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April 13, 2021

Review: 2020.5 SsangYong Rexton 4WD AT

In 2019, when the SsangYong Rexton first arrived, it created a stir by beating out the Nissan Terra 4x4 VL in a comparison test. Two years later, SsangYong gave its flagship 7-seater a slight nip-and-tuck in what’s to be officially called a 2020.5 update.

The mid-sized SUV segment—filled with choices such as the Fortuner, Montero Sport, and Everest—has been hampered by unfavorable excise taxes, and lately, a DTI safeguard tariff so it isn’t as lucrative or noisy as it once was. However, because its line-up isn’t as deep as the competition, SsangYong still has to go all in. With that, it’s interesting to see where the updated Rexton stands, and whether it can maintain its position as a segment standout.

Differences between the 2019 and 2020.5 Rexton are primarily aesthetic; and if you want to get even more specific, they’re limited to the front end. Previously, it looked like the Tivoli crossover subjected to growth hormones. This time, it manages to differentiate itself thanks to a larger honeycomb grille and grayed out headlamps. The overall effect is subjective, but it does give it a statelier vibe, especially when you combine it with the rest of the styling package that include high-sheen 20-inch alloy wheels.

Normally, every design refresh is welcome—it’s a product of owner feedback, after all, but in the case of the Rexton’s 2020.5 update, there’s one thing that should go: the side step boards. Once a dealer-mounted accessory, these do little to help in actual ingress/egress. Without them, getting in and out was easy because the sills already extended all the way down the doors. The addition of the side step board made the process awkward, resulting in soiled pant legs and not to mention, a constant source of creaking.

That constant creaking—audible each time the Rexton went over less than perfect roads—is a source of irritation mainly because the rest of the mechanical package is good. For starters, the 181-horsepower 2.2-liter 4-cylinder is quiet and refined. There’s no unwanted vibration whatsoever, while the telltale diesel rattle is kept at a minimum. And then, there’s the ride. It does tend to exhibit low-speed choppiness, but none that could be described as uncomfortable. Plus, it manages to iron itself well at higher speeds.

Being a large two-ton SUV, don’t count on the Rexton to provide an exhilarating drive. For one, the engine is already down on power and torque compared to other mid-sized SUVs, and this is something you’ll feel almost immediately. Then, there’s the gearbox. Keeping things sensible, it shifts ratios quickly and gently, but try to get aggressive and it’s a force of hesitation. The suspension too has been tuned to be pliant. As a result, there’s a lot of body roll, and the brakes have this initial spongy feel to them.

Inside, the Rexton continues to school other PPVs when it comes to interior execution. Visually, it’s satisfying with its modern horizontal control motif, quilted leather trim, and abundance of piano black accents. The spread of luxe materials aside, ergonomics is solid with plenty of adjustment to the steering wheel and seats. The driver is even treated to an easy entry system where the seat cushion slides back automatically for easy ingress/egress; all the while the instrument cluster plays a pleasant welcome chime. It also has ventilated seats, a moon roof, and much more.

That’s not to say the Rexton’s infallible. There are still some hard plastics to be found, but at least they are few and far between. The 8-inch infotainment system, though clever with its standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto isn’t as clever with the display quality (it get easily washed out in direct sunlight), as well as on the positioning of the USB port (it get tangled easily with the shifter).

Dimensionally, the Rexton measures up to the rest of the mid-sized SUV field, but despite this, it’s best to consider it a 5+2 rather than a true 7-seater. Operating the second row is clumsy, requiring three steps, and because it doesn’t slide, leg room can’t be apportioned between the second- and third-row rows. The rearmost seats have a comfortable angle, but the thick D-pillars make it feel claustrophobic, the headroom is sorely lacking, and the aircon vents are mounted on the right side only. Also, it must be said that while the second and third row seats do fold flat to create one continuous cargo hold, it requires that the cargo partition be set a notch up. This makes loading and unloading of heavy objects like sacks of rice hard.

Priced at P 2.260-million, the Rexton 4WD is comparable, price-wise to the likes of the Ford Everest Titanium+ (P 2,299,000), Mitsubishi Montero Sport 4WD GT (P 2,298,000), and the Toyota Fortuner 2.8 LTD 4x4 (P 2,404,000). Spec-wise though, it lacks both the toys commonly used by hardcore off-roaders such as rear lockers, or driver assist systems such as blind spot indicators, but it does level up by providing more traditional forms of luxury. Plus, it comes with SsangYong’s all-inclusive 5-year free PMS package. Perhaps the things going against the Rexton is its questionable residual value, and limited dealer footprint.

Casting those limitations aside, for people willing to take a gamble on SsangYong, the Rexton continues to be one of the best choices in the mid-sized SUV segment, whether you judge it on a peso-per-peso basis, or per seat of the pants feel. The surprise factor has waned a bit for this Korean made SUV, but overall, it still manages to upset the pecking order two years on.

2020.5 SsangYong Rexton 4WD

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Ownership 2020.5 SsangYong Rexton 4WD
Year Introduced 2019 (Refreshed: 2020)
Vehicle Classification Mid-sized SUV
Warranty 5 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type Mid-sized SUV
Seating 7
Engine / Drive F/4WD, Low
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.2
Aspiration Turbocharged
Fuel Delivery Common Rail
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 181 @ 4,000
Nm @ rpm 420 @ 1,600-2,600
Fuel / Min. Octane Diesel
Transmission 7 AT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 9.90 km/L @ 28 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,850
Width (mm) 1,960
Height (mm) 1,800
Wheelbase (mm) 2,865
Curb Weight (kg) 2,105
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Rear Suspension Five-Link, Coil Springs
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Parking Brake Electric, w/ Auto Hold
Tires Nexen NPriz RH7 255/50 R 20 H (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front & Rear
Parking Camera Yes, Rear
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 2, Lap Belt x 1 (2nd row),
3-pt ELR x 2 (3rd row)
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Hill Descent Control
Exterior Features
Headlights HID
Fog Lamps Yes, Front (LED)
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Tailgate Power
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 8-way, Ventilated/Heated
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Electric, 4-way, Ventilated/Heated
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40 (2nd row),
50/50 (3rd row)
Sunroof Yes
Trip Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Rear View Mirror Auto Dimming
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Auto, Dual (front),
Manual (rear)
Audio System Stereo
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes

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