2004 SsangYong Rodius – The Essence of Luxury Yacht

…that was the intention behind the design, says Wikipedia but the allegation is not supported by a reference.

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At the moment I am conducting an inquiry into whether ugly cars can tell us anything about the aesthetic experience. This research calls for some examples and the 2004 Ssanyong Rodius is one of the great ugly cars of recent times by common consensus. What is wrong with it and how was it supposed to be seen? It was too tall and the wheel-base too short. In brief, the proportions were incorrect by a long way. But had it remained a van nobody would have cared.

2004 Ssang Yong Rodius side view

For the fourth image I reduced the size of the green house and tried to align the A-pillar with the front axle (so it was in line with it). The photo amendments are not refined so you may have to squint to ignore my artless daubings. That was another advantage of a long shot.

The lesson of this car is that it’s best not to try to push the graphics too far ahead of the actual package. There is nothing wrong with a big van to haul people: pretending it’s a yacht is just expecting too much of the tailoring and tweaking that is sometimes used to fib a little in automotive design.


Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

11 thoughts on “2004 SsangYong Rodius – The Essence of Luxury Yacht”

  1. I always enjoy this kind if analysis by you, Richard – without meaning to blow smoke up your proverbials, you’ve changed the way I look at vehicles. On this occasion, I’m not sure I agree with part of your analysis.

    In the caption on one of the photos Tha you have adapted, you imply that the designer did not want us to see the top rear edge/ corner of the roofline. Given the comment made by the designer (a Brit, from memory) about luxury yacht, I think that it is precisely the whole rear graphic, including the way that the roofline is visible and appears to provide a canopy over the rear cabin, that provides the reference he makes.

    Oddly, as time has gone by, the horror factor of this vehicle has eroded for me partly because I can see what they were trying to achieve. It remains the mismatch between front and rear as well as the lack of sophistication in details such as head and tail lamps that still put me off.

    1. I agree with Robinson. It is supposed to be read as an original arched form with a protruding roofline added onto it. Like it was a later architectural added on at a later time. It’s the same kind of architectural school that built mansions for the 19th century landed gentry by deliberately designing them in disparate clashing styles. The finished house was supposed to be read like it had been an older smaller entity with several wings added on in different styles as time went by instead of being completely made up and fabricated at once.

  2. Where do you start in a critique of The Rodius? I do a lot of work affiliated to the yacht industry, so I’m used to looking at yachts, but it wasn’t until I read Ken Greenleys’s explanation of the Rodius that I realised that the rear loadspace shape was meant to suggest the bridge of a luxury yacht. I’m loath to criticise individual designers, since it’s hard to know the political compromises needed in the genesis of a particular design and, although they might not be pleased with the end result themselves, they need to be loyal to their employers and the people they worked with. However, since Greenley is also a teacher, I would comment on encouraging the use of other objects from other disciplines as inspiration.

    A yacht works on a completely different scale and, although modern yachts are often highly styled, rather than plainly functional, flying bridges are like that because they need to hold radio aerials, radar, etc. So making that reference on a car is as relevant as, say, using basement railings on a building as a starting point for the design of car sills.

    The Ssangyong was unfortunate in that it was a car that absolutely everyone knew was ugly. Most ‘ugly’ cars have some admirers (I and seven other people whose names I keep in a sealed safe think the Multipla an outstanding piece of design) but everyone kicked the Rodius – it appears in endless Ten Worst listicles, usually at the top. A shame for Ssangyong since, for those who didn’t need driving dynamics, the car was by all accounts wonderfully roomy and would have been a perfect choice for those who might otherwise look at something like a Toyota Previa.

    1. I meant to underline that, although Wikipedia says it needs a citation, I did indeed read an interview with Ken Greenley (Car Magazine?) where he was veryspecific about the yacht reference.

  3. I had a look at some speedyachts and many have this cantilevered platform. I had no real idea that KG was trying to wallpaper that design onto his van. I want to give KG the benefit of the doubt personally and I will assume he was up against it for some reason. So, let´s not heap blame on him but the entirety of Ssang Yong´s management for letting it get this far. Moving on, I see I need to do some new diagrams to address SV´s point.

    1. This is the sort of thing he was hinting at.

      My (albeit vague) memory of the interview is that KG was being quite defensive, not personally but of his design team. It’s quite easy for an imported designer to distance themselves, claiming their intentions were misinterpreted so, on a moral if not aesthetic scale, his defense of the design deserves credit.

    2. It´s very decent of him to try to defend his colleagues. What a tricky situation to be in. We must thank him for providing a good example of what can go wrong. The vast majority of cars are quite alright. That means it´s hard to learn from other people´s mistakes becuase they so seldom make production.

  4. For some reason I had been assuming for years that the Rodius had been influenced by the Italdesign Columbus MPV show car. Then I actually looked at a photo of the Columbus to remind myself what it looked like and realised that if Greenley and co had been inspired by Giugiaro’s campervan-sized 7-seater they must have been looking at it backwards.

    1. Goodness. What a turkey that is. It is two vehicles blended together. It is a showcar and we applaud it. However, I can´t imagine a single part of this going anywhere.

  5. Also, even though the car is considered one of the ugliest creations ever it really doesn’t matter, because Ssangyong is such a small maker nobody really cares what they do anyway. It’s not a matter of losing sales because they didn’t have any sales to begin with. And all the hubbub about the design can only have made it sell so much more. I think it’s an interesting case of a company letting a designer completely loose because they knew they had exactly nothing to lose and everything to gain doing so. Had Greenley done this as a regular boring bus nobody had cared a rats ass about it.

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