SsangYong Rodius review:
270 ES Auto
by David Finlay (9 December 2011)
Although the company seems to be on a more secure footing now, availability of SsangYongs in the UK has been sporadic in recent years. One thing, however, has remained constant: if you have been able to buy a SsangYong at all, you've been able to buy a Rodius.
The Rodius is famous for being regarded by many observers of sound mind as being the ugliest car on sale in this country. (Perhaps it now has a rival in the shape of the MINI Countryman. Who am I to judge?) I seem to remember its British designer, Ken Greenley, being asked in an interview if he agreed with this opinion, and his reply was along the lines of, "You can't expect me to answer that while I'm sober." I hope this is true and I didn't dream it, because it's a fabulous line.
Greenley has also defended the shape of the Rodius, saying it makes sense in Korea. Be that as it may, it's not an elegant device. But once all the joking has died down it has to be recognised that this is a very large vehicle (ample room for six, over 3000 litres of space if you fold down all but two of the seats) which in its most basic form costs just £14,995.
There are Fiestas which cost more than that. And the Rodius could swallow them whole.
Even the most expensive Rodius, the EX automatic, can be yours for less than £21,000. And you'll be asked £18,495 for the ES reviewed here, or £1500 less if you opt for the manual-transmission version.
Don't expect a premium experience. The interior plastics feel very cheap and, to judge by this low-mileage example, exceptionally prone to scuffing. But there is a lot of room for one child and six adult passengers, of whom the ones in the middle row have two kinds of seatbelt - a lap-and-diagonal for normal use, and a lap-only one if they choose to face backwards on the journey, as their seats allow them to.
All those seats are upholstered in leather. They're heated, too. And there's separate air-conditioning for the rear (with a vent at roof level on the left-hand side). ESP, front and rear foglights, roof rails and three 12v power outlets are also fitted as standard. It's not a bad specification for the money.
The extras on the test car were competitively priced too. It had a detachable towbar and electrics for £478, metallic paint for £500 (and let's face it, you would need a great deal of paint to cover an entire Rodius) and a combination of Kenwood touchscreen satellite navigation, an MP3/CD/DCD player and iPod and Bluetooth connectivity for £999.
There have been some minor changes since I last drove a Rodius in 2008. Back then, you could have a storage box mounted between the front seats. The two really good things about this were, first, that it was enormous and, second, that it had its own handle and wheels, so you could take it out and use it as a shopping trolley. A brilliant idea, I thought, but SsangYong customers didn't think much of it, and it's now been deleted. Pity.
The first really major change in Rodius history will happen in the second half of 2012. Until now, the only engine offered in the car has been an old 2.7-litre diesel built by Mercedes-Benz (though with a different fuel injection system). It's served the car reasonably well, but it will soon be replaced by SsangYong's own, more powerful two-litre version, which I can assure you is significantly better because I've already experienced it in the new Korando.
Maybe it will be better to wait till then before buying a Rodius, if that's what you plan to do. On the other hand, this is not a car which is defined by its engine. If you're on a small budget, you need a colossal vehicle for whatever reason, and you care nothing about style (or you have a penchant for postmodern irony), you might as well go for it straight away.