China's auto design industry has been lambasted for being everything from farcical to downright plagiaristic, and it has largely deserved the criticism. Nevertheless, makers like Roewe - the Chinese owners of what used to be MG Rover - soldier on, producing cars that look vaguely like the competition yet entirely pleasant on their own.

Definitely more successful than some of the wilder exploits of Ssangyong or Chery, the Roewe 550 gives us hints of Volkswagen's Passat, a slew of Lexus' cars and even a bit of Mazda's new Mazda6 (or Atenza, as it is known in some markets).

The new car features a decidedly stylish and modern interior as well, with a center-mounted tachometer flanked by digital displays and readouts for other vital stats. Also mounted alongside the instrument cluster is the GPS display - centered over the console, but part of the arching cover for the driver's station.

Specific details on the car are scant, but it is expected to be available in China with a 1.8L turbocharged four-cylinder initially. Exports are planned nearer the end of 2008.