New Ssangyong Rexton has old-school charm

The Ssangyong Rexton comes with a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation, reverse camera and Bluetooth connectivity.
The Ssangyong Rexton comes with a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation, reverse camera and Bluetooth connectivity.
The Ssangyong Rexton comes with a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation, reverse camera and Bluetooth connectivity.
The Ssangyong Rexton comes with a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation, reverse camera and Bluetooth connectivity.

Ssangyong's bigger, better Rexton retains the nostalgic gait of sport utility vehicles past

Petrolheads who whine about how they do not make cars like they used to should take a spin in the new Ssangyong Rexton.

The big seven-seat sport utility vehicle (SUV) from one of South Korea's smallest car manufacturers - majority-owned by India's Mahindra group - still drives like an old-school SUV.

Built on a ladder-frame chassis (like SUVs of old) and shod with fat high-profile tyres, the Rexton waddles like Donald (the fowl) - pitching, bouncing and rolling with not a care in the world.

It is not entirely a bad thing, if you are in the mood for nostalgia. The car certainly brings back memories of the early Landies and the thrills of driving a seriously tall vehicle.

With a height of 1,825mm and ground clearance of 203mm, the Rexton is a tad challenging for short skirts and tight pants. There is no side-step or grab handle to help you climb onboard.

And for such a tall vehicle, its ceiling is surprisingly low. So a person of average height would have to clamber and duck to get onboard.

  • SPECS / SSANGYONG REXTON 2.0

  • Price: $188,888 with COE

    Engine: 1,998cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged

    Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual select

    Power: 224hp at 5,500rpm

    Torque: 350Nm at 1,500-4,500rpm

    0-100kmh: 12 seconds

    Top speed: 185kmh

    Fuel consumption: 10.4 litres/100km

    Agent: Motorway Ssangyong

The car is noticeably bigger than the last Rexton - longer, wider and with a 2,865mm wheelbase, versus 2,835mm previously.

Hence, on the road, the car is quite imposing. At the wheel, you feel its stature too. Despite that and its less-than-graceful chassis, it is a driveable beast.

Its stoutly weighted steering helps, as does its new drivetrain. The version tested is a 2-litre turbo with 224hp and 350Nm from 1,500rpm. This proves adequate for the Rexton's 2.1-tonne frame (slightly heavier than its turbodiesel predecessor).

While zero to hundred is accomplished in a leisurely 12 seconds, the rear-wheel-drive car feels swifter in real life, even if there is more than a hint of lag when you need more speed to fill gaps in traffic.

It is still not a car that would tackle fast corners confidently, nor comfortably. But it will sail through road blemishes with impunity.

As a seven-seater passenger vehicle, the new Rexton is significantly better than its predecessor. There is more space all round inside - even the third row will accommodate 1.75m-tall occupants comfortably. The third row also has its own air-conditioner blowers, which is a rare treat.

Folding the second-row seats to get in and out of the last row, however, is not as easy as in other multi-seaters. But once seated, third-row occupants enjoy decent hip and legroom. Headroom, however, is not as generous as you expect.

Fit and finish is much better than in the previous Rexton. So is noise insulation. Ergonomically, it is also well-sorted, with none of the niggles seen in the previous model.

It comes with a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation, reverse camera and Bluetooth connectivity. Radio reception is a bit poor, though.

Other noteworthy features include dual-zone climate control with ioniser, multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, hill-start assist, hill descent control, blindspot detection, rear cross traffic alert and hands-free tailgate.

It is also much more handsome than before, with sharp styling cues taken from the Tivoli compact SUV.

But at close to $190,000, it is fairly costly, especially when the more polished but slightly less roomy Kia Sorento costs at least $30,000 less.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2018, with the headline 'Old-school charm'. Print Edition | Subscribe