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by Tim Beissmann

The first official sketches of the upgraded Ssangyong Rexton have been released ahead of the large SUV’s unveiling at next week’s 2012 Busan motor show in South Korea.

Appearing significantly more modern and sophisticated, the new Rexton looks set to take a massive step forward from the dated design of the current model.

A wider and bolder chrome grille; sharper, more assertive headlights; and an expressive bumper headline the visual upgrades at the front, while the rear end features restyled tail-lights and a squarer bumper.

Ssangyong Australia general manager Jeff Barber told CarAdvice he is heading to South Korea next week to review the upgraded Rexton and potentially finalise the make-up of brand’s local line-up.

“If it was considered appropriate for our market I would expect to see it before the end of the year,” Barber said, confirming that production is set to commence next month.

He said a 2.0-litre four-cylinder entry-level diesel model would be assessed for our market, potentially to be sold alongside the 2.7-litre five-cylinder diesel, which is currently the only powerplant offered in the Rexton in Australia.

Barber said at this stage he was unsure whether the 2.0-litre engine in the upgraded model would be shared with the 114kW/360Nm Actyon Sports ute, the 129kW/360Nm Korando small SUV, or would be unique to the Rexton.

Ssangyong’s largest SUV is a slow-selling model in Australia. Just 43 have been sold so far this year, down 23 per cent from the first four months of 2011. The five-speed manual is priced from $36,990 before on-road costs, while the flagship Rexton SPR five-speed automatic starts at $47,990.

Meanwhile, Barber confirmed a petrol version of the Korando would arrive in Australian showrooms in the third quarter of this year.

Revealed earlier this year at the Geneva motor show, the 2.0-litre petrol engine promises to use around 7.4 litres per 100km on the combined cycle in six-speed manual, front-wheel-drive specification. Power and torque figures will be confirmed closer to its local launch.

Barber said the manual variant would be offered initially with an automatic option to be added before the end of the year. Ssangyong Australia is still to finalise whether it will offer both front- and all-wheel-drive variants.

With petrol-powered vehicles typically cheaper than their diesel counterparts, the introduction of the petrol variant could see the Korando’s entry point fall even lower than its current $26,300 starting price.

The new Korando variant will be the first petrol-engined model from Ssangyong Australia in four years, signalling the end of the brand’s audacious ‘100 per cent diesel’ strategy it embarked upon in 2008.




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