2007 Kia Rondo Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
April 24, 2007

By now you’ve probably seen Kia’s aggressive “Rondoism” campaign that includes terms like cabinosity, giddyupedness, and safety all-overness, with backdrops of rainbows, puffy clouds, and soulful singing. It’s weird, but memorable.


Yes, like its advertising campaign, the Rondo is a little…different. In a lot of ways, the Rondo — and its proportions — reminds us here at TheCarConnection.com of the Toyota Matrix or the now-defunct Suzuki Aerio, scaled up a bit in size to better fit the needs of most Americans.

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But there’s really no need to be cute, in words or appearance. All you need to do is open the door and glance inside. After that, the whole design makes a lot more sense; it’s clearly a case of conceiving the interior first then tailoring an exterior to accommodate it.


The Rondo is the most space-efficient vehicle we’ve driven in recent memory. In its very small footprint — 179 inches long and less than 72 inches wide — the Rondo is nearly a foot shorter than most mid-size sedans, yet it manages to fit seating for seven with cargo space to boot. We’re not talking about little jump seats in back, either; the third-row seats are large enough for small adults, if they’re willing to do a little scrambling to get back there, and the second row slides fore and aft nearly a foot to balance out legroom. The 50/50-split third row folds down to a perfectly flat cargo floor, too, so when they’re not in use there’s plenty of very usable space back there, while the 60/40-split second row also folds down. In all, there’s enough room for two adults and five kids — or two adults, three kids, and their cargo. MORE--



Nifty interior for seven

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But it doesn’t stop there. If you take a look around the Rondo’s interior, you’ll find more nifty design touches, such as the ‘hidden’ second cargo compartment under the actual cargo floor, which is large enough to hold a laptop case or other valuables you’d rather keep out of sight, and the center console, which is well designed with multiple storage compartments and cupholders.


The second-row seats have expansive legroom — more usable space than most sedans or compact crossovers and some larger crossovers — so that adults will never feel bad riding there for longer distances. If the front seats have a flaw, it’s that they have rather short cushions, which leaves tall drivers like this one lacking thigh support. There’s plenty of headroom, though, and the interior feels downright airy.


The Rondo’s closest competitor, the sportier-looking and more fashionable Mazda5, feels smaller inside, even if there isn’t much of a difference on the outside. And the interiors in the Chevrolet HHR and Chrysler PT Cruiser interiors — both obviously results of designing from the outside in — seem extremely cramped in comparison.


The Rondo, which sells in Europe as a type of van, and has sold elsewhere in the world in previous iterations as the Carens, is sold as a so called crossover vehicle here in the U.S. It’s based on Kia’s mid-size Optima sedan and is arguable more a tall wagon version of the Optima than anything else, with front-hinged back doors rather than sliding ones.



A 162-hp, 2.4-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine is standard, while a 2.7-liter V-6 is available for a $1000 premium, but it only beats the four-cylinder by 20 hp and 18 lb-ft of torque.


Our test Rondo came with the four, and overall, we were extremely impressed with the refinement and pep of this engine. Idle was glassy smooth, and the engine didn’t get unduly coarse when revving either like some four-cylinder engines this size. The only thing that took us some time to get used to was the very aggressive throttle tip-in, which we’ve come to expect, unfortunately, in Hyundai and Kia products. Smooth, gentle launches are a bit difficult at first, but you get used to it.

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All Rondos come only with automatic transmissions; with the four-cylinder it’s a four-speed, with the V-6 you get a five-speed. Both are Sportmatics, which let you call the shifts through a separate +/- shift gate. We were happy just leaving it in ‘D’ though; no complaints here with the four-speed. Shifts are smoothed out with a brief, calculated pause for all but full-throttle driving, and it never hunted between gears.  MORE--



Enough pep, whichever way you go


Despite a curb weight that runs about 3400 pounds, the four-cylinder engine has plenty of pep to bring the Rondo up to speed quickly, even with several people on board, and passing power is impressive. Our Rondo felt very comfortable cruising at 75-80 mph, and when you’re driving the Rondo at those speeds, another thing that is rather surprising is how quiet the interior stays, even on rough pavement surfaces.


From behind the wheel, the Rondo feels like driving a soft-riding compact or mid-size car, rather than an SUV. The seating position is neither unusually high nor low, but the driving position feels a little more upright, and comparable to other newer small hatchbacks and tall wagons. There’s really nothing remarkable about the Rondo’s on-road performance, but there’s little to complain about either. It steers and brakes well, and because of how roomy it feels on the inside, it always seemed to surprise us with its maneuverability in parking lots. And when you actually push it hard into a corner or make an abrupt maneuver, the Rondo actually handles better than you might expect, probably thanks to the standard anti-roll bars front and back.



Real-world fuel economy is quite good with the four-cylinder, too, considering how much can be hauled in people and cargo. We averaged nearly 24 miles per gallon in an equal mix of city and highway driving — in this case, more or less agreeing with the current EPA estimates of 21 city, 29 highway.

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And the Rondo represents a very strong value for safety features. Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), stability control, front side airbags, and front and rear head-curtain airbags are standard on the Rondo, even on the base LX, many of which are optional on other vehicles in this size and price range.  MORE--



Sticker shock, of a good sort


The LX Base starts at only $16,395 and comes with alloy wheels, power windows, locks, and mirrors, and five-passenger seating. Then there’s the LX, which adds air conditioning, a roof rack, and body-color outside mirrors, and starts at $17,895.


EX upgrades include 17-inch wheels, fog lamps, chrome trim, a roof rack, upgraded seat fabric, third-row seating, cruise control, keyless entry, an MP3-compatible CD/cassette sound system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and metal-finish interior door handles.


On LX models, third-row seating is optional for $500, while keyless entry and cruise control can be had through a $300 Convenience Package.


Ours was an EX with only the $1000 Leather Package, which upgrades to leather seating (albeit of the glossy, non-supple, and easy-to-clean variety) and front heated seats, and the Premium package, which for $1200 adds a power sunroof and Infinity audio system with CD changer. The bottom line, including destination, was $21,995—still a relative bargain whether you’re weighing it against other minivans, wagons, or compact SUVs.


Warranty remains another strong reason to consider Kia—there’s a standard five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, a ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and five years or 60,000 miles of roadside assistance.


The Rondo probably won’t win hearts with its performance or looks, but its entire package is impressive. Darned impressive. Maybe Detroit should look to the Koreans on this one. If General Motors or Ford came up with a straightforward vehicle of this size (small-mid-size) with such universal versatility, giving their interior design folks enough leeway, it would sell like gangbusters.



2007 Kia Rondo EX
Price: $19,195 base; $21,995 as equipped
Engine: 2.4-liter in-line four, 162 hp/164 lb-ft
Drivetrain: Four-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 179.0 x 71.7 x 61.7 in
Wheelbase: 106.3 in
Curb weight: 3399 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 21/29 mpg
Safety equipment: Front seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side-curtain airbags, front active headrests, anti-lock brakes, stability control
Major standard equipment: Air conditioning, power windows/locks/mirrors, cruise control, keyless entry, tilt steering wheel, leather trim, AM/FM/CD/cassette sound system with steering-wheel controls
Warranty: Five years/50,000 miles bumper-to-bumper and roadside assistance; ten years/100,000 miles powertrain

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