Backed by the best European engineering and technology, Korean manufactured SsangYong vehicles are earning a bit of respect. Gordon Legge tests the popular Rexton model.
In 1962 my father said goodnight to the family Austin. He just couldn’t tolerate the orchestra of fiendish rattles any more.
In one of the rare and bolder moves of his life, he entered the land of the rising Datsun dealership and from then on, things changed forever.
We had a car that didn’t shake, rattle, or hum and was forever reliable.
On the down side, dad’s mates at work wouldn’t speak to him for weeks because he had dared to support the Japanese. It was only 17 years after the war and many of his work mates had fought in the Pacific. England had not yet abandoned us for the miracle of the EEC and she was still dear to our nations hearts.
So the purchase of a Japanese car was a move that was treated with mirth and derision.
However, as dad’s work mate’s cars rusted and rattled their way into motoring history, he would have the last laugh.
The sons of that same generation of doubting Thomas’s are looking out of the windows of their comfortable reliable Japanese cars casting scorn and derision on the new generation of Korean cars.
The Koreans have possibly been clever than the Japanese, looking to the motoring heartland of Europe for engineering technology and development to help jump start them on the road to motoring credibility.
Leading the Korean effort in New Zealand is the SsangYong brand. It has a range of 4WDs and people movers that look good and offer fantastic value for money. The build quality that is right up with the best the Japanese can offer. The SsangYong brand is backed by the best European engineering and technology.
The leading model in the SsangYong range is the Rexton. On the size scale, Rexton sits very close to the Toyota Prado and Mitsubishi Pajero.
The most popular Rexton model is powered by the 2.7l 5-cylinder turbo diesel that is made under license to Mercedes. It drives through a silky smooth Mercedes 5-speed auto. You can also have the Rexton with a 6-cylinder 3.2l Mercedes petrol motor, but honestly why would you? This diesel engine is one of the best in the world, you get heaps of power, a huge amount of torque and the engine is quiet enough to fool most passengers at idle.
The nemesis of most 4WDs is life on the open road. I’ve found Rexton as good if not better than most of its competition.
With the cruise control set at exactly 100k’s, you’ll cruise all day in quiet comfort. If you feel the urge to pull out and pass, the acceleration at 80k’s would shame most of its petrol-powered competition. The kick down in the auto box is quick and effective.
The leather interior is very comfortable, Rexton has great seats that have a great support with lots of adjustment. The top of the range has electrically adjusted and heated seats with a memory that stores three position settings.
The sound system passed the 13-year-old’s bass test with flying colours. The lights can be selected to auto and they will turn themselves off and on at just the right time. There is an auto function of the windscreen wipers as well.
The dashboard isn’t an outstanding design, but all the knobs are easy to find and it all works just fine. I’ve seen a few that better and many that are much worse. As it is all subjective judgement it gets a pass and a tick.
The heater is very effective and the climate control using the auto function is terrific. The rear seat passengers get some of their own ventilation controls and their own air conditioning zone controls. If you have the 7-seat option, even the third row of seats get some of their own ventilation controls.
On the subject of the third row of seats, one simple push and they disappear. The seat folds down to open out the luggage space with a flat floor.
Rexton also has a lot of safety features. There are four air bags, two in the dash and two side bags. Other safety features include an electronic stability programme and electronic break force distribution.
In my opinion, SsangYong Rexton should not be regarded as a bold move into the motoring unknown. It is well made and well designed. Its Mercedes engine and gearbox will give you a level of comfort that everything mechanical is engineered to last.
2.7ltr 5-cylinder DOHC turbo diesel
Power 121kw at 4000rpm
Torque 340Nm at 2400rpm
5-speed manual or 5-speed Mercedes auto with tiptronic
Power assisted rack and pinion
Front double wishbone coil spring
Rear rigid axle with 5-link coil springs
Front ventilated disks
Rear solid disks
Height 1830mm (with roof rails)