The SsangYong Rodius is a full size seven seat people carrier from Korea that is… how can I put this kindly… distinctive!
€39,995 gets you a heap of metal and a two, two, three seating set up. SsangYong’s own e-XDi 178hp/400nm 2.2 litre diesel engine is used, so road tax in Ireland has dropped from what was an outrageous €1,200 to a still shocking €750 – that’s a lot of cash to find out of the family purse once a year.
After a few kilometres of testing the 2.2 tonne machine I realised that Rodius is better suited to Taxi or shuttle work than as premium family transport. 40K is a lot of cash that could get you a Skoda Kodiaq, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento or Seat Alhambra to name a few seven seaters. As a car Rodius offers little in the way of driving dynamics. There is new multi link rear suspension but overall the ride quality and handling left me cold. Once on the move the car is fine, but getting up to the cruise and general manoeuvering is less than joyous. The Rodius has a good warranty at 5 years unlimited mileage – including roadside assistance. The original Rodius was a hideous monster to look at but inside – it was a tardis with great carrying capacity. The latest Rodius is still vast inside but it remains a challenging car to look at and the cabin and switchgear is quite dated. However, SsangYong Ireland is doing a great job of filing up its cars with standard equipment that would be optional extras for its rivals. Rodius is a niche player that wil find some happy customers who need its large 80 litre fuel tank and 2 tonne towing capacity.
The Ireland market was not high on the agenda at SsangYong with Rodius despite the original’s being designed by an Englishman and its underpinnings, engine and gearbox being sourced from Mercedes-Benz parts bin. Some cars are built for specific markets and Rodius was built for Asia and other minivan markets. Build quality, engine choice and even interior layout can be honed to service certain market places and countries – you can even get an 11-seater Rodius in Asia!
* Stay with me as I stray from the review a little. In more extreme cases cars built for sub-Saharan Africa or Asia as a rule need to be durable and easily repairable. The simple reason for this is that transport requirements in those markets is more basic than in Europe. In Europe basic cars are not admired or desired and our safety laws often exclude some models completely.
There is a huge debate about whether car makers should sell basic low cost cars in some countries. I’m talking about machines without basic safety features like ABS brake, airbags etc. that are known poor performers in crash tests. The counter point to this was stated to me by a senior European head of design who basically put it to me ‘isn’t it better to get a family into a car and off a Honda 50 with no helmets… he had a point. We are quite demanding and even snobbish in Europe about our cars. Europeans often dismiss even American metal as being primitive. You see we live in a lovely smug little bubble in Europe where we enjoy choosing cars from a menu of the best in the world. European drivers demand sophistication and engineering precision. Car makers all over the globe know this fact and try to mimic it in their own homegrown machines and sometimes try to sell them back to Europe. China for example is masterful at importing whole, often obsolete car production lines or many or all of the component parts needed to make a European standard car. The car created is built for a fraction of the cost and seldom the quality of the original. In theory this instant car building trick should work… but it hasn’t yet. Designers can be lured from Europe to other countries to pen machinery too – and this should work , shouldn’t it. In 2006 Korean carmaker Kia brought Peter Schreyer, who penned the original Audi TT, to its parent’s attention. Hyundai’s design chief is overseeing the Hyundai/Kia motor group’s great looking range of machines. Sadly Ken Greenley’s original 2004 Rodius failed to inspire any admiring glances in Europe. The good news is that SsangYong’s currently crop of concept cars look much more promising… all we need to do is wait for them to be built!
The best thing I can say about the Rodius is… the Tivoli. The little crossover SUV is a much more attractive proposition for Irish buyers and is SsangYong’s best effort yet.