2009 Kia Rondo Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
December 31, 2008

When looking at the 2009 Kia Rondo, don’t judge a book by its cover. Though it doesn’t flaunt svelte good looks or flashy trim and wheels, you’ll see it in a different light once you discover how Kia uses the space inside.

To compile this comprehensive review covering the 2009 Kia Rondo, the experts at TheCarConnection.com perused the range of reviews. To help compare it to rival vehicles, TheCarConnection.com's editors also bring their experience putting it through the paces.

Offered with a four- or six-cylinder engine and five- or seven-passenger seating, the front-wheel-drive 2009 Kia Rondo may be odd-looking, but this tall wagon is an interesting alternative to the traditional minivan.  Launched in 2007, it enters the 2009 model year with modest horsepower and fuel economy increases that keep it competitive.

Carrying humans is what the 2009 Kia Rondo does best, but it also has the enviable ability to carry cargo. The available third row, as in many of its competitors, is designed for little people, not adults. There is 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, including a huge recessed tray below the cargo floor in back.

Review continues below

Performance is improved for 2009, but it won’t win any drag races. Either a 175-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder or 192-hp, 2.7-liter V-6 is available. 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 2009 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.

The LX entry model Rondo comes with standard power accessories, and the LX adds air conditioning and a roof rack as standard, among other features. The top-of-the-range 2009 Kia Rondo 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 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 2009 Rondo; Kia's coverage ranges up to ten years or 100,000 miles on powertrain and five/50,000 on almost everything else.

5

2009 Kia Rondo

Styling

If you believe that looks aren’t everything, then you might like the Kia Rondo.

Inside and out, TheCarConnection.com notices that reviewers have little to get excited about when assessing the 2009 Kia Rondo’s styling.

The Rondo is built for room, not for sex appeal, with its tall, bulbous profile and five-door configuration. Car and Driver's review was perhaps the least complimentary, comparing the 2009 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 weighs in with its final judgment: "even with all the tack-ons, no Rondo seems capable of setting our loins ablaze."

Cars.com states that the Kia Rondo's only "sign of aggression" is a "sharp air dam that's probably bigger than it needs to be." Damning with faint praise, the reviewer acknowledges this vehicle's "friendly face" and notes that there are “few edges”—we’re not sure if that’s a positive.

Other reviewers warm up to the design because of its inherent practicality. 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 deems it "an attractive choice...a very inviting daily driver"—although TheCarConnection.com notes that these comments go beyond the vehicle's appearance.

Interior design is another story; most sources are quite thrilled about it. Edmunds states that the vehicle lacks "pizzazz," but it praises the interior, as does the New York Times, which calls it "attractive and functional."

More than one source praises visibility from behind the wheel, including Edmunds, deeming it "good."

7

2009 Kia Rondo

Performance

There’s nothing here to remark strongly about; the Rondo performs well for most family needs.

In most cases, reviewers think that performance from the 2009 Kia Rondo is adequate, though not much more.

Between the 175-hp 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine and the larger 192-hp V-6 option, the engines are surprisingly similar in feel around town. The difference is in passing ability. ConsumerGuide calls the 2009 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 doesn't seem to make a lot of difference around town, but it proves "meaningfully stronger at highway speed." On the other hand, while agreeing that the smaller engine's power is "adequate," the New York Times suggests 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, but according to Cars.com, the mileage difference isn't much, and unless the buyer is paying cash, the extra money shouldn't add significantly to the monthly payments.

Reviews are 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 is more enthusiastic about the five-speed automatic version of the 2009 Kia.

Braking and handling, according to the range of reviews read, aren’t anything to seriously gripe about but aren’t particularly boast-worthy either. Cars.com reports that braking is solid, although the 2009 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, but according to Kelley Blue Book, this is not the case.

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—especially now that there’s a bump in power. The Rondo's automatic transmissions shift smoothly and come with a +/- shift gate for manual control. Handling isn't sharp, but the 2009 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

2009 Kia Rondo

Comfort & Quality

For the price, the 2009 Kia Rondo provides lots of versatility and comfort.

Most of the reviews consulted by TheCarConnection.com have nothing but accolades for the comfort and interior quality of the 2009 Kia Rondo.

ConsumerGuide concludes 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.”

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

Most sources have positive things to say about the ride quality inside. However, New York Newsday reports that the "Rondo's ride was almost always comfortable," though noting that when driving over some rough pavement at highway speed, the Rondo Kia is "a bouncing and unpleasant place to be." On the other hand, Jalopnik reports a cushy ride, saying that the suspension is "geared towards multiple human comfort over taut steering response," but doesn't report any of these unpleasantries.

Ride quality in TheCarConnection.com’s experience with the Rondo is very soft but absorbent rather than bouncy.

TheCarConnection.com’s take is that carrying humans is what the 2009 Kia Rondo does best, but it also has the enviable ability to carry cargo as well.  The available third row, as in many of its competitors, is designed for little people, not adults.  There is 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

2009 Kia Rondo

Safety

The Kia Rondo for 2009 is a great value and safe for the family.

The 2009 Kia Rondo has all the expected safety equipment, and it’s standard not optional. Additionally, it’s done well in crash tests.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives 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 isn't so fond of the 2009 Kia Rondo's stability and traction control, which is so sensitive 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. Jalopnik confirms this impression: "traction control kicks in if you push too hard, and causes an odd wha'happen sensation."

Fortunately, drivers can shut this feature off if necessary to get out of a snowy driveway, though TheCarConnection.com doesn’t recommend doing so elsewhere. Using different tires if you are driving in snow and ice might be the solution, as the stock tires have very little in the way of "grip."

9

2009 Kia Rondo

Features

Plenty of standard features are fitted on the 2009 Kia Rondo, and several must-have options are newly available.

Kia is generous when it comes to standard features on its cars, and the 2009 Kia Rondo is no exception.

The standard sound system includes an input jack for an MP3 player and other audio devices, and for 2009 there’s a new optional system with Sirius Satellite Radio capabilities, complete with three months of complimentary service. An iPod cable is offered as an option. With the Premium Package on EX models, an eight-speaker Infinity sound and navigation system, also new for 2009, become available. Standard on all EX models are steering wheel-mounted audio controls, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, leather trim, illuminated vanity mirrors, heated seats, and metal-finish interior door handles.

Canadian Driver notes the lack of a telescoping steering wheel in the Rondo. Ultimately, the reviewer is 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."

The warranty is another reason to consider the Rondo; Kia's coverage ranges up to ten 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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