SsangYong (KGM) Rexton SPR review: a big ask

Damien O’Carroll
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  • Good, solid 4X4 for towing and off-roading
  • Comfortable, quality interior
  • Strong engine and transmission
  • Way too expensive
  • Everything feels at least a generation old
  • Too much chrome...

When it originally launched in 2001, the SsangYong Rexton was a simple, honest ute-based 4WD SUV with a ladder chassis and decent off-road credentials. Powered by proven and reliable Mercedes-Benz-derived engines and landing firmly at the affordable end of the spectrum, it filled the “It’s cheap, it’s tough, I don’t care all that much about it, and it tows the boat” segment nicely.

As with all things, however, the Rexton evolved over time, adding refinement, luxury and, of course, bigger numbers to the price tag.

SsangYong Rexton rear
While the front is new, the rear of the Rexton gives away its age somewhat.

Before 2015 the Rexton was one of the few traditional ladder chassis SUVs still surviving the monocoque SUV onslaught, but the launch of the Ranger-based Ford Everest and the local introduction of the Hilux-based Toyota Fortuner in 2015 heralded a revival in fortunes for the traditionally tough SUV segment.

A second-generation Rexton was subsequently launched in 2017 and featured new underpinnings. Still ute-based and shared with the Musso (known as the Rhino here in New Zealand), the Rexton soldiered on, with a facelifted second-gen model being launched in 2020.

SsangYong Rexton grille
SsangYong has gone heavy on the chrome at the front end of the Rexton.

Featuring a big, bold chrome grille to further differentiate it from the Rhino ute, the Rexton also packed more equipment, a higher-quality interior and more up-spec models in its line up.

Of course, this has also seen that increase in pricing and, while the Rexton still starts at a budget-minded $51,990 for the Teammate 2WD version and $56,990 for the Sport 4WD, the top-spec SPR and SPR Blackout land at a less wallet-friendly $74,990 and $76,990 respectively.

Which is pretty much lineball with other ladder chassis 4x4s. And that is actually the biggest problem for the Rexton SPR we drive here - while the SPR may be the top model for the Rexton, its price tag places it at the same price point as the entry level Ford Everest Trend at $74,990.

SsangYong Rexton interior
The Rexton's interior is comfortable and of a good quality, but the infotainment tech is a good generation behind the competition.

Top-spec model versus base model is where brands like SsangYong have always excelled, by offering a range-topping model with more features and equipment for the same money as the entry model of a more mainstream brand, but that really isn’t the case here.

The Ford Everest absolutely upped the game for the entire segment when the second-generation model came out in 2022.

While the Rexton does get things like bigger 20-inch alloy wheels (the Everest has to make do with ‘tiny’ 18s) and a full leather interior (the Ford has cloth with partial leather), those are the only real advantages the SsangYong ekes out over the Ford.

SsangYong Rexton engine
The Rexton is powered by a 2.2-litre diesel engine with 149kW and 441Nm.

While, on paper, the Rexton is well-equipped, what it does have feels largely a generation or two out of date, with a relatively sparse infotainment system that features flaky Android Auto connectivity and a total absence of radar cruise control. The interior is a high point, with an attractive look and some quality materials used throughout and some comfortable, if somewhat unsupportive seats.

Unsurprisingly ute-like in terms of ride, the Rexton's ride is perfectly acceptable, but the Everest absolutely upped the game for the entire segment when the second-generation model came out in 2022, and the level of comfort, refinement and quality on hand in the entry level Trend easily out-classes the top-spec Rexton.

Handling is a similar story, with the Rexton being every bit the traditional ladder chassis SUV in the way it goes around corners - hefty body roll and slight initial understeer defaulting to a predictable neutral stance without any real drama is the norm here, but do anything other than the predictable norm and the Rexton will get flustered pretty quickly.

Click and drag to explore the interior.

Of course, none of this means the Rexton is in any way bad. Far from it, in fact. The Rexton is exactly what you would expect it to be – a good, honest, tough proper off-road 4x4 that is perfectly fine around town, out on the open road and deep in the rough stuff – and the $56,990 4WD Sport model would be an unassailable bargain for someone wanting exactly that.

Everything about the Rexton is perfectly acceptable and even competitive in the lower-spec Sport model's price range, but up in the more rarefied $70k-plus atmosphere it really does struggle to make a case for itself. 

However, asking $75k for the SPR stretches credibility when something like the Everest Trend is almost as well equipped, vastly more comfortable and refined and every bit as capable off the road.

ENGINE: 2.2-litre petrol 4-cylinder diesel POWER: 149kW/441Nm GEARBOX: 8-speed automatic, 4WD CONSUMPTION: 9.8l/100km (3P-WLTP) PRICE: $74,990.

SsangYong Rexton profile
While the Rexton is a very capable vehicle, its pricing puts it up against even more capable competition.

How much is the SsangYong Rexton SPR?

Too much is the easy answer. Pricing it at $74,990 is asking the Rexton to try to punch well above its weight, with far more modern, comfortable and capable vehicles offering far more for the same money.

What are the key statistics for the SsangYong Rexton SPR powertrain?

The Rexton gets a new 149kW/441Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine hooked up to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The powertrain is smooth and refined (for a diesel) and is the one aspect of the Rexton that truly feels up to date with the competition.

Is the SsangYong Rexton SPR efficient?

SsangYong claims a combined average of 8.9l/100km for the Rexton, which is a figure that is relatively easy to actually achieve in daily running.

Is the SsangYong Rexton SPR good to drive?

A decade ago we would have said an enthusiastic yes. Now, however, it is more of a lazy 'meh', particularly for the money asked for the SPR. If this were the $56,990 Sport model, we would be perfectly happy with its combination of rugged ability and the associated on-road ride qualities that come with that. But for $75k you can do far, far better.

Is the SsangYong Rexton SPR practical?

The Rexton is big and roomy, with all the expected practicality of a large seven-seat SUV. There is plenty of storage around the cabin and while the seats don't fold flat with the boot floor, there is a false floor section that can be raised to provide a flat load space with the third row down. The second row doesn't fold entirely flat, however.

What do we like about the SsangYong Rexton SPR?

It is a big, comfortable, capable 4X4 that will tow a boat with minimal effort and head off road like a champ. It feels solid and dependable, and the engine is largely unstressed, so it will likely be as bulletproof as previous Rextons have traditionally been.

What don’t we like about the SsangYong Rexton SPR?

The price. Everything about the Rexton is perfectly acceptable and even competitive in the lower-spec Sport model's price range, but up in the more rarefied $70k-plus atmosphere it really does struggle to make a case for itself. 

What kind of person would the SsangYong Rexton SPR?

Someone who wants a big, capable, dependable 4X4 to do a mix of towing, off-roading and daily driving in but refuses to buy a Ford. Or a Toyota. Or a Mitsubishi. Or an Isuzu...


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