Far Eastern carmakers have a well-earned reputation for bulletproof reliability. Nowhere is this adage more true than in the off-roading arena. Whether it be chewing up the countryside at breakneck speed aboard a rally-bred Mitsubishi Lancer or forging a path through the most inhospitable terrain in a Toyota Land Cruiser, Far Eastern machines will seldom let you down when the going gets tough.
One of the less heralded of the Asian powerhouses is SsangYong. Despite its status as one of the elder statesman of the Japanese and Korean motoring dynasties, the SUV specialist has only really developed a significant European presence in the last 15 years. A reputation for utilitarian practicality and minimal impact on your pocket characterised the first wave of SsangYong’s European exports, including the gargantuan Rodius MPV. Under new ownership, the Korean brand turned over a new page in 2015 with the launch of the Tivoli compact SUV, a car destined to spearhead a top-to-toe rebranding offensive.
Following on the coattails of the Tivoli at this year’s Seoul Motor Show, the 2017 SsangYong Rexton is the second new-generation SUV from the Korean stable. The name maybe familiar to some, but the formula has undergone a drastic shake-up.
Pitched to take on the larger SUVs currently on the market – think the Mitsubishi Outlander and Hyundai Santa Fe for a close comparison size-wise – the all-new Rexton takes its name from the model first glimpsed on UK roads back in 2001. Around for more than a decade, this original version was never really a big-seller. The appearance of SsangYong’s LIV-2 concept at the 2016 Paris Motor Show rung the death knell for that particular incarnation and simultaneously paved the way for the car debuted in the South Korean capital this week.
Decidedly robust and stout in its design, the 2017 Rexton dons an entirely revamped front end. Wider air-intakes have been added either side of the wing-like radiator grille, an element first spied on the Tivoli. Daytime running lights and LED fog, side and indicator lights complete a fascia that’s set to become the bedrock for SsangYong’s new ‘family face’. The flanks of the 4.8 metre-long SUV also borrow the odd-design cue from the Tivoli, particularly the muscular lines that rise up around the 20-inch wheels to blend into the front and rear headlights.
Despite the design revolution, SsangYong is standing by its traditional maxim of value over extravagance. As such, don’t expect an array of luxury interior fittings or gadgetry; not that the new Rexton is totally devoid of tricks on the tech-front. For starters, the Rexton’s 9.20-inch infotainment interface features full smart-phone compatibility in the form of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as built-in satellite navigation. Elsewhere, its ‘smart tailgate’ automatically opens when the key is dangled in close proximity to the car to reveal best-in-segment load space. Indeed, there’s nothing under par about the all-new Rexton when it comes to roominess, with SsangYong claiming it’s reborn SUV will comfortably carry three passengers in the rear along with four golf bags in the boot. For that added soupcon of comfort, full leather seats save the driver’s preferred position and automatically adjust themselves for easy access the moment the door swings open.
Power options vary depending on your preference for diesel or petrol power. Opt for the former, and the Rexton comes equipped with a 2.2 litre unit mated to a Mercedes-Benz-sourced 7-speed automatic gearbox. The petrol variant, meanwhile, possesses a smaller 2.0 litre powertrain with the Tivoli’s Aisin 6-speed automatic transmission calling the shots. Underpinned by SsangYong’s 4WD drive technology, power flows exclusively to the rear wheels under normal driving conditions with AWD kicking in for off-road motoring.
The second instalment in a completely revamped line-up, SsangYong assure us that the Rexton will be followed up by a host of new SUV stablemates in the coming years. Sources suggest there could also be brand-new pick-up truck in the offing.
The 2017 Rexton hits showrooms in Korea during the first half of this year, with dealerships on these shores taking delivery of the all-new SUV before the end of 2017.