Ssangyong Rodius 270 XDI SE - The Verdict

Its unfortunate name may have made it the butt of jokes, but David Wilkins was very impressed by the size and quality of SsangYong's new MPV

Price: £21,999
Engine: 2.7-litre turbodiesel
Performance: 0 to 62mph in 13.5 seconds, 28.5mpg
CO2: 267g/km
Worth considering: Chrysler Grand Voyager, Kia Sedona, Renault Grand Espace

The Rodius hasn't had much of a welcome in the UK; in fact, the sneering started even before it arrived, when the first photos of its unusual bodywork appeared. And SsangYong provided a hostage to fortune by giving its new car a name that rhymes with the word odious, unleashing a predictable torrent of the sorts of weak, obvious gags and puns that are the motoring writer's stock in trade. The only comedic possibility that hasn't been exploited is the potential that the allegedly silent "R" in Rodius might provide for one of those "lost consonants" cartoons, although SsangYong disobligingly omitted the second 'o' from Rodius that would have been required to make it work properly.

But after a week getting to know - and, to my surprise, rather like - the Rodius, I was beginning to imagine a different sort of cartoon; one of those HE Bateman "the man who..." affairs in which the excruciatingly embarrassed subject finds himself totally out of step with everyone else.

In it, I featured as "the motoring journalist who ventured to suggest that the SsangYong Rodius wasn't all that bad, actually".

So what made me change my mind about the Rodius? First, the styling, inside and out. I had been expecting to poke fun at this myself but when our test car turned up, it didn't, to my eyes, look too bad, although I suspect that its appearance may have been flattered by its black paintwork and heavily tinted windows.

A dark colour scheme isn't enough to turn the Rodius into a beauty but at least it allows you to get beyond the looks and consider what else it has to offer. And that's good, because the Rodius does have some strong points. These include the Mercedes-based 2.7-litre diesel engine and automatic transmission.

This combination does a good job of pulling the heavy SsangYong around, although with its low-geared steering and rather wallowy ride the Rodius is probably not going to be at the top of the keenest drivers' lists.

The Rodius's other big plus is the vast interior. It's a true seven-seater, and a generous one at that. The second row consists of two armchair-style swivelling seats, while the third row is also roomy enough to carry adults fairly easily. Even with this in place, there is still a large area to stow luggage and shopping in the boot. For the price, there is nothing to touch it for space.

But SsangYong also deserves some credit for its boldness. With the Rodius, the company has produced a genuinely interesting car that everyone is talking about, and that's a feat that some of its better-known, longer-established rivals find surprisingly difficult to pull off.

Philip Kelly, 44, and James Kelly, 12, fleet technician from Braintree, Essex
USUAL CAR: VAUXHALL CAVALIER 2.0

"From most angles it's hideous to look at - from the huge bulbous front to the loft extension at the rear. So if you have one, have it in black with dark glass so that the rear side windows blend into the body. Other downers are a huge delay before it responds to a hurry-up call from your right foot and no rear vision from the interior mirror. On the positive, it's well-equipped; I liked the electrically adjustable driver's seat and the Mercedes-Benz running gear should ensure longevity.I enjoyed the experience - from the inside."

James: "It's not as roomy as the Chrysler Voyager and the ride felt a little hard."

Gareth Tansey, 28, graphic designer from West Thurrock, Essex
USUAL CAR: LOTUS ELISE

"Initial impressions of this vehicle weren't inspiring. I've never been a fan of people carriers and when this arrived my enthusiasm didn't increase. Inside, the space was quite overwhelming. The engine was smooth and had plenty of low-end torque for an automatic, but this is to be expected when you discover it's a 2.7 Mercedes unit. Taking any corner above 30mph makes you question whether the steering wheel is connected to anything. Rear visibility was poor due to the headrest on the rear seats taking up most of the rear-view mirror. If you're after space for seven people and their luggage this is a great vehicle, but if you want style, I'd look elsewhere."

Brian Saunders, 42, consultant from New Malden, Essex
USUAL CAR: SAAB 9000

"A slick automatic gearbox, relatively smooth turbo diesel, and the light feel of the controls seem to minimise the sheer size of the Rodius, which is good because someone at SsangYong must believe that size matters. But when you have built the biggest thing possible on the outside, why not put as many seats as possible on the inside? Having just the two seats in the second row makes it a doddle to get into the third row, unlike other people carriers, but doesn't that limit the customer base? For those families who can sacrifice the extra seat and get used to the rather unusual looks and relying on door mirrors to park, the Rodius could be a sensible choice."

THE VERDICT: If you would like to take part, e-mail motoring@independent.co.uk or write to: The Verdict, Features Department, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your address, phone number and details of the car, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean licence.

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