THE first SsangYong Rexton appeared on UK shores in 2003 and, not surprisingly, it's come an awful long way since then.
Back then, it was known for being cheap, large and, let's face it, not very popular. However, SsangYong has been steadily revamping and upgrading its range, and while you might not see one every day, the badge is not a rarity on British roads. The Tivoli SUV, in particular, has proved quite popular.
Restyled inside and out, the latest fifth generation Rexton has more presence - especially with that mammoth front grille - more comfort, more strength, more safety, and even more space than its predecessor.
A ‘multi-role, four-wheel drive SUV', the Rexton's ever-thinking ‘brain' is its full digital console. The HD 12.3-inch screen allows quick, easy access to a wealth of important information including a whole range of safety warnings such as lane departure warning, parking sensors, navigation assist, andtyre direction warnings.
As well as providing all vital vehicle information, it also integrates with the 9.2-inch touchscreen with satnav - all controlled using the D-cut multi-functional steering wheel - which is heated and adjustable for rake, and reach.
Inside, there's a genuine step-up in quality, with the excellent on-board technology mentioned above plus better-quality materials - Nappa leather upholstery is standard - than those found on previous models. The seats are heated and ventilated too.
The cabin is spacious, comfortably seating seven passengers with plenty of shoulder and headroom. Upfront, there's acres of space, legroom in the second row is especially generous and the second-row seats may be double-folded to maximise the load space.
Measured up to window level, Rexton offers 1,806 litres of rear boot space with both sets of seats down, 872 litres with the second-row seats up and 240 litres all seats up.
The Rexton now comes in threetrim levels - Ventura, Ultimate and Ultimate Plus - all generously equipped. I'd need pages to list the kit on the Ultimate model, suffice to say it is packed to the rafters and comes with a powered tailgate, 3D surround view camera, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED front fog and cornering lights, and rear privacy glass.
It has a well proven, go anywhere, selectable four-wheel drive system and comes with proper off-road credibility. It was recently named 4x4 Magazine's ‘Best Value 4x4' for the sixth consecutive year.
Ideal for those wishing to tow a double horsebox, large caravan, or commercial trailer, the Rexton has kept its strong ladder chassis, enabling a towing capacity of 3,500kg, It also now boasts Trailer Sway Control, which improves driving stability by detecting and automatically stabilising yaw movement and sway of the trailer mounted to the vehicle.
The on- and off-road beast also comes with up to nine airbags including front, side, and curtain airbags. Other safety features include a tyre pressure monitoring system, three-point seatbelt pre-tensioners with a warning reminder on all five seat belt positions, and ISOFIX fittings to outer rear seats, safety power windows, and parking aid system.
It also features hill start assist and hill decent control, active emergency braking, collision warning and lane departure warning including blind spot and cross traffic alerts.
It's only available with a 2.2-litre diesel engine but the previous Mercedes-sourced seven-speed auto has been replaced by a much slicker eight-speed Hyundai automatic transmission - also supplied to Genesis and Kia. It officially returns 32.9mpg so I was chuffed with my return of 28.7.
It's a little agricultural when pulling away but, perhaps surprisingly, is now a refined and comfortable motorway cruiser - helped by tweaks to the springs and dampers and new wheels and tyres.
The improvement to its driving dynamics is noticeable but, push it through the bends, and it will wallow like me in a hot tub.
SsangYong also states its claim with a transferable seven-year/150,000-mile warranty.