2008 Kia Rondo Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 29, 2008

Take a look at the family-friendly Rondo inside out. Though it's not that attractive from the outside, once you see how Kia uses the space inside, you'll see it in a different light.

The experts at TheCarConnection.com perused the range of reviews available on the new Kia Rondo to produce this comprehensive review. TheCarConnection.com’s editors have also driven it, so as to add expert opinions to this Rondo review, and compare it to rival vehicles.

The 2008 Kia Rondo is a tall wagon that fits into Kia's lineup somewhere between the Sportage small SUV, Sedona minivan, and Optima sedan. It was first introduced to the U.S. market for 2007 and carries into 2008 unchanged. The Rondo LX base model comes with standard power accessories, then the LX adds air conditioning and a roof rack, among other features. The top-of-the-range EX brings a long list of upgrades, including 17-inch wheels, fog lamps, upgraded upholstery, keyless entry, an upgraded sound system, and most notably, third-row seating that expands the Rondo's capacity to seven.

The Rondo's forte is people-moving--though it has enviable cargo capacity, too. The Rondo's third row is by no means a place for adults to sit, but there's space for two adults and five kids, or two adults, three kids, and a lot of cargo. Both the second and third rows fold forward for a flat loading floor, and the second row slides fore and aft for improved legroom, a little more cargo space, or more balanced legroom between the second and third rows. And there are plenty of cubbies for stuff, including a huge recessed tray below the cargo floor in back.

Performance is competent but unremarkable in the Rondo, which can be equipped with two different engines: a 162-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder or 182-hp, 2.7-liter V-6. The four-cylinder is smooth, refined, and more efficient than the V-6 (cheaper, too), so we recommend it. The Rondo's automatic transmissions shift smoothly and come with a +/- shift gate for manual control. Handling isn't sharp, but the 2008 Kia Rondo is very maneuverable, and its compact size makes it surprisingly easy to park. The Rondo has a very smooth ride, and its basic but attractive and comfortable interior stays quiet.

Review continues below

The Rondo performed well in the federal government's crash tests, earning five stars for frontal protection and five- and four-star results for front side and rear side protection, respectively. Electronic stability control and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are standard, along with front side and head curtain airbags that cover outboard occupants. The warranty is another reason to consider the Rondo; Kia's coverage ranges up to 10 years or 100,000 miles on powertrain and five/50,000 on almost everything else.

5

2008 Kia Rondo

Styling

You probably won't be thrilled by the 2008 Kia Rondo's looks.

Reviewers from across the Web had lukewarm feelings toward the 2008 Kia Rondo’s styling, inside and out.

A five-door wagon with a tall shape and a thick side view, the Rondo is built for room, not for sex appeal. Car and Driver's review was perhaps the least complimentary, comparing the 2008 Kia Rondo unfavorably to the quintessential, dowdy, frumpy "soccer mom" vehicle, the minivan: "the Rondo ain't no Corvette in terms of sex appeal." Acknowledging the existence of body accessory kits, this source's final judgment: "even with all the tack-ons, no Rondo seems capable of setting our loins ablaze."

Damning with faint praise, Cars.com acknowledges this vehicle's "friendly face"; whether the "few edges" comment is complimentary or not can’t be ascertained. This source also goes on to state that the Kia Rondo's only "sign of aggression" is a "sharp air dam that's probably bigger than it needs to be."

There are differing opinions, of course. The New York Times describes the Rondo Kia's appearance as "an attractive design" with a qualifier: "the boxy shape shouts minivan." The nearby Long Island paper New York Newsday calls it "reasonably stylish," and Kelley Blue Book calls it "an attractive choice...a very inviting daily driver"--although TheCarConnection.com notes that these comments go beyond the vehicle's appearance.

Most sources were more enthusiastic about the interior design; while Edmunds states that the vehicle lacked "pizzazz," it praises the appearance of the interior, as does the New York Times, which calls it "an attractive and functional interior."
More than one source praised visibility from behind the wheel, including Edmunds, judging this to be "good."

7

2008 Kia Rondo

Performance

With the Rondo, Kia builds in decent performance with an inexpensive V-6 upgrade.

Reviewers feel the 2008 Kia Rondo's performance is adequate for most driving situations.

There are some significant performance differences between the 162-hp 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine and the larger 182-hp V-6 option. ConsumerGuide calls the 2008 Rondo's four-cylinder's power "adequate" when starting out, but reports that it "struggles to gather speed for passing and merging." The V-6 option didn't seem to make a lot of difference around town, but it proved "meaningfully stronger at highway speed." On the other hand, while agreeing that the smaller engine's power was "adequate," the New York Times suggested that the "stronger but slightly less fuel-efficient V-6 hardly seems worth the extra cost [of $1,000]." This source may have a valid point here, but according to Cars.com, the mileage difference isn't that much, and unless the buyer is paying cash, the extra money shouldn't add significantly to the monthly payments.

Reviews were similarly mixed when it came to the transmission; while Car and Driver says the "V-6 felt comparatively gruff," it adds that "the transmission didn't help significantly." Kelley Blue Book, on the other hand, reports that the "four-speed automatic transmission possesses sufficient force to get you through normal urban stop-and-go traffic and onto freeways," but was more enthusiastic about the five-speed automatic version of the 2008 Kia.

Cars.com reports that braking is solid, although the 2008 Kia Rondo exhibits a tendency to nose-drive in hard braking situations. With such a tall profile, the Rondo should have plenty of body roll, you might suspect, but according to Kelley Blue Book, this is not the case. New York Newsday reports that the "Rondo's ride was almost always comfortable," but notes that when driving over some rough pavement at highway speed, the Rondo Kia was "a bouncing and unpleasant place to be."

Towing capacity is marginal; according to New York Newsday, the Rondo Kia can tow no more than 1,000 pounds regardless of which engine is installed.

TheCarConnection.com spent hundreds of miles in the Kia Rondo, and observed that performance is competent but unremarkable. The four-cylinder is smooth, refined, and more efficient than the V-6 (cheaper, too), so we recommend it. The Rondo's automatic transmissions shift smoothly and come with a +/- shift gate for manual control. Handling isn't sharp, but the 2008 Kia Rondo is very maneuverable, and its compact size makes it surprisingly easy to park. The Rondo has a very smooth ride, and its basic but attractive and comfortable interior stays quiet.

8

2008 Kia Rondo

Comfort & Quality

For the price, the 2008 Kia Rondo provides great space and good comfort.

The Rondo Kia for 2008 gets superior marks for comfort and interior quality.

Most of the reviews consulted by TheCarConnection.com have nothing but accolades for the comfort and quality of the Rondo. Kia’s new wagon, Canadian Driver says, "conveys a lot of qualities of much more expensive vehicles." While the reviewer reported that his car had a tendency to "clank over bumps," he attributed this to "ice stuck in the cracks" (no surprise during a Canadian winter).

ConsumerGuide's assessment is that "interior materials and assembly quality [are] impressive for the price, with leather seating appearing especially upscale...good head and leg room."

Storage is not a problem with the Kia Rondo according to Jalopnik, reporting that the interior has "more mystery compartments and fuzzy cubby holes than the Winchester Mystery House"; as for comfort, the car suspension is "geared towards multiple human comfort over taut steering response."

New York Newsday praised the adjustable seats. They "emerged remarkably ache-free after a couple of two-hour stints behind the wheel," but suggested that lateral support leaves something to be desired.

TheCarConnection.com’s take is that the Rondo's forte is people-moving--though it has enviable cargo capacity, too. The Rondo's third row is by no means a place for adults to sit, but there's space for two adults and five kids, or two adults, three kids, and a lot of cargo. Both the second and third rows fold forward for a flat loading floor, and the second row slides fore and aft for improved legroom, a little more cargo space, or more balanced legroom between the second and third rows. And there are plenty of cubbies for stuff, including a huge recessed tray below the cargo floor in back.

9

2008 Kia Rondo

Safety

The Kia Rondo for 2008 provides excellent value in terms of safety.

The Kia Rondo for 2008 scores well in crash tests and in standard safety equipment.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has given the Kia Rondo nearly perfect safety scores across the board. It scores five stars for front crash protection, five stars for driver-side impact protection, and four stars for passenger-side impacts and rollover resistance.

The New York Times reports that the "Kia has loaded an impressive number of standard safety features into this inexpensive family hauler, including electronic stability control, tire-pressure monitors, four-wheel antilock disc brakes and six air bags."

Canadian Driver suggests, though, that the 2008 Kia Rondo's stability and traction control is so attentive that it becomes intrusive. If the "system senses some slip, it cuts some engine power...leaving you stranded at the corner." This can be a problem in snowy or icy conditions that are all too common along the northern tier and into the provinces. Fortunately, drivers can shut this feature off if necessary. This source highly recommends using different tires if you are driving in snow and ice, however, as the stock tires have very little in the way of "grip." Jalopnik confirms this impression: "traction control kicks in if you push too hard, and causes an odd wha'happen sensation."

9

2008 Kia Rondo

Features

Plenty of standard features are fitted on the Rondo; Kia also prices the options well.

This Korean company is generous when it comes to standard features on the 2008 Kia Rondo.

Amazingly, last year's model included a cassette tape player (what, no Victrola?). Thankfully for audiophiles, this has been replaced by an input jack for an MP3 player and other audio devices in the 2008 Kia Rondo, as reported by Cars.com.

Steering wheel controls that are found on many production vehicles today are convenient, but Canadian Driver found that on the 2008 Rondo Kia, these can be "intrusive during parking lot maneuvers," causing the driver to unintentionally make adjustments to the radio or climate control. This source also noted the lack of a telescoping steering wheel. Ultimately, the reviewer was able to adapt to this particular deficiency, but drivers with short arms should be aware of it.

The New York Times reports that the many features offered on the Rondo Kia represent a tremendous value, even when such features are optional: the base model starts at around $17,000, but even for a fully loaded Kia Rondo, this source states that one would be "hard pressed to spend more than $25,000..."

TheCarConnection.com notes that the warranty is another reason to consider the Rondo; Kia's coverage ranges up to 10 years or 100,000 miles on the powertrain.

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7.6
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 5.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 9.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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