Refined but practical, the Rhino hits the right spot between car-like quiet and full powered utility

A civilised kind of beast

by Andy Bryenton

The ute is the new sports utility vehicle. That’s the message, which is resonating through the automotive world alongside the trend that the sports utility vehicle is the new family car. As those who want to work and play hard switch from big off-roaders to a new breed of quieter, more comfortable and capable utes, the array to choose from has become vast. The ideal balance for new ute buyers is struck between practicality and price.

That’s where SsangYong come in they have carved out a niche with their Actyon utes and the Rexton SUV, climbing in popularity alongside fellow South Korean brands Hyundai and Kia as Kiwi motorists embraced non-Japanese build quality and affordability.

Branching out recently with characterful vehicles like the Tivoli crossover, the company, which has been in business since the 1950s, and once provided the South Korean fire department’s fleet has turned all of its experience and design skill to producing a ute, which can match or exceed everything in its class.

The Rhino has more than a catchy name. It looks muscular and powerful, with strong lines and bold wheel arches supporting a swept-back cabin design and a large no-nonsense tray.

Available with a two-litre petrol engine in its two-wheel drive entry level only, the bulk of the spectrum of choices for this ute pack in 4×4 on demand and a Euro-6 compatible 2.2l diesel powerplant, designed to be smooth and quiet while still allowing an impressive 2.8 tonne towing capacity. A six-speed box, auto or manual, delivers crisp gear changes to further enhance that sense of effortlessness, while great care and attention have gone into isolating engine noise and road noise for a more relaxing drive.

The result is a refinement of the formula, which made the Actyon capable and work-ready the Rhino adds further sophistication. Impressively, it does so without sacrificing any of the tech and safety features modern drivers demand. At a price which, even for the middle-of-the-range Sport Diesel 2.2 6 speed manual, just touches $35k. Even better, every Rhino ute sold helps its endangered namesake in the wild, with donations from each truck helping take down poachers and protect the Rhino’s habitat.