by Huw Thomas, chairman, Welsh Motoring Writers
POLaR opposite to a ‘Crossover’ there is also ‘clear blue water’ between the Rexton and a mainstream ‘Sport Utility Vehicle’. Big, tough and well up to a day’s work it’s surprisingly comfortable on a long trip and remarkable value for money.
Latest (‘Gen.4’) Rexton retains body-on- frame (separate chassis) construction and transfer box for high/low ratio 4×4. a manual gearbox remains an option on the cheapest and the 2.2L 4-cylinder Diesel has been tweaked for better MPG and CO2.
Until recently the future here looked bleak for such vehicles with only the Rexton and Toyota’s Land Cruiser on sale. Now
however, Mitsubishi has come back with a pick-up chassis and a new Navara-based Pathfinder is on its way from Nissan. (SsangYong’s new Musso pick-up has just arrived here.)
This year’s Franco-Spanish trip was almost 3,000 miles in 12 days. Chartres and Montauban were the French stopovers on the way down to aragon’s rural Matarranya. The return leg took in two nights in Bilbao before the next stop near Mortagne-sur-Gironde on the northern shore of the estuary beyond Bordeaux.
This beautiful village which overlooks a picture-postcard marina and fishing port has a memorial to Owain Lawgoch – Yvain de Galles (Owain ap Thomas ap Rhodri) – the last direct descendant of the Welsh Gwynedd Dynasty (Princes of Wales).
Owain was assassinated by an agent of the English Crown while, in the service of Charles V, laying siege to the local castle held by the English in 1378. Owain had asserted his title as Prince of Wales and, in this, was supported by the French king.
a drive east through Cognac country took us then to Bourges for two nights with a visit to the mediaeval hilltop village of Sancerre and its vineyards. Overall, the trip included fast motorway and panoramic mountain passes through to country roads and upland Spain’s characteristic ‘caminos rurales’ where a stretch of asphalt is a luxury. as mentioned before a 4×4
there is anything but a fashion accessory. Normal on-road driving is rear-wheel drive (4×2) but HR 4×4 can be engaged on the move. To dial in LR 4×4 the vehicle has to be stationary. Ground clearance and approach/departure angles are top class while electronic hill-hold and hill-descent are there too. a manual handbrake has given way, alas, to an electric parking switch.
a pity too that HR 4×4 can’t be engaged on-road other than for snow and ice. Mitsubishi’s ‘Super-Select’ offers that and it’s a real asset at higher speeds or when towing in the wet. It requires a torque- sensing centre differential lock but it’s worth it.
That said, ride and road-holding are very good for this type of vehicle. Model on test, it should be said, was the range- topping ‘Ultimate’ with 10-link independent rear suspension which comes with a 7-speed Mercedes automatic gearbox. Manual (6-speed) variants
have a 5-link beam axle at the back (as for the Musso pick-up).
Clearly a light, unitary bodied SUV will have superior dynamics but few people looking at a Skoda Kodiaq, VW Tiguan, Ford Kuga or even a Kia Sorento will have a vehicle such as this on their list. Given a half decent road surface (stark contrast with mainland Europe here!) it’s pretty smooth- going. Steering is a bit light perhaps but not uncommunicative and is direct
enough for the type and certainly ‘fit for purpose’.
The new Rexton has a high level of equipment for its asking price including
the usual connectivity and infotainment, electronic aids, etc. Build quality, fit and finish (inside and out) is hugely improved. Front seats in particular are extremely comfortable and supportive. Many aspects have a distinctly “premium” feel.
although smooth and quiet it could do with a larger engine – overtaking uphill can take time but the auto’s manual over-ride helps to move things along. Nonetheless it dealt well with the 630-mile trip home on day 12 and was more than up to the cut and thrust of driving around western Paris! an impressive and credible dual-use 4×4, the new Rexton has real appeal.