A Van In SUV Clothing
The last time I reviewed a SsangYong, it was their Tivoli small SUV. I was left quite impressed, with its head turning style, competent driving dynamics, and loads of equipment for its sub-P1 million price tag. As a matter of fact, many people might buy the SsangYong Tivoli just because it has so much style. Now, let’s set one thing straight. People like SUVs. As a matter of fact, people are so insanely in love with SUVs, our country’s best selling car last year wasn’t anymore the Vios. Rather, it’s the Fortuner. Apart from its high driving position, it’s inbred into our culture that we carry two generations of our families inside a single vehicle, which is why seven seater vehicles are popular. Well, how about a nine seater vehicle? And no, it’s not a van or an MPV, at least on how it looks. Enter the SsangYong Rodius.
The Rodius, previously known as the Stavic in the Philippines, was an oddball of a vehicle in its previous generation. In fact, it was one of the few vehicles that came to people’s minds when nominating the world’s ugliest vehicle. For me though, I was a lot less harsh with its styling. Seeing it during my middle school years, I initially thought of the Stavic as something German, until our car went up close to it and saw the SsangYong nameplate. This current generation Rodius though, looks less controversial. It even continues to look like a European car in many angles, and it starts with the front. The front is dominated by a large hexagonal grille, flanked by large angular projector halogen headlights, with orange amber lights that also act as the turn signals. It has a long nose that makes it leaner and more muscular compared to something like a van. The side looks much cleaner now, as they got rid of the Stavic’s controversial design aspect, which is the faux coupe roofline. The rear window wraps around the sides, giving rear passengers more light, and its large, broad tail lights round up the car’s cleaner, more cohesive look.
Despite the SUV styling, the interior is very van-like, with its expansive interior space that’s dominated by a large instrument cluster placed in the middle of the dashboard. Right in front of the driver is a display for the warning lights and the gear lever position. An Android-based touch screen infotainment system provides the occupants’ entertainment needs. Leather seats come as standard, and along with the soft touch plastics adorning the dashboard and the front doors, the Rodius does a decent job of making the interior feel more upmarket. There are splashes of dark faux wood trim surrounding the interior, which does look like the real stuff, but overall, the faux wood trim does little to uplift the cabin’s primarily sober, grey vibe, not helped by the fact that it still uses green backlights for the instruments and buttons. At least there’s so much space inside the Rodius, which we’ll be talking about in a moment.
Space and Practicality
The Rodius’ biggest ace up its sleeve is its expansive amount of space. Its SUV looks won’t suggest it having the interior volume of a van, and just like a van, there’s plenty of interior storage solutions to store your bits and bobs. There’s a large bin under the air conditioning controls and under the center armrests, among others, plus the glovebox is of a generous size.
Unlike that PPV you’ve probably been eyeing, this Rodius has four rows of seats, with the second row captains chairs being the best seats in the house. Many people will find the flip up tables handy for long journeys, though we question if it can handle the weight of a large soda. There’s also USB ports in the second row to keep tech-savy people and their gadgets happy. The second and third row captains chairs are so comfortable in their own right, people seated in those rows easily fell asleep on our way from Sta. Rosa, Laguna to Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga, which is a long, three-hour drive. The captains chairs in the second and third rows are individually adjustable fore and aft, which could come in handy if you want to sit people in the fourth row, as legroom is tight for the three adults that plan to sit back there.
Features, Safety, and Infotainment
Standard features include leather seats, dual SRS airbags, a plethora of USB charging ports, power folding mirrors, a multi-function steering wheel, manual levelling headlamps, and a 7-inch Android-based touch screen system which supports AM/FM, CD, Bluetooth, AUX, USB, and MirrorLink. Being based on the Android operating system means that you have access to the Google Play Store.
Unfortunately, just like in the Tivoli, the Android-based system is fiddly to use. As it’s basically having an Android tablet glued to the dashboard, its user interface is not designed for use while driving. Aside from its graphical user interface (UI) which looks weird with crunchy and cartoonish graphics in some menus, stuff like connecting your phone through Bluetooth or changing the radio is a multi-step process buried under menus that oftentimes require looking away from the road too much. At least Waze can be fitted into the system.
In terms of safety, the Rodius is equipped with dual SRS airbags, ABS with EBD, but sadly, no form of electronic stability control. While stability control is still quite rare at this price point of SUVs, we at Go Flat Out think that stability control should be standard on all vehicles, regardless of price point and class.
Open the clamshell hood with gas strusts, and you will see its 2.0 liter inline-4 diesel engine that produces 155 hp @ 4,000 rpm and 360 Nm of torque @ 2,800 rpm. It is mated to a Mercedes-sourced 5-speed automatic transmission, powering the rear wheels. While the numbers may seem so small for a 5.13 meter long MPV, it’s actually not, as you’ll find out soon.
How It Drives
As you start-up the SsangYong Rodius, the diesel engine calmly breathes into life. Once you shut the doors closed, you’ll notice that there’s excellent sound insulation all around, keeping outside noises hushed, except for a little rumble of the diesel engine. As you increase your speed to the 100 kph speed limit at an expressway, the cabin remains hushed except for a little bit of wind whistle due to the large mirrors, Drivers will appreciate the diesel engine’s excellent torque delivery. Power delivery isn’t explosive, or in your face. Rather, it is delivered in a relaxed manner that won’t leave you feel wanting for more pull. It’s easy to overtake slower vehicles, though most of the car’s pulling power is at a rather high (for a diesel) 2,800 rpm.
Mash your foot from a stoplight, and you can actually spin the rear tires of this thing, and as you accelerate, the five speed automatic transmission works well, keeping you in the right gear for most of the time. It shifts up a bit late though, but at least power is easily accessible in most situations when you want it. If you want to put matters into your own hands, the automatic transmission can be controlled manually via a toggle switch in the gear lever itself.
The best part about the Rodius’ driving dynamics is its comfort and manoeuvrability. It has an excellent steering that’s both light to use and provides a decent amount of feedback, letting you know what the front wheels are doing. Its well engineered suspension and noise suppression make the Rodius an excellent long distance cruiser. Of course, it isn’t a sporty vehicle by any means, but body roll is so well controlled by the suspension, this large vehicle never feels cumbersome to drive. Even at triple digit speeds, the Rodius stays flat and planted, never nervous to tackle high speed drives. The Rodius also deals with medium to large bumps delicately, though small, tiny bumps go through the cabin almost unfiltered.
As we travelled through traffic-filled NLEX on a long weekend with five people on board, including our gear, we felt more relaxed than the people driving the two manual sportscars that’s part of our pack on our way to Clark International Speedway. Once arriving at the track. Everyone went inside the Rodius and fell to a serene sleep as all of us tried to recuperate our energy. The SsangYong Rodius is basically an underrated living room on wheels, at a price point that’s hard to beat.
On The Downside
The SsangYong Tivoli is the first SsangYong that was designed ever since Indian conglomerate Mahindra took over the company. The Rodius, meanwhile, was developed before Mahindra financed the company. This means the Rodius still has some weird quirks from when SsangYong was still an independent company, and it starts with the parking brake. Whether or not it is an annoyance or a good thing depends on what you, as a driver, are used to operating. The parking brake is activated by foot, and a pull of the lever (shown above) deactivates the parking brake, just like in old-school Mercedes-Benzes. Also, upon pressing the lock/unlock button in the key fob, it takes a while before the car flashes, which upon first use, might lead you to think that the car hasn’t unlocked yet unless the lights have flashed.
Then there’s the fourth row of seats. While it folds and tumbles down for more space, it still eats up too much space in the trunk if you want to use it purely for cargo carrying. This is forgivable though, since you probably won’t be using the third and fourth rows of seats that often anyway, and you can use that extra space too in the third row for cargo carrying.
Lastly, the gauge cluster has no sort of multi-information display, whatsoever. As such, we were left to compute for the car’s fuel consumption. In this regard, we managed around 8.3 km/l, which is good considering the Rodius is such a large vehicle.
The SsangYong Rodius is an underrated MPV dressed in SUV clothing. Priced at P1,490,000, pre-excise tax, as the company still has a number of vehicles at 2017 prices, the Rodius has unbeatable value for money for people looking into buying a vehicle that can carry more than seven or eight people. Though it has its weird quirks, the SsangYong Rodius has unbeatable driving dynamics for the price. It’s basically a living room on wheels, and combined with its free 3-year maintenance, the ownership experience should prove to be easy on the wallet. If you’re looking into something such as a Kia Grand Carnival, which is this car’s closest competitor, why not consider the SsangYong Rodius?
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.1 out of 5