Having plenty of spare time, I’ve been dwelling on how our tastes might change as we drive away from the lurgy. Am I being naïve in anticipating a shift from obvious, in-your-face branding? After all, Dominic Cummings wasn’t just lambasted for driving during lockdown, but also because he drove there in a well-known premium 4×4. He should have hit the north in this. Cover any lettering on the SsangYong and the badge is invisible. I’m not sure the press office will treasure that observation, but let me hastily explain how that might be a good thing. Conspicuous affluence was a recognised disease long pre-Corona. We are a small C conservative nation; emotionally and financially, we invest in brands as a shorthand for signalling our success and taste, as well as reassuring ourselves that our money is safely spent. Now consider this Rexton. Here’s a brand I have spent unrecoverable minutes of my life trying to convince my mother is not a name I made up. Having taken years to pronounce the Mitsoobishi (though she bought one), SsangYong is gobbledygook to her, as I believe it remains to many.
But all that’s irrelevant because, short though the lockdown miles may be, I am discovering that anyone with the cojones to spend £40,000 on badge obscurity will be having the last laugh. The Rexton (Latin name Tyrannosaurus Rexton, my kids seem to believe) is so big and so business class you can sufficiently socially distance in rows one and three.
If any sudden summer heat convinces you you’ve got a fever, there’s air-cooled front seats, while the audio system, the upholstery, even the satisfying damping of the window buttons, are all of a level you’d expect from recognisable and pricier rivals.
It’s not perfect. At the moment, diesel prices have gone a bit Life on Mars, but the way that gauge hates lingering tells me my wallet’s not going to start writing poems. And then there’s the ride. You might call it honest: there’s little attempt to shield your bottom from the fact that the Highways Authority appears to now believe potholes are a crucial tool for ensuring every journey is really necessary. Tests show the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 SUV tyres on my Rexton cut stopping distances, but they don’t do much to curb the car’s tendency to stray, should your eyes wander. A Rexton may be 23mm narrower than a Range Rover, but it’s still a broad-beamed beast on narrow lanes. However, if you accidentally run over a policeman’s foot, you should be alright, as he’s unlikely to remember what you were driving anyway!
Date arrived 19th March 2020
Fuel economy 32.9 (WLTP combined) 25.3mpg (on test)
These seats. Hot as you like in winter and AC-ed during the summer.
The rear-most seats don’t disappear or fold flat when down.