2007 Kia Rondo
2007 Kia Rondo Expert Review:Autoblog
click on the above image to view additional pics of the 2007 Kia Rondo EX
We just gave back the keys to a vehicle that would have shamed my old Camaro RS in more than just number of usable seats. It also had 12 more horses from two fewer cylinders, drank a little less gas, had a sunroof that probably won't leak until well after the 10 year warranty runs out and would carry as many as seven full-grown friends.
Kia's new Rondo is classified as a compact MPV in Europe, where it's been sold as the Carens since 2003. Add 17" wheels and that 182 hp V6, and Uncle Sam calls it a midsize wagon. Kia, of course, wants you to call it a crossover. Most shoppers will see it as a stylish, comfortable, affordable people-mover. Just don't call it a minivan.
Maybe all that name calling is what gave the Rondo somewhat of a personality disorder, because it's not really sure what it is either. With seven seats, a family-attractive price, durable upholstery and room for baby junk in the trunk, it might be the perfect kid-carrier. But with those 17-inch chrome wheels; that muscular 182-horsepower V6; a 10-speaker, subwoofered, Infinity stereo and a manumatic 5-speed, it could easily be a sport sedan.
Our tester for 14 days was a black-cherry Rondo EX with fog lights, roof rails, a classy chrome rub strip below the doors, chrome door handles and grille inserts and big shiny Kia logos on both snout and tail. Inside it had a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, power sunroof and cubby holes galore. According to the sticker, a real buyer would have to part with $22,495 including $600 in delivery charges and $500 for the third-row option to own this Rondo.
Our first impression of the Kia after seeing it sitting next to a PT Cruiser was how much longer, wider and taller the Korean is than we expected. It's a fairly large vehicle, almost a foot longer than the PT, four inches taller and wider, on a wheelbase only three inches longer than the Chrysler. Those dimensions are all within a few inches of Rondo's real competition, the Mazda 5.
The interior pieces look nice and fit together well, but feel cheap and hard. The Rondo had fewer than 6,000 miles on it but the steering column was already badly scratched from misaligned keys. Cupholders and storage bins were numerous and lined with rubber pads, which is nice. Not nice is that those liners won't come out, making common baby spills nasty to clean up. My wife liked the innovative addition of the bag hook on the passenger side, but wished our tester had the dealer-installed cargo net in back.
One family member likened the seats' "double raschel" fabric to dirt-collecting door mats, a concern we have as well. The upholstery felt durable and will probably hold up well to wear, but those tiny little indentations are destined to be filled with all manner of crushed Cheerios and scattered saltines. We'd be interested to see how the optional leather seat covers compare.
Once the third-row seats were flattened, the car easily carried our traveling gear. Luggage, baby stroller, groceries all fit with room to spare. My wife had no problem unloading a grocery cart into the cargo space and found the rear door easily opened and closed. With the rear-most seats in use, cargo space virtually disappears. Any trip with more than five people and bags are going on top. With the front seats pushed to comfortable positions, the second row can get a little tight on passengers' knees. Luckily the second row slides fore and aft as well, providing some versatility there. Put short-legged tots in the third seat or else you'll get complaints. It's tight back there.
Any car I drive needs to have a hole in the roof. I'm just weird like that. The Rondo's power roof though was positioned to shed happy sunshine either on the back of my head or the rear passengers' feet. A few inches forward or aft would have made it much more enjoyable to at least one row of seats.
The Rondo has a long list of standard and optional features, but there are a few conspicuously missing. Where's the iPod support, or at least an auxiliary audio jack? Satellite radio? Outside temperature guage? Compass? Power seats? Rear DVD for the kids? None of them available even on upper end models. Leaving those things off keeps prices down, but will it keep families out of the showroom?
One big selling point for the Rondo is safety. Kia packs all versions of the car with standard ABS, stability control, and six airbags. If you'll be hauling a tiny tot, you'll like how easily a child seat can be installed in the middle row. The LATCH attachment points are easily accessed and, with as much rear head room as a Honda Odyssey (40"), there's plenty of space to pull those straps tight. Experts advise putting child seats in the center position for greatest safety, which is no problem to accomplish in the Rondo, but doing so prevents the middle seats from folding forward, which blocks access to the third row.
LX model Rondos come with 16-inch wheels, but our EX Rondo's optional 17s help make its somewhat tall, fat dimensions look and feel more lithe and athletic. Several observers didn't believe how big its shoes were until checking the Michelins' sidewalls. And this is where we hit one of the vehicle's personality quirks. Yeah, sure, those oversized shoes do a commendable job ridding the car of the minivan stigma, but Mommy and Daddy can barely afford Junior's shoes, much less 225/50 R17's that can run as high as $900 a set. To be fair, other brands (we prefer Black & Round™) can be had for a good bit less, but just know that original spec replacements ain't cheap.
The choose-your-own-gears transmission is nice on a car in this class and price range. If only the Rondo trusted the driver to know which gear was needed. The transmission forced second to third too quickly, but didn't allow fourth to fifth until way late. So the manumatic is no good for cool, autocrossing parents and worthless for squeezing a few more miles out of each precious gallon.
And that brings up another catch: fuel mileage. My dad always says, "If you've got horses, you gotta feed 'em." And the Rondo's got some pretty hungry horses. Kia claims 21/29 for the 4 cylinder and 20/27 for the V6. In two weeks, we put a little over 600 miles on the odometer and ran about 33 gallons through the 15.8 gallon tank.
Roughly estimated, we averaged about 23.5 miles per gallon. I'll admit my right foot weighs more than my left, but in my defense, that V6 is nice to hear. The Rondo even gives you a moment or two to enjoy that beastly growl before actually moving. From a standstill, the engine easily overcomes even the grip of those front 17s, but on the highway, a stab of the accelerator brings a second of lag before things get going, then takes its sweet time settling back into cruising gear.
Other than the occasional foot-induced outburst from the under the hood, the Kia was pleasantly quiet. A 300-mile round trip to J.P. Coleman State Park in Mississippi was comfortable and enjoyable mostly. The one comfort complaint came from the driver's seat. There seemed to be no comfortable place for the driver's left elbow. The window sill was perfect height, but too rounded for a rest, the door pull too low to be useful.
Fuel-consumption on the highway rose to a more acceptable level, and the seats were easily adjustable (though no power adjust is available) for the long haul. The view out of the unfashionably-tall glass was welcome in both traffic and on the roads around picturesque Pickwick Lake.
My uncle, a professional mechanic, gave the Kia a once over and, well, honestly, wasn't completely in love with it. The 17-inch wheels excited him, but only because he sells tires as well. His biggest concern as a mechanic was with the car's long term reliability.
Another gearhead family member and father of two liked most of what the Rondo offered, but wasn't about to trade in his 9-year-old Toyota Sienna for one. He admired the available V6, the comfortable ride and the amenities at the price. But the real killer for him? Kia's reliability record.
And that's what we heard from most people we talked to about Kia's Rondo. "Nice car," they said. "How long will it last?" Clearly the job of erasing Kia's cheapo image falls on the shoulder of its 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain and 5-year/60,000-mile basic limited warranty, but maybe Rondo buyers should take my friend Bill's advice. Lease it for two years, and let someone else worry about replacing the tires.
New Car Test Drive
All-new small utility vehicle seats seven.
The Kia Rondo is an all-new vehicle. Kia calls it a five-door crossover utility vehicle.
The Rondo is capable of carrying seven adults. Yet it's small, just 179 inches long. That's 2.5 inches shorter than the six-passenger Mazda5. Sure, the Toyota RAV4 can seat seven, but it costs $3,000 more and offers less legroom in the third row. The Rondo gives you the size of the RAV4 at the price of the smaller Toyota Matrix; and we're not big fans of the aging Matrix.
We found the ride, handling and brakes of the Kia Rondo excellent. It's a good vehicle for long trips and zooming around town. The seats, cloth or leather, are comfortable. The driver sits relatively high and the Rondo feels like neither a car nor a sport utility, which is what a crossover is about. Besides people, it can haul lots of stuff; just flip down the back two rows of seats.
A new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine comes standard, and it's strong. It comes with a four-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode and gets an EPA-estimated 21/29 City/Highway miles per gallon.
A smooth 2.7-liter V6 with a five-speed automatic is optional. It's rated 20/27 mpg, delivers more thrust more smoothly and adds just $1,000 to the retail price, making it a bargain.
Kia is the best imitator in the business. Kia designers and engineers look closely at other vehicles, and produce a virtual composite of the best ideas. But there's no lack of originality here, because the Rondo is unique. It's the only game in town for seven-passenger transportation in a small, safe, low-cost, high-mileage package.
Kia's marketing motto is 'the power to surprise,' and the Korean carmaker has done so again, with the Rondo.
The 2007 Kia Rondo comes in LX and EX models with a choice of four-cylinder and V6 engines.
The Rondo LX ($17,895) comes with air conditioning, remote keyless entry, cruise control, alloy wheels, a 60/40 fold-flat rear seat, and power windows, locks and mirrors. Also available, at least on paper, is a stripper model called the LX 93202 ($16,395) that comes without air conditioning, remote entry and cruise control.
The Rondo EX ($19,195) adds a higher-grade cloth interior with leather trim, 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome grille, door handles and molding, foglamps, heated mirrors, windshield de-icer, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, lights for the vanity mirrors, and a CD/MP3 six-speaker sound system. Optional is a package with a 10-speaker Infinity sound system and a sunroof ($1200).
The 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder that comes standard makes 162 horsepower and is paired with a four-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode called Sportmatic. The optional 2.7-liter dohc V6 produces 182-horsepower and comes with a five-speed Sportmatic.
The LX V6 ($18,895) and EX V6 ($20,195) are EPA-rated 20/27 mpg City/Highway, compared to 21/29 mpg with the four-cylinder, making the V6 a good value.
Safety equipment on every Rondo includes front airbags, side airbags in front, full-length airbag curtains, anti-lock disc brakes, electronic stability control, and a tire pressure monitor.
Options include the third-row seat ($500); leather interior with heated front seats for the EX ($1000); and a body kit ($995) consisting of a front spoiler, rear valance, side sill skirts, wheel arch moldings and a rear lower spoiler. Roof rails come standard, but the crossbars to make them functional are optional ($200). A cargo cover is available as a dealer accessory.
The Kia Rondo isn't the kind of vehicle you would look at and think seven-seater. That's its beauty. Like the Mazda 5, it takes one small step toward making the minivan obsolete; it will do what a minivan will do, sacrificing a bit of room for more miles per gallon.
The Rondo looks like a cross between a minivan and a five-door hatchback, and not like a small SUV. It has a clean design, with a nicely sloped hood, trapezoidal headlamps with four smooth corners, and a tidy grille that's sort of Acura-shaped. The chin fascia holds projector-beam foglamps on the EX and a dark horizontal air opening below the grille.
The Rondo EX has chrome slats in the grille, chrome door handles and a chrome strip on the side, but the cheaper LX, with a black grille and no chrome on the side, looks cleaner.
The pillars are black, creating an unbroken glass effect with tinted windows. The C-pillar slopes down and back, with the lower rim rising to meet it and shape an upswept three-quarter rear window that offers a decent view for the third-row passengers, although it could be bigger. The rear glass is a simple large rectangle, a bit wider on the bottom and smoothly sloped. It doesn't open separately.
Looking at the Rio from a rear angle, it has an almost BMW-ish resemblance, although the big curved taillamps curve inward like a Volvo wagon or SUV.
Because the Rondo was designed to be roomy on the inside, the wheelbase is long when compared to the total length, making very short overhangs. The five-spoke alloy wheels are simple, silver, and individual, with each of the five spokes having a stylish twist.
Although the Rondo is new to North America, this is its third generation, having been sold in Asia and Europe for years.
Kia says there are 32 different seating configurations in a Rondo with the optional third-row seat, counting all the ways the three rows divide, recline and fold.
Since the roomy seating is what makes the Rondo special, let's start with a tale of the tape: leg room in the front, middle and third rows is 41.3, 38.2 and 31.3 inches, compared to 40.7, 35.2 and 30.7 in the Mazda5, and 41.8, 38.3 and 30.0 in the RAV4. But inches expressed as numbers on a page aren't necessarily conclusive. Indeed, the Rondo feels considerably more roomy than the RAV4.
In the second row, with the sliding seat all the way back, you can extend your legs.
In the third-row seat, we found reasonable knee and head room for our 5-foot, 10-inches, although we had to put our feet together and splay our knees. It's cozy and personal back there; on each side of the third row, there's a good-sized storage bin with a flip-up top like a console, and one cupholder. Kids can put their stuff in there.
The second row is split 60/40, and both sides slide forward to increase legroom in the third row; that's also how you climb back there. The second-row seats recline, as well.
For cargo carrying, both the second and third rows fold flat quickly; the second-row seat cushion folds forward and the seatback flops down, with the headrest flipping back. Each side of each row folds separately, so a long space can be created on one side of the car, suitable for, say, a short kayak. The front passenger seat doesn't fold flat, so you can't fit a long kayak inside. For that, you'd need to purchase the $200 crossbars for the roofrails.
There's good storage space with the third row folded flat or with no optional third row at all. With all the rear seats down, there's a lot of cargo space. With the third row in use, there's only room behind the seat for a couple of brief cases. You can easily reach in and raise or lower the third-row seats through the liftgate.
We drove both the Rondo LX and EX models, with cloth and leather interior. The cloth looks better in gray than beige: less fuddy-duddy. The perforated gray leather seats added a real touch of class, along with $1000 to the price. After a full day of driving, the cloth bucket seats in the LX, our test model, were still comfortable. The Rondo is a great vehicle for a road trip.
In the front seats, the passenger has tons of leg and elbow room, and the comfortable seat reclines if he or she wants to take a nap. The driver's seat is high and affords good visibility; from behind the wheel, the Rondo feels like neither an SUV nor a car, which is what a crossover is about. There's excellent visibility front and rear, with lots of glass so there are no blind spots when looking over your shoulder.
The doors open wide and are easy to open and close, and each has a grab handle nearby. Other cabin touches are well planned, including good lighting, a comfortable armrest for the driver, door pockets with a fixed bulge for a big water bottle, a purse hanger on the right side of the center stack, climate vents for the second row, and other touches.
The dashboard and instrument panel layout and design are sharp and efficient, finished in graphite with orange mood lighting for the gauges. The climate ducts are round and balanced, and the knobs are easy to understand and operate. The leather-wrapped steering wheel on the EX feels great, and there are steering wheel controls, as well.
There's a storage compartment right on top of the dashboard, more convenient for the driver than the good-sized glovebox because it's easily reachable. The automatic shift lever is located up on the center stack, giving more room for the console between the seats, which is deep and square. Forward of the console compartment there are two fixed cupholders and a slot for a cell phone.
The interior is nice and quiet; about the loudest cabin noise comes from the tires over fr.
You can't go wrong with either engine in the Rondo. The 162-hp 2.4-liter, an all-new engine introduced in the 2006 Kia Optima sedan, is throaty and robust, and its good torque and acceleration go a long way toward making you forget it's a four cylinder. Praised for its smooth power, it has double overhead cams with an aluminum block and heads.
The V6 only costs $1000 more, however, and gets just one or two less miles per gallon, and comes with a fifth gear in the Sportmatic transmission. You don't really need the extra speed of the V6, but it's very quiet and makes the whole car feel smoother and more solid. And if you carry six or seven passengers using the optional third-row seat, you'll appreciate the extra 20 horsepower.
Our LX came with the four-cylinder. Passing trucks on two-lane roads, the four-speed automatic kicked down smoothly and the engine scooted the car forward quickly and silently. We played with the Sportmatic and found it well-programmed. We ran the Rondo up to 80 mph where it was quiet and smooth, feeling like no more than 70. We also did time in Phoenix rush-hour traffic, and the LX was a great zoom-around-town vehicle. At idle, you can barely tell the engine is running.
The V6 with five-speed Sportmatic in the EX worked even better. We drove it like a sports car over twisty roads, and we could barely hear the engine when the transmission downshifted for acceleration; it was a bit slow to kick down into second gear, but was fine at higher speeds. The manual upshifts at 5800 rpm were sharp.
Both models use the same suspension, although the shocks are tuned a bit firmer with the V6 because of the extra weight. The ride and handling are excellent. In the LX, we deliberately hit a speed bump at 30 mph and didn't get jarred. Over freeway expansion strips, we could hear the thunk of the tires but couldn't feel the bumps. We drove through more curves, at least 20 miles of them, and the LX was crisply responsive.
We used the four-wheel disc brakes hard, and they were strong and solid. The performance was pretty darn impressive, especially considering the LX uses 16-inch wheels and tires, and not the 17-inch Michelins on the EX. The front rotors are big at 11 inches in diameter, and are vented for better cooling. It's a good sign when a car excels at a task for which it wasn't designed.
The Kia Rondo is not just an all-new vehicle, it's an all-new invention. It's a front-wheel-drive, seven-passenger, crossover utility vehicle with a low price, mid size, high fuel mileage, vast cargo space and passenger versatility, and complete safety features as standard equipment. It features good leg and shoulder room for the passengers despite its modest length. It comes with either a robust four-cylinder engine or smooth V6, and offers an excellent ride, handling and brakes.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses filed this report from Scottsdale, Arizona.
Kia Rondo LX ($17,895); LX V6 ($18,895); EX ($19,195); EX V6 ($20,195).
Options As Tested
cruise control and keyless entry ($300); carpeted floor mats ($85).
Kia Rondo LX ($17,895).
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