Text and photos by Eric Tipan
What do you get when ‘road’ and ‘Zeus’ are combined? I know it doesn’t really compute like 1+1=2 but the answer is ‘Rodius’ — as in Ssangyong’s multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) Rodius.
Making its debut at the Manila International Auto Show (MIAS) last year, it’s available in three seating configurations: a 7-, 9- and 11-seater, all using the same engine but with a choice of two transmissions, a six-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic.
I take the EX (two-wheel drive, 9-seater) for a few days and though the Rodius may still be an infant in ‘auto years’ (it’s just a second-generation) I detail eight factors that will make you give it a long and thorough second look.
Much improved exterior
Out of the four color options, Grand White seems to be the one that makes the exterior more grandiose compared to Fine Silver, Cyber Grey and Wine Black.
It’s still a little rough around the edges but compared to the first-gen, it toned down on the outrageous styling, like the PT Cruiser looking façade merged with a slim and slanting C-pillar.
With a wider grille, sharper looking headlamps and a highly defined C-pillar, its aura is more dignified and its profile, befitting a proper MPV.
Modern infotainment system
The operating system of the seven-inch LCD touchscreen may be third-party but it does come with the necessary applications for the modern driver.It has the basic Bluetooth connection to make hands-free calls through your mobile device and even comes MirrorLink-ready so that apps that you run on your smartphone can be managed on the touchscreen or using the buttons on the steering wheel.
There’s a USB port in front and also one in the second row to make it convenient even for passengers to either connect to the infotainment system or simply charge their devices.
Because of the interior’s breadth, the cockpit is pretty well laid out. So well in fact that Sssangyong gave the Rodius two instrumentation panels:a small one in front of the driver with the gear indicator and warning lamps; and a bigger one in the middle, above the seven-inch touchscreen with the speedometer, tach, fuel and temp.Because of all the space, buttons come extra-large and are very easy to find.
Plush interior amenities
The two-tone cockpit comes with soft-touch materials on the dash and a silver panel in the middle for contrast. Parts of the door panel also have leather inserts.
All the seats and the steering wheel are wrapped in greyish leather that’s so new it feels like it needs a bit of breaking in just to give it a cozier look.
The front seats are adjustable manually and though very robust, lacks a more ergonomic design to increase comfort during long drives.
The second row offers captain seats while the third row is a two-seater, but only the second row occupants get seat-back tables.
What I like about the seats on the middle rows is the fact that all four sit on a rail that allows them to slide forwards and backwards to either free up space for the second row, third row or for equal space for both rows.When configured with all seats upright, the center aisle gives you easy access to the last row to dump bags and other sizable stuff.
It may only be using a 2.0L diesel engine, but turbocharging gives it 360 Nm of torque that makes it drive like you’re behind the wheel of a subcompact.I may have been driving 90-percent of the time alone in a 9-seater, but be that as it may, I’ll go out on a limb and still say that even with a loaded cabin, that engine can still deliver snappy acceleration.
With a rear-wheel drive platform and the aforementioned torque, even its almost two-ton weight doesn’t feel cumbersome in any way.Steering feels very light, which perfectly masks the heft.Even with a 6.1 meter turning radius, it didn’t struggle too much in mall alleys and tight turns in the city.
Ssangyong may still be on the comeback trail here and with only two dealerships for now (one in Quezon City and the other in Cebu), it still has a long way to go.But if you’re looking for a large carrier with modern amenities, higher than entry-level appointments, a capable engine with fun drive, at only P1.490 million, the 2017 SsangyongRodius 2.0 EX 9-seater seems very reasonably priced.