Within hours of arrival, that pesky virus mothballed the prospects for driving the ‘Rex’ so, as the final innings suggests, my distance covered has been not quite epic.
Not that Rex isn’t. Welcome to a beast that’s big, yet far from beastly. Many hours at the wheel (mostly on short journeys) have revealed that, despite the girth, the Rexton is an easy car to live with. From lane change boings all the way down to parking bleeps, from sky-view cameras for tricky spaces to an intuitive self-opening tailgate, it was largely plain sailing. Not that any maritime analogy necessarily extends to the ride. In that sense, this rig is never floaty, that ladder-frame chassis betraying its presence over slower, broken surfaces.
Peruse the specification list for this, the Ultimate, and you’re browsing a triple-layer box of chocolates, all packaged at a mouth-watering sub-£40k price. Flip the box to check the ingredients, though, and you’ll see this is a full-kit, he-man 4×4, built to tackle a tough, tarmac-free life. Sure, it’ll waft down the M5, as I did this month for 200 miles (despite the imperious height, it’ll make a decent fist of impersonating a Nissan Qashqai) but – caveat emptor – in its bones it’s more redneck than white collar. From the track explorations I made, it’s an off-piste beast.
That’s reflected in running costs. Maybe the designers thought you’d have access to a farmer’s red diesel; if your right foot’s not made of filo pastry you’ll be drilling down into the mid 20s. I popped in for top ups so frequently the lady in the kiosk was probably considering a court order. Adjust your ankle reflex though and things get a whole lot better: I handed this car back with an overall average of 31.8mpg.
Last century, I did a stint in the road-testing department of What Car? magazine which, when not involving driving ridiculously fast in cars designed for retired shoppers, mostly involved numbing hours with a tape measure. Thankfully, we’re far more real-world now, but the trusty retractable tool has been unearthed for the sake of one irksome statistic: 75cm. It’s the space between the folded back of the third row of seats and the headlining. And by my mental yardstick, it’s a pretty cosy measurement. I know this, because my tenure with this car coincided with a quest for a small sofa. Final verdict: sofas and Rextons go together like Mentos and diet coke. And could render your patience equally explosive. So my ultimate design tip for any Rexton revamp? Make those seats drop down, as well as fold.
But I digress. If DHL can sort your sofas, there are acres of enjoyment here. The specification – heated steering wheel, bottom-cooling upholstery, puddle lights, anyone? – ticks a tier of boxes akin to models costing thousands more. And the build? SsangYong has ditched a legacy of iffy plastics and wobbly scenery. The Rexton can parade next to any European seven-seater you could name and stand proud. Oh, and best of all, it’s handsome and nicely proportioned.
So ends six months of pain-free testing. Or nearly. We (as in my wife) suffered an eleventh-hour parking scrape, with poor Rex returning to its maker with an estimated off-side rear door bill of £1,000. Even with the best technology on board, human error can prevail. But at least this car’s beauty was comfortably more than skin deep.
Date arrived 19th March 2020
Fuel economy 32.9 (WLTP combined) 31.8mpg (on test)
Sucker punch: carpets have a weave that doesn’t trap dirt. A joy to vacuum!
Crunch time: that feeling when you realise nose-first parking is never a good idea.