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First look: Riotous Rodius challenges Kia

Radiant Rodius: Keen pricing and distinctive design might even make the Rodius the darling of the MPV set.

With its looks and packaging, both the Carnival and circus are the Rodius’ targets

27 Apr 2004

KIA’S stranglehold on the cheaper end of the full-sized people-mover market in Australia is to be challenged by Ssangyong.

The struggling South Korean car-maker last week unveiled the A100 series Rodius.

Scheduled for a Sydney motor show debut in October, the newest Ssangyong should be priced from under $40,000 to upwards of $50,000.

According to a company press release, Rodius somehow combines the words “road” and “Zeus” – a union that’s as curious as the Ssangyong’s styling.

In a nutshell, the Rodius is a seven-plus seater people-mover/SUV, with luggage space to spare. Some models in South Korea can accommodate up to 11 passengers.

It is based on the platform of the Chairman, the 1985-1995 Mercedes-Benz W124-derived luxury car that sells in relatively high numbers in South Korea.

Drive will either be directed to the rear or all four wheels, depending on the model.

Power comes courtesy of a Mercedes-sourced 2.7-litre common-rail four-cylinder turbo-diesel CRD unit mated to a five-speed Tiptronic-style automatic gearbox.

Pumping out 121kW of power and a minimum of 340Nm of torque, the CRD device is a Generation III engine that’s already Euro 4 emissions compatible.

The company is confident Australian MPV buyers will be turned on to the impressive (and unique) fuel economy benefits driving on diesel will bring.

Currently only the off-road orientated seven-seater 4WDs like the Mitsubishi Pajero and Nissan Patrol offer diesel economy.

Ssangyong’s other Mercedes motor, the classic 3.2-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol unit, producing 162kW and 312Nm respectively and seen here in the Rexton and Musso models, is due in the last quarter of next year.

The Rodius goes on sale in South Korea from mid May, with export sales starting in the latter half of this year.

With its sweeping pillars, long overhangs and flared wheelarches, the Rodius’ striking styling is sure to create a stir, particularly in the hitherto mundane MPV market.

The Ssangyong follows the inspired South Korean tradition of automotive grandiosity exemplified by 1997’s memorable Hyundai SLV concept.

It will be fascinating to see if Australian people-mover buyers – always a conservative bunch – warm to it.

Russell Burling, managing director of Rapson Holdings (distributors of Ssangyong vehicles in Australia and New Zealand), would not divulge sales forecasts, but he does believe the Rodius will be a winner.

“Sales will be better than even we first thought,” he said, adding that the Rodius was the first of many.

“BMW and Mercedes-Benz (with the rumoured R-Class MPV/SUV crossover) are already working on theirs.” Mr Burling also assured GoAuto that the Rodius was a good looker in the flesh, describing it as “futuristic”.

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