Review: 2007 Kia Rondo
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
There's yet another alternative for consumers turning away from sport-utility vehicles but who still want easy-to-use cargo room, a higher ride height than a sedan, confident, car-like handling and maybe even seats for up to seven people.
It's the new-for-2007 Kia Rondo—a tallish, 5-door wagon that separates itself from the pricey SUVs and newfangled crossover SUVs by starting at just over $16,000 for a 5-passenger model and around $17,000 for a 7-passenger model. (Be aware that at introduction, air conditioning was a $900 add-on for the base Rondo but was standard on up-level models.)
All Rondos come otherwise quite well-equipped with standard 6-way, adjustable driver's seat with height adjustment, 4-way front passenger adjustable seat, automatic on/off headlights, 16-inch wheels and tires, cruise control, power door locks and windows and dual-storage covered front center armrest.
And even the top-of-the-line Rondo EX V6—with a 182-horsepower V6, automatic transmission, seven seats and every manner of factory option available, including leather interior trim, power moonroof, upgraded Infinity AM/FM stereo and rear spoilers—barely breaks the $25,000 level.
Best of all, with many standard safety features, including six airbags and electronic stability control, the Rondo received five out of five stars for frontal crash protection. In side crash testing it got five stars for front-seat passenger protection and four stars for rear-seat protection.
Fuel economy in the Rondo is best with the base 162-horsepower 4-cylinder engine. Mated to a 4-speed automatic, it was rated at 21 miles a gallon in city driving and 29 mpg on the highway for 2007, which is about average for a 4-cylinder wagon.
Pleasant but not memorable looks
Looking at pictures, you might not believe that the Rondo can hold three rows of seats. It doesn't look that big on paper, especially from the side view which makes it look like a competitor to the little Honda Fit hatchback.
But you have to see the Rondo in person to grasp the real dimensions.
At nearly 15 feet long, the Rondo is about 2 feet longer than the Fit. It's also 5.5 inches wider and 5 inches taller. Basically, the Rondo's exterior size is more like that of a 2007 Honda CR-V.
Indeed, Rondos have lots of headroom, good room between the front seats and in three-row configurations, second-row seats slide fore and aft to help passengers allocate legroom between the rows.
Rondos with five seats have a fixed second row and more cargo volume—35 cubic feet vs. 31.7 cubic feet for the seven-seat version.
Second- and third-row seats fold down flat when not needed.
Good power from both engines
I barely could notice shift points, and power came on quickly with torque peaking at 164 lb-ft at 4250 rpm. In fact, I didn't notice much straining of the four cylinder, even on highways, and I wondered if the V6 really is necessary. (Kia officials project 70 percent of Rondos will be sold with the 4 cylinder.)
Overall engine sounds were pleasant, and the Rondo interior was quieter than expected, with just wind noise emanating at highway speeds.
The V6 is nicer and more refined, of course, and likely would be a good choice for buyers who get—and use frequently—three rows of seats.
But as I drove, I still couldn't see past pickup trucks, SUVs and vans in front of me.
The test Rondo rolled over road bumps without fuss and kept the rough stuff away from passengers without being floaty or cushy in its ride.
At the wheel, I liked the decent on-center feel of the power-assisted, rack-and-pinion steering and came away with an overall impression of a stable, well-managed ride.
I also appreciated the good placement of a "dead pedal"—a flat, sort of upright spot to the left of the pedals for the driver to brace his or her left foot.
Note this warranty is important, because despite talk by Kia officials that vehicle quality is improving, the quality of other automakers is improving, too. And Kia's ratings in recent, much-publicized, J.D. Power and Associates' Initial Quality Study and Vehicle Dependability Study remained below industry average.
Some items not offered
These include all-wheel drive, navigation system, rear-park assist and home and gate opener.
And while the Rondo's third row seat is usable by children, it may not be a resting spot for adults who are riding around all day.
Lastly, consumers who prefer sporty performance will find more powerful wagons elsewhere.
For example, the Mazda CX-7 comes with a turbocharged 4 cylinder generating 244 horses and 258 lb-ft at 2500 rpm while Saturn's Outlook crossover has at 270 horsepower.
But Kia's Rondo has more cupholders than seats! The 5-passenger Rondo comes with eight cupholders, while the 7-passenger Rondo has 10 cupholders.