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It was just some time ago that the longest running car make from Korea went through a bit of a rebranding exercise, introducing some new models to the market while at it. Launching and promoting a new brand is tough work, so sometimes these updates happen gradually throughout the lineup. This is what KGM is doing right now, and some of their models are still caught “in between brands”. The Rexton is one of them, being a familiar face sporting a new badge. I had never been in a car of the brand before, so it was great to be able to try the Rexton out for a few days. 

This is the second generation of the seven seater, which was introduced back in 2017. Since then, it’s been updated to bring new front and rear designs and some amenities, but the bones stayed mostly the same. It is unapologetically a big SUV, there’s no way around it. The boxy three quarters don’t hide the fact it seats a volleyball team and its coach, and the way the lines work with the car’s height gives an indication that it is a proper ladder frame vehicle.

It has simple and purposeful lines, from the shoulder creases integrates to the glass area, and everything works cohesively with the big sidewalls of the tyres to present the Rexton as an off-road capable hauler rather than an over-styled, aggressive performance SUV. 

One of the main customer value propositions of the Rexton is the space on offer, and jumping inside you see it really does deliver on that front. There is plenty of room on the front row, with soft seats that offer manual adjustments, but three levels of heating and cooling, both of them working extremely well – no lumbar support, unfortunately.

The ergonomics of the centre console are spot on, offering plenty of storage, easy charging options and a good array of physical commands. This centre console is also where you’ll find the vents for the second row, which again has impressive levels of roominess and comfort. Air conditioning controls are a mix of touch sensitive panels with zero feedback and some actual buttons, but operation is intuitive and you can get going pretty much instantly. 

The third row is as spacious as it usually gets in SUVs of this size. Access is good because the second row has ample room to move forward, but the open angle of recline of the seats leads to compromised head room. Granted, at 1.88cm I’d only be the occupant of the third row if everyone else in the car really disliked me, so if you only transport regular sized human beings and on shorter trips, you will be catered for. With this row up, boot size is greatly compromised, but in “regular” 5 seat configuration, the two-tiered boot is cavernous, even more so if you drop the second row.

It’s time to talk tech, and here is where I will start to show my age. Remember the days when we would replace a car’s head unit with one of those double din units that were mostly a gimmick as they didn’t make the best use of all the screen real estate it had at their disposal? Well, I got a bit of a reminder of those days with the Rexton. The screen is good and well integrated with the dashboard, but it does so little that I think KGM wants you to just connect your phone and do everything from there. The screen is only responsible for media, some very light car setup, and the occasional pop-up for climate settings – the latter being mostly for redundancy, as all settings are shown in the climate section at the centre of the dash. Once your phone is connected, the story changes completely – CarPlay boots up quickly, voice commands work great and the whole screen is used for displaying it. It is just unexpected to see a brand new car that doesn’t integrate driving modes, subscription services, apps and navigation – somewhat refreshing, even, or am I going too far?  

The rest of the configuration of the car is done through the screen in front of the driver and the buttons on the steering wheel. It’s all very intuitive and easy to use, getting all of your trip, instant and assistance settings covered. 

To help you manoeuvre a car of this size, you rely on parking sensors and a rear camera looking almost straight down. Blind spot monitoring and additional cameras are absent (at least in this configuration), but as a counterpoint, visibility is great due to the big windows and mirrors.

And how is it to drive? Press the engine start button and the 2-litre diesel comes to life, clattery as diesels get. When not pushed hard, its roar disappears alongside the other noises, but if you stomp on it, it will let itself be heard all the way until the very early upshifts. 

It is really easy to drive smoothly. The 8 speed gearbox is quick to upshift, to maximise the torque available on tap, and is positively responsive to up and downshifts. I never drove it with more than three people (and no luggage), but in those conditions it never felt underpowered and I’m sure would deliver to the claimed tow rating of 3500kg. During a short motorway drive, I was getting figures around 9L/100km, which is not too bad – looking at 750km of total range. At 100km/h, this is a very quiet SUV, with barely no wind and tyre noise making their way into the cabin. The large tyres also mean that things like those cat-eye reflectors are imperceptible, and that you will occasionally get some spin and squeal when taking off with more gusto.  

But then, as roads start to get windier, things get a bit trickier. The unnecessarily heavy steering means every input requires more effort than you’d anticipate, and those taller tyres with the soft suspension introduce quite a bit of roll. It always had more than enough grip to inspire confidence, but you can tell the Rexton is clearly asking to go back to the straights.

Turns out ladder frame vehicles like this are not made for motorway carving, so while I haven’t had the chance to try its off-road prowess, chances are high that by using the 4WD High and Low selectors available on the centre console, you can extract more of the actual capability of the Rexton.

Cars, like most products, are segmented to meet different criteria depending on what potential customers expect. 4WD, seven seater SUVs tend to offer space, towing capability, comfort and, sometimes, off-road competency. At the right price, the KGM Rexton presents itself as a good motorway mileage monster, with all the room you could ask for. The tech and the one-dimensional driving experience might be a bit of a letdown, but just hook up your phone to get your tunes and maps covered and you will be sorted! Thanks for the opportunity, KGM, and thank you for reading this far! See you next time!

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