Preview: 2007 Kia Rondo
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The Kia Rondo isn't the sort of vehicle you buy to show off. Rather, it's all about practicality, especially with its optional third row seat. While mainly suited to kids, that seat provides tolerable short-trip comfort for adults.
That's not to say that the smooth-looking Rondo is boring to drive. This midsize, front-wheel-drive vehicle is nimble, with direct steering, a composed, comfortable ride and good brake pedal feel. Handling is decent, although body lean in fast curves warns that the Rondo isn't a sports-oriented vehicle.
Just what is the South Korean Rondo? Kia calls it a crossover—that is a car-like vehicle with SUV attributes. But the Rondo has too much of a car-like design and lacks all-wheel drive, so it more accurately can be called a car or station wagon. Or maybe a small minivan with four conventional side doors, as was the case with the first Honda Odyssey minivan.
Seating for 5 passengers is standard, with a particularly roomy second-row seat area. Seven fit with the split folding third-row seat. The second-row seat slides fore and aft when the Rondo has the third seat, which doesn't call for one to be a contortionist to reach.
Cargo room is good with two seating rows, but there is little cargo space with the third-row seatbacks in their upright position. However, chances are those seatbacks will be flipped forward for good cargo room when groceries and such are being carried.
All versions are offered with a 2.4-liter 162-horsepower 4-cylinder engine or a 2.7-liter V6 that pumps out 182 horsepower and more torque.
The 4-cylinder provides decent acceleration in town but doesn't have much punch for merging or passing despite working hard in those situations. The V6 is considerably stronger.
The 4-cylinder works with a 4-speed automatic transmission, but the V6 is hooked to a more versatile 5-speed automatic.
The EX adds cruise control, heated power mirrors, remote keyless entry, illuminated visor mirrors, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player and leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.
The EX also wears larger 17-inch (up from 16-inch) wheels and wider 50-series (vs. 60-series) tires for extra road grip but a slightly less comfortable ride.
The Rondo is mainly designed to be a family hauler, and safety features are especially important in such a vehicle. The Rondo thus has anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, tire pressure monitoring system and six air bags, including front-side and curtain-side bags.
Dressing It Up
The third row seat costs $500 for the LX and EX V6. It's the same amount for the LX 4-cylinder, but that version needs the $1,500 Popular Equipment package to get it. That package contains air conditioning, body colored mirrors and roof rails.
Hefty door handles assist entry, but long doors are awkward in tight spots. Front seats offer adequate support in curves, but the stylish gauges should be easier to read quickly. Audio and climate controls are commendably large, and dual front cupholders are positioned to avoid spills. A driver can rest his left foot on a large "dead pedal" during long journeys.
All doors have storage pockets and bottle holders, and rear windows lower all the way to, for instance, help air out the Rondo if it's been sitting in hot summer sun for hours.
The Rondo is easy to live with, and its roomy interior and flexible cargo accommodations make it a viable competitor. South Korean automakers keep coming on stronger with better products, but the Rondo's resale value is a question mark.