SsangYong Rexton SUV - Engines, drive & performance
Plenty of power, but driver appeal lags behind SUV rivals
Before directly comparing the SsangYong Rexton with rivals in terms of handling, we must first explain the ‘separate chassis’ setup used in the car’s construction. Often referred to as 'body-on-frame', this construction technique sees the Rexton's engine, gearbox, driveshafts, axles, wheels and suspension contained in one assembly, onto which the body is attached as a separate unit. The old Land Rover Defender and Mitsubishi Shogun Sport were built this way, as are many of today's popular pickups.
By contrast, the majority of other SUVs on the market, including the latest Land Rover Discovery, Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe all use 'unibody' construction, where the engine and running gear are directly attached to the bodywork – the same way that regular hatchbacks and saloons are constructed. Drive a unibody-constructed SUV on a country road, and it feels much like a taller, heavier version of a regular family car. The Rexton, though, feels a little different – and can take a little getting used to.
The 'multilink' suspension system the Rexton employs is fairly sophisticated for a body-on-frame car and the ride is generally quite smooth. This has been helped by changes to the suspension settings for the 2021 facelift but the Rexton is still prone to a jiggly ride.
The Rexton feels more ponderous than a Skoda Kodiaq or Kia Sorento, with a fair amount of body lean through corners and a squatting sensation when you brake hard. The steering is also slower to respond than those cars and has a heavy feel.
The steering can be a positive attribute when traversing rough terrain, where slower steering is a boon for crawling around tight off-road tracks. With lots of vertical suspension travel at each wheel, selectable four-wheel drive and a low ratio setting easily to hand, the Rexton follows the mud-plugging footsteps of its predecessors.
SsangYong Rexton diesel engines
Only one engine is offered for the Rexton, a 2.2-litre, four-cylinder diesel. Unlike previous models with engines produced under license from Mercedes, this engine is all SsangYong's own work, and it's impressive.
Although it grows boomy when pushed really hard, it's impressively quiet when pootling around town or cruising at motorway speeds, aided by extra insulation for the facelifted version. It rarely feels underpowered, either – at over two tonnes this is a big, heavy car for a relatively small engine but the 199bhp is effective.
A 0-62mph time of 10.7 seconds is around a second quicker than before, showing the advantage of an extra 20bhp, along with the quicker responses of the new eight-speed automatic gearbox.
As if to show how much more responsive it is, there are now paddles to change gear behind the steering wheel. While this hardly transforms the Rexton into a sports SUV, they are handy for those times when you want to choose a specific gear for certain tasks – descending a sharp incline or towing on a slipway, for example.