Clunk click… wa-hu-hu-hu-hu… brrrrrrooommm…. tick-tock, tick-tock… screech. Such are the sounds from the mouth of a car journalist trying to assess a model that arrived more than a month ago, but which, for obvious reasons, can’t actually be driven.
Seeing as we all hang on the words of wine critics who don’t actually swallow, I hope I’ll be forgiven for this largely static report. Even if the neighbours are convinced that the bearded bloke sitting in that shiny new SsangYong in his pyjamas is well worth an extra few metres of social distancing.
Docking just in time for delivery and still smelling of the sea, the Rexton arrived literally hours before the government declared lockdown. Thereafter I did manage one short journey, for essentials, and a fuel up, but since then it’s been a driveway ornament.
So let’s begin on that note: how would most of Britain’s driveway owners feel about cosying up with an XXL-size SsangYong for indefinite lockdown? Now I know this might be a scary proposition to anyone scarred by the optical trauma of past designs from this South Korean giant. There is, after all, the sanity of pursuing value above design aesthetics, but it took a particular mindset to be a brand ambassador for the Rodius. Many designers work with clay to conjure a car’s future shape. The Rodius appeared to be hewn from dough. And then under-baked. It was actually fine to drive and like the Albert Hall inside. You just wanted all the windows to be smoked.
But quick as you can say Skoda, that’s all changing. Beyond the media-conquering Musso pickup, you may have noticed SsangYong has a radically new Korando to lure Brit buyers. It wants 500,000 sales here (a figure declared pre-dystopia) and essential to paving that road is this beauty.
Yes, I did say beauty. Okay, the ‘b’ word might be pushing things a bit, but stick some Post-Its on that obscure badge and stand back: the latest updated 2020 Rexton is altogether easy on the eye. You might detect a few design riffs from VW’s playbook, echoes of Hyundai and Kia, but detect what you like. In all, SsangYong has managed to pull off big without being brash, brutish or blunt. Freak has been replaced by physique.
Like home dentistry, I’ve also had lots of time to wiggle bits to check if they fall off. Nah. It’s a tank, which is what you’d wish for in a car marketed as the alternative to a new-used Discovery.
Inside, I find little reason to don anti-naff PPE: no pavement promises brought crashingly down by crude plastics, nary a lumpy bolster or loose stitch. Okay, it’s more Marks and Sparks than Philippe Stark, but it’s crafted for comfort and the spoils list, including heated seats for four, cooled seats for two and a lane-change warning system, is epic.
Unlike my, err, driving notes. They’re a bit haiku, for the reasons above, but auspicious. I confess I sneaked a peak at what other car hacks have said, seeing as I’ve had so many days to kill. The ones who claim there’s too much body roll were obviously driving too fast. And those who lament top-end torque for overtaking on the M1? For goodness sake, this is a 3.5 tonne tow-truck with a nice body stitched on top. It’s like saying you took your aunt to a tea dance and her breakdancing was disappointing.
Most of the jury haven’t even got in yet, let alone had the chance to be out (praise be for long-term testing), but in a soundbite, I’m happy – and glad I opted for the Merc-sourced seven-speed automatic gearbox, which hums along quietly. I sense we’ll have words over anticipated drinking habits, but, so far, the needle from that initial fuel-up has gone nowhere. There again, who has?
Date arrived 19th March 2020
Fuel economy 32.9 (WLTP combined) 30.9mpg (on test)
The Rexton’s ‘fine silver’ paintwork, a new hue, still looks fresh after weeks of being parked up.
Crucial for brand recognition could be a tweaking of SsangYong’s logo. It’s hard to picture when not looking at it.