Crossovers are vehicles that combine features from two distinct types of automobiles. Most commonly, a truck based SUV and a passenger car. I say "most commonly" because there are no real standards as to what a crossover actually is. Manufacturers are slapping the crossover label on as many new vehicles as they can these days. Why? Because, crossovers represent the fastest growing segment in the automotive industry and everyone wants a piece of it.
The new Kia Rondo is classified as a Crossover, but it is not your run-of-the-mill blending of a truck and a car. If I had to say which two vehicle types were combined to come up with the Rondo, I would have to say that it is a cross between a crossover and a compact wagon.
The Rondo is one of those cars that is big on the inside and small on the outside. So much so that you will do a double take when you see 7 adults enter the vehicle and find a seat without sitting on anyone's lap.
Yes, the diminutive Rondo that you see in the photo at the top of this page has 3 rows of seats with enough space for seven average size adults.
Picture yourself walking into a small house in the country. As you walk through the door you find yourself in a grand ballroom that is considerably larger than the outside of the building would indicate. Double Take. That is the impression I got when I saw the Kia Rondo for the first time, then looked inside. Sort of like being in a wardrobe and meeting the lion and the witch. Well... Not quite, but the new Rondo's impressive space utilization certainly caused me to take notice.
Now don't get me wrong, those seven people had better have a good temperament and like each other enough to sit in close quarters or it won't work. And don't plan on taking a cross country trip, because with seven people aboard, there is not much room for their stuff. But a family with five kids and an understandably limited budget with all those mouths to feed, will see the Rondo as salvation.
Space utilization is not the only Rondo virtue. One glance at the high quality interior and you will see what I mean. On the inside, the Rondo is a class act. The well designed interior is clean and easy to live with, especially with the optional leather upholstery. Once you sit inside, then take a look at the price, you will do another double take. Grab the key and take the Rondo for a spin and the effect is complete. Everything about this car is more than you expect.
Styling (or lack thereof) was, uh... as my niece might say, dorky. This is not a car to buy if you want to turn heads. If you want style with this packaging, look at the Mazda5 instead, though prepare to pay more. If you do consider the Mazda5, be aware that its three rows of seats only hold six people, two per row, while the Rondo holds 3 people in the second row for that seven person capacity.
The Rondo is all about versatility and sensible features. If you don't need room for seven, leave the third row option unchecked. You will then get a five passenger vehicle with extra storage space in back and more under the rear floor.
If you do opt for the third row, then the second row seats will slide back and forth to optimize the space in the second row if the third row is unoccupied.
I found the car quite comfortable to drive for hours without fatigue setting in. The ride was well controlled and stable, even on twisting, undulating roads that snaked through the Arizona desert. Very little wind and road noise came through. The car was relaxing to drive on the highway and had comfortable seats with good support. At first, I thought that passing ability was a bit weak, but I soon realized that I was cruising at around 80 miles per hour when I decided to get ahead of the car I was following. I thought it felt more like 65. I just didn't expect that from this little car.
I had a chance to sample the Rondo with both the 4 and the available V6. The four was more than up to the challenge of powering the Rondo and offered plenty of pep to get out on a crowded highway or cruise effortlessly at super-legal speeds.
The V6 was even better at this task and was a bit smoother and quieter at full throttle, but I was surprised that it only had a 20 horsepower advantage over the 4 cylinder powerplant. My feeling is go with the 4 unless you want an engine that was a bit smoother, with a bit more torque and are willing to pay $1000 more for that luxury.
There is one other advantage to ordering the V6 that may sway you. The V6 comes with a 5 speed automatic transmission instead of the 4 speed auto that is standard with the 4 cylinder engine (A manual transmission is not available on the Rondo). The 5 speed automatic takes better advantage of the available torque and makes accelerating to highway speeds smoother.
Safety is not optional with the Rondo. All safety features are included in the base price of $16,395.
These standard safety features include:
4-wheel disk brakes with ABS
Electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD)
Front side-mounted air bags
Front and rear head airbags
Tire pressure monitoring
Front seat head restraint whiplash protection system
Many of these items are normally optional or not available for vehicles in this price class.
The base model of the rondo is called the LX and, aside from the safety features listed above, comes standard with a 162 horsepower 4 cylinder engine with automatic, alloy wheels, power windows, mirrors and door locks, 5 passenger seating, but no air conditioning. If you want AC, add $900. The third row seat adds another $500 for a total of $17,795. That is not a bad price for a 7 passenger vehicle.
Kia has an exceptionally good warranty on their vehicles and the Rondo is no exception. The basic bumper-to-bumper warranty is 5 years or 60,000 miles. Add to that a powertrain warranty of 10 years or 100,000 miles. You also get a 5 year or 60,000 mile roadside assistance program in case you get a flat or run out of gas.
The Kia Rondo may be new to these shores, but it has been sold in other parts of the world for several years as the Kia Carens. In fact, the Rondo is the third generation of the Carens.
The Kia Rondo is the little car that could from a company that is growing in both size and reputation each year. Not only does the Rondo have a great warranty, the reputation that Kia has developed for building quality cars that have excellent reliability has been growing every year. For the first time, Kia goes on my list of cars that I would personally recommend.
Standard Equipment (partial list)
2.4 liter 162 hp 4 cylinder engine
4-speed automatic transmission
16 inch alloy wheels
4 wheel disc brakes with ABS
Dual front side mounted air bags
Head curtain air bags
Tire pressure monitoring
5 passenger seating
Remote power door locks
Tilt steering wheel
AM/FM in-dash single CD player stereo with 4 speakers
The LX with Popular Equipment package adds... (partial list)
Rear ventilation ducts
The EX adds... (partial list)
17 inchalloy wheels
Remote anti-theft alarm system
Front fog/driving lights
Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel
Dual illuminating vanity mirrors
Leather wrapped steering wheel
Major Available Options (Partial List, depends on model. Some items only available as part of an option group, see your Kia dealer for details)
2.7 liter V6 engine with 5 speed automatic transmission
Third row seat
Convenience Package - Includes remote keyless entry, remote alarm and cruise control.
Heated Leather seats
Body Kit - Includes front spoiler, rear valance, side sill skirts, wheel arch moldings and rear lower spoiler
Infinity AM/FM stereo, 6-disc in-dash CD changer, 10 speakers including 1 subwoofer and 315 watt premium digital audio
Cross Bars for roof rack
For more information on the Kia Rondo, visit kia.com
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