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Is it a monster? Image by Syd Wall.

Is it a monster?
There's no getting away from the ugly looks of the Ssangyong Rodius, but you can't see that from inside its huge interior.

 



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#03#Before we go any further with this review, there are two overwhelming qualities that we need to get out of the way. The Ssangyong Rodius is BIG. It's bigger than a Chrysler Voyager, at almost 17 feet long and six feet four-inches wide - much the same length and width as an S-Class Mercedes-Benz. But the S-Class Mercedes isn't six-foot something high; this car is simply massive.

The rear of the car is completely vertical; the rear window is at the very rear of the car and almost makes the bumper mounted rear parking sensors unnecessary. It's so far away when you look in the rear view mirror that the window appears to be in another county. The Rodius is massive inside too; there are seats for seven, but more importantly, there is luggage space for seven as well. Yes, at the same time! The seats are laid out with three at the back, and two in the front two rows. Access to the rear most seats is by walking between the middle pair. Despite the propshaft on the four-wheel drive version we tested, the floor is totally flat and there's so much headroom that my seven year old son was able to stand up and walk upright to the rear seats.

So it's BIG. It's also UGLY; I'm sorry, but it really is. The Ssangyong Rodius must have been heaven sent to the guy who designed the Porsche Cayenne - his creation looks positively gorgeous by comparison. The Rodius is so ugly that almost everyone knows what it is; they don't know its name, but they recognise it as the car Top Gear called the ugliest car in production today.

It is anyone's guess what the designer was thinking - the basic shape is similar to that of 1940's attempts at streamlining, but then he thought maybe they needed more headroom out back so added this weird triangular section on top. There's truly nothing else like it on the road. The front doesn't work much better; it's a short stubby nose tacked on the front of this giant behemoth. Funnily enough, it has a similar profile to the new Audi TT's nose, but the headlights sit too far down and that grille could have been designed by my son; no, he'd have done better.

Enough of the cruelty; the really good thing about the Ssangyong Rodius is that when you are inside, you can't really see the outside. Sure, if you get close to a van in front you see the reflection of the nose, but on the whole you are cocooned, safely protected from seeing it. You can pretend you are driving something altogether more attractive. It may come as a surprise, but it's not that difficult to pretend. I'll whisper this so you don't get too shocked, but the Ssangyong Rodius is not that bad to drive. #p##02# There; I've said it. But why should you be so surprised? The Koreans have come a long way since they started making cars. The Ssangyong Kyron we drove last year surprised us, so this time we should have been ready for it. The Rodius gets a bigger engine, a 2.7-litre five-cylinder diesel developing 163bhp at 4000rpm and a flat torque curve giving 252lb.ft between 1800 and 3250rpm. The basic two-wheel drive Rodius S comes with a five-speed manual gearbox, where as 'our' top of the range SX AWD benefited from the Mercedes-Benz five-speed T-tronic automatic gearbox and four-wheel-drive. And what a gearbox this is; creamy smooth - you will never feel a gear change, up or down, on full throttle or part throttle. It's as responsive as you need it to be and always seems to be in the right gear. It's a shame the engine can't match up to the gearbox. The 2.7-litre diesel pulls strongly enough and is not overwhelmed by the 2200kg weight of the Rodius, but it's just so noisy. Any time you are asking the engine to work, you know so by the noise. Move the throttle position; it's noisy. That's a shame because once you are cruising at constant speed, it's quiet; you don't hear it any more. Not until you next need to raise your speed, overtake someone, or accelerate away from a roundabout in any case.

Let's carry on with the good stuff. Our SX model Rodius had all the accoutrements you would expect of the range-topper. Grey leather seats all the way through, climate control, the same Blaupunkt combined tuner/satnav system as we saw in the Ssangyong Kyron last year, along with the same dashboard-mounted 6 CD autochanger. It's an MPV, so there's storage space absolutely everywhere, including a lift arm armrest console - the top section is the same as in other cars, but the whole thing lifts (that flat floor again) and you could almost carry your shopping in there alone. #p##05# Both second and third row seats are mounted on sliders so you can divvy up the legroom according to the size of your passengers, and the centre row captain style seats even swivel to make for easy egress. Behind the third row is the largest boot space you could imagine; the Rodius is so big you'll be tempted to do some part-time airport work just to get the best use out of it. We did a family outing - actually I had to borrow a family to fill all the seats, so make that a two-family outing. All occupants (grown-ups and kids) in the back two rows were impeccably behaved due to the comfort of the Rodius. The aeroplane-style roof ventilation ensured even the most travel-sick prone of children had no such problems. I'm only glad they resisted temptation to use the rear privacy glass to their best advantage and pull faces at everyone...

The Rodius makes an excellent family carrier, or even a tool for ferrying businessmen. The ride is of better than average quality; only the bumpiest roads start to betray its body control. Cornering is another matter; you sit very high, it weighs over two tonnes and the Rodius feels every bit its weight if you try to hustle it. Roll angles are exaggerated by the seat height and it's best not to chase hot hatch drivers if you want the drive to remain comfortable. The driver's seat is electrically adjustable (sadly the passenger has to move their own seat) and the driving position itself was quite comfortable. But I found the positioning of the foot operated parking brake pedal somewhat disconcerting; even a small front-end crash would probably break the driver's left ankle.

The instrument panel is centre-mounted and very clear, but with that, an additional warning light panel in front of the driver and the clock being placed above the rear view mirror, I didn't always know where to look for the required information. The warning light panel also contains gear indicator lights, although these were the only real way of telling when the gear had changed (along with engine noise). I found the moving light distracting.

The luggage space is simply enormous - the square-shaped rear body and vertical tailgate see to that. Ssangyong makes a big thing out of the fact that the Rodius is the only seven-seat MPV that can actually carry seven passengers worth of luggage too; it's much longer than the obvious competitors such as the Chrysler Voyager and the Renault Grand Espace. The loading space is low too, as the tailgate runs full length, but this brings a problem in itself. The tailgate is so heavy it really needs counterbalancing to make easier to lift and drop safely. Of course the two rear seat rows can be stowed in a number of modes to increase flexibility - you could almost move house running the Rodius as a two-seater.

In daily use, the overriding factor with the Rodius is its size. You need an awfully big space to park it, although the square rear end, slab sides and those parking sensors do make the act of parking a breeze. You just need a conveniently placed aircraft carrier to find enough space - no good for those quick trips to the shops. The Ssangyong Rodius is best confined to duties as a family car, or as previously alluded, "luxury" airport travel, and save the town errands for something a little smaller. With a starting price of just £14995 for the entry level S model, it might just be affordable as the "occasional" family car.
2007 Ssangyong Rodius range overview

ModelUK (£ on-the-road)Ireland: (€ on-the-road)
Ssangyong Rodius S manual£14,995n/a
Ssangyong Rodius SE manual£15,995n/a
Ssangyong Rodius SE automatic£17,495n/a
Ssangyong Rodius SX£21,495n/a
Ssangyong Rodius 2.7 Xdi (Cloth) n/a€35,895
Ssangyong Rodius 2.7 Xdi (Cloth) Auto n/a€38,895
Ssangyong Rodius 2.7 Xdi (Leather) Auto n/a€41,895


Trevor Nicosia - 28 Mar 2007









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2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.

2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.



2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.
 

2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.
 

2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.
 

2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.
 

2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.
 

2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.
 

2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.
 

2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.
 

2006 Ssanyong Rodius. Image by Syd Wall.
 






 

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