Midsize body-on-frame SUVs or pick-up based passenger vehicles (PPVs) as what many ASEANs would call it are very popular here in this part of the world. Filipinos tend to have a preference for vehicles that can carry seven people whilst having the capability to travel over floods and rugged terrain. Filipinos tend to lean on offerings from Japan and America, but what if I told you there is a worthy challenger from South Korea. Also, unlike its PPV counterparts, this South Korean competitor was first conceived as an SUV and not the other way around. Say hello to the SsangYong Rexton.
Whereas many of its competitors truly flaunt its pick-up roots, the body-on-frame SsangYong Rexton looks like unibody crossover due to the nonexistent side step boards. There’s no denying its size though as the Rexton is the widest in its class. With its large 20-inch chrome alloys, sharp HID headlights with LED daytime running lights, slim chrome grille, LED taillights and a well-sculpted side profile, the Rexton exudes a level of elegance not found in many of its traditional rivals. Granted, the rear D-pillars look quite thick (or thicc as millennials would say) on certain angles, but apart from that, the Rexton offers plenty of bling without being too ostentatious.
The interior of the Rexton is simply stunning. Its SUV-first approach has given the Rexton one of the most premium and luxurious interiors in its segment. There are swathes of brown Nappa Leather with quilting even in some areas such as the seats, doors, and dashboard. Plus, the plastics are of the soft-touch variety. If there’s one gripe for me though, it would be the overwhelming amount of shiny piano black plastics, especially on the center console. Right now, the shin stuff may look good, but it’ll gather plenty of scratches over the course of the vehicle’s lifetime.
The premium interior is also matched by an impressive amount of creature comforts. This 4×4 variant we have here is equipped with power-adjustable driver and front passenger seats with both heating and ventilation, seat heating for the second row of seats, a sunroof, passive entry with push-button start, an 8-inch SsangYong OEM infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. just to name a few.
The 8-inch touch screen infotainment system is not as nice as the Ford Everest’s SYNC3 and the Chevrolet Trailblazer’s MyLink, but it’s still a whole lot better than the one found in the Toyota Fortuner. The SsangYong’s interface is nice though its touch response and swiping gestuers could be better.
Being the widest in its class means that the Rexton is able to support three adults seated abreast and without arguing for shoulder room. There’s also a good number of toys that the rear seat passengers can enjoy, such as heated rear seats and a 220V power outlet.
Just like the second row, the third-row seats are also the widest, though the seat height is too low and legroom is limited, not helped by the fact that the second row doesn’t slide fore and aft.
Once the third-row seats are not needed, a simple tug of the strap is enough to fold the seats flat under the floor, leaving a generously-sized trunk area. There is quite a lip though which can make it difficult for smaller people to load items into the Rexton. A huge plus, however, is the handy smart power liftgate, in which simply standing beside the trunk for a few seconds with the smart key in your possession is enough to automatically open the tailgate.
Under the hood is a 2.2-liter diesel engine producing 181 hp at 4,000 rpm and 420 Nm of torque from 1,400 to 2,800 rpm. It’s mated to a 7G-Tronic 7-speed automatic transmission. Yes, you heard that right, the Rexton uses a Mercedes-Benz transmission that shifts so smoothly, it merely remains in the background for most of the time.
It’s the same story with the rest of the drivetrain, delivering refined, smooth power. Even under hard acceleration, the engine isn’t as vocal as most of its competitors, and that’s perhaps an advantage of being developed first and foremost as an SUV. Whereas many PPVs feel industrial, the SsangYong knows how to drink a cup of tea with its pinky raised up. Even past a hundred, the Rexton remains composed out in the open road with barely any engine, wind, and road noise entering the cabin.
Having most of its torque in the lower rev range also helps refinement since it means you don’t have to rev the engine as much in daily situations. It does, however, run out of a bit of steam at the higher rev range when overtaking in provincial roads, though overall it isn’t too bad. What does somewhat spoil its refined nature is its ride quality. Not that I’m saying it’s bad, because nothing can be as harsh as the Toyota Fortuner’s ride, but its 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in low profile tires do let some road bumps enter through the cabin. As far as ride quality is concerned, the Nissan Terra is still the class benchmark.
Handling-wise, the Rexton is pretty good. It’s no Mazda CX-5, but it remains composed as it enters and exits through corners. Steering effort is pretty good, too. It’s a hydraulic power steering system that falls somewhere in between the weightiness of the Fortuner’s and the lightness of the Everest’s. Oh, and as for fuel economy, the Rexton did 9.8 km/l which is pretty good if not stellar.
A certain Korean brand carries the tagline “The Power to Surprise”, but I believe this tagline best describes the SsangYong Rexton. What may concern many customers is its dealer network, in which it only has two: Sta. Rosa, Laguna, and Otis, Manila. SsangYong Berjaya combats this with free maintenance (including an option for home service) for three years or 60,000 kilometers, whichever comes first, along with a 5-year warranty.
Nevertheless, the SsangYong Rexton may be a left-field choice, but if you value unparalleled levels of luxury and refinement, then this South Korean body-on-frame SUV should be on your shortlist.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.2 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.