People carriers often live a thankless life.
Everyday, these workhorses log long hours on the road, traveling between provincial roads and the hustle and bustle of the metro. To put it plainly, these vehicles have it rough from the get-go. But that’s what they’re built for; to be robust, rugged and powerful enough to take on everyday use.
SsangYong has long been marketing SUVs and people carriers that, simply put, weren't good looking like the old Stavic; a model that had the infamous distinction as being a truly ugly automobile bar none. Despite the looks, the Stavic offered space, power, practicality, and a strong (marketing-wise) relationship with Mercedes-Benz.
Today SsangYong has come a long way with their designs as they now have cars that actually look good and run better too. Like this new generation Rodius.
Truth be told, the Rodius is essentially the new generation Stavic, and in other markets, it's still known by the latter. The design, however, is completely different.
While it still looks imposing, the Rodius veers away from its Mercedes-Benz origins. More rounded shapes dominate the entirety of the vehicle while the large projector halogens at the front are a particular favorite of mine. Same goes for the chrome fixtures at the front grill and bumper which gives the Rodius a more upscale feel.
The Stavic, err, Rodius is big; really big. It does not try to hide it's size but the flowing lines, signature faux coupe roofline and kinked D-pillar does give the Rodius a sense of style. I also like the simpler taillights and tailgate design as the previous generation had a far more unconventional design. All in all, the new Rodius' exterior is more contemporary and flowing; a far cry from the Stavic's look of old... a vehicle that only it's designer can love.
Climb aboard and the Rodius greets with you leather upholstery, faux wood trim and a mix of soft- and hard-touch plastics. The driver’s seat is power adjustable and quite comfy though the lack of lumbar support meant my lower back was slightly sore from long drives. Providing in-car entertainment is a touchscreen infotainment system that comes with navigation, Bluetooth, smartphone mirror link and wi-fi connectivity. It's the same head unit found in other SsangYong vehicles and while it does have the benefit of Android, a better smartphone mirror-link system and better sounding speakers would do nicely.
The dashboard looks dated but all of the functions and displays are spread out evenly and are not hard to miss. Since this is the top-spec variant, it comes with automatic climate control and a separate fan with individual vents for the rear occupants. Compared to the mid-range EX9 which struggled to keep the cabin cool in hot weather, the top-spec ELX had no trouble whatsoever. Like the EX9, this one also has a center-mounted instrument panel. New, however is the digital display in front of the steering wheel. It comes with a speedometer, gear indicator, tripmeter, average fuel consumption and notification lights.
All well and good but I do find the interior's build quality slightly disappointing. Every time the SUV goes over rumble strips and rough patches of road, it feels like the dashboard is going to come apart while the back seats shake and rattle. Perhaps better quality checks could mend these problems.
Driving this nearly 5.2 meter behemoth is a small but capable 2.0-liter turbo diesel inline-four with CRDi. It produces an admirable 155 PS at 4000 rpm along with 360 Nm of pulling power at 2800 rpm. Unlike the 1.6 diesel in the Tivoli XLV which was relatively hush, this one lets out an audible clatter. But this SUV does have an ace over many MPV and people carriers: all-wheel-drive.
Even though Ssangyong branded this top-of-the-line Rodius as an AWD, the ELX 7 actually has a switchable 4WD system which comes particularly handy in case one has to traverse the rough terrain. It even has the added benefit of 4-Low for when things start to get really hairy off the beaten path.
Power delivery from the compact turbo-diesel is smooth and not particularly lacking. In fact, I was quite surprised it was more than capable of pulling this leviathan. Since there was always plenty of torque down below, overtaking slower vehicles posed no problem and acceleration on the highway was good as well . The 5-speed automatic gearbox was well-matched with the engine and it always knows when to shift up or shift down. It comes with manual select but I left the transmission in D most of the time since it was doing a great job of going through the cogs. The brakes are equally good though I would have liked them more if they were a little more responsive.
With just me inside the Rodius, it was able to return about 15.3 km/l. On the other hand, city driving netted me a 7.7 km/l average. When fully loaded with passengers, average highway fuel consumption hovered around 13 – 13.5 km/l. Around the city, you can expect the Rodius to return about 6.3 km/l when carrying additional passengers.
While handling is not its forte, the Rodius is actually not that difficult to navigate through tight turns. This is thanks to the SUV's light steering, good visibility and car-like steering angle. I was expecting the Rodius to be a handful but was I glad it handled more like a car-based MPV.
Ride quality, on the other hand is average. With only me inside the SUV, the Rodius tends to shake at the slightest of bumps and road imperfections. When fully loaded with seven people, ride comfort is marginally better but SsangYong could have done a lot more to improving its ride quality without sacrificing carrying capacity. For those that are curious, the front axle has double wishbones while the rear gets a multi-link setup.
Most will agree the second row captain chairs are the best seats in the house, or in this case the SUV. Both seats come with armrests along with folding tables that are fitted on the back of the front seats. Those that need to charge their gadgets or smartphones will be glad to know that the center console has USB charging slot and a 12V power socket. The third row has seating for three and each have individual seatbelts for added safety.
With a sticker price of PhP 1,590,000, the top-spec Rodius AWD ELX 7 is actually very well loaded for the price. It may not be up there there amongst the likes of other people carriers like the Hyundai Starex, Toyota Grandia, Kia Carnival, and other similar models, but what the Rodius lacks in familiarity and in design, it makes up for with its potent powertrain, 4WD capability and standard safety features (this one gets reverse sensors, reverse camera, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control).
Its ride is not its best attribute nor its interior build quality, but in all honesty the Rodius performed surprisingly well. If one is in the market for a large 7-seater that is not a pickup-platform vehicle (PPV) or a crossover, then the Rodius is certainly worth a look.