the most noticeable aspect of the Rexton's dynamics is
its steering feel. Actually, there's not much feedback as the speed-sensing
power steering is very light at the helm
but that didn't prevent it being driven confidently down tight Welsh lanes.
The commanding driving position and good visibility out makes it very easy to
place this quite big SUV accurately on the road.
Refinement levels weren't the low-rent standard that some press reviews had
led us to expect. Given that 'our' 270 SPR was running on 18-inch alloys shod
with pretty wide 255/60 Bridgestone tyres, road noise was not an issue and the
Rexton cruised motorways quietly. And, wherever we found ourselves driving,
the air conditioning was first rate; fast-reacting and with a strong outpouring
of refreshingly cold air.
True, the Rexton's ride is nowhere near as 'sporting' as that of many of the
seriously more expensive SUVs on the market, and yes there is some body roll
(the suspension errs on the side of comfort and the Rexton is a tallish vehicle
with an obviously higher centre of gravity than the average car), but that doesn't
mean that it's not smooth to travel in. In fact, most of the time it's unexpectedly
cosseting; you're made aware of bad road surfaces but they're not unsettling.
While you won't be doing any Bourne Ultimatum-style driving it
would do the pundits good to reflect on the fact that not everybody wants to
drive an SUV that's faster than a speeding bullet and can out-handle a world
rally car there is ESP to keep it all tidily together and the Rexton's
nose pointing in your chosen direction. The brakes discs all round; ventilated
at the front do a first-rate job of stopping the Rexton without any fuss
as Maggie found out when a Welsh rabbit darted across the road in front of her!
And it's no exaggeration to say that there's a very easy driveability to the
Some might claim that the highly-spec'ed but 'bargain'-priced Rexton misses
the point by actually being so well specified. We'd go the other way and say
that offering so much for comparatively so little is just what a growing number
of 'down-pricing' but not down-sizing buyers are looking for.
Particularly when it means that for a lot less money they can drive a comfortable
SUV well-stocked with all the essentials and still have money in the bank.
Without doubt the Rexton fills a gap in the market left as the price of many
SUVs climb ever upwards. There's a demand for cost-effective but well-spec'ed
vehicles that can do the school run, the weekly shop, play the workhorse on
'activity' weekends and move the family unit en masse. And, as our CD editor
reported: "The Rexton took me from Kent to Wales and back and it was as brilliant
driving down narrow country lanes as it was eating up the miles on the M4. I
did in excess of 700 miles on my own in two days and I still felt reasonably
fresh once I got home again." For some people the SsangYong name won't have
the 'right' ring. But more canny motorists would see it as being the answer
to having the best of two worlds: a new car and a house. MotorBar
SsangYong Rexton 270 SPR Auto | £24,995
Maximum speed: 121mph | 0-62mph: 11.6 seconds
Overall test MPG: 32.9mpg | Power: 183bhp | Torque: 296lb ft
CO2 233g/km | VED Band G £400 | Insurance group 14