Tested: 2007 Kia Rondo EX-L

Four Vehicles In One

Is it a car, wagon, sport ute or minivan? It’s neither. Actually, the 2007 Kia Rondo is all four. The Korean car maker describes it as a “family-oriented urban utility vehicle.” With a seating capacity of up to seven (on EX models), a plethora of cargo-carrying configurations and oodles of standard equipment the likes of steel uni-body construction, four-wheel ABS disc brakes, electronic stability and traction control, power, doors, locks, windows and mirrors, plus six wraparound airbags, it fits this bill.

With all this and more packed neatly into a base LX four-cylinder model for $19,995 (plus $1,495 destination/delivery and $100 excise tax), “Rondoism” is poised to attract new members.

The 2.4L inline-four base engine produces 162 hp through a four-speed automatic transmission with manual Steptronic mode, though my $25,995 EX-Luxury tester had the optional 2.7L V6 and five-speed auto Steptronic good for 185 hp. It’s peppy enough to allow safe passing on two-lane highways, but I was quite impressed at how smooth and quiet it was throughout my short 250-km test drive.

The EX-L (where ‘L’ stands for luxury apparently) gets all of the features of the $22,995 base EX, but also adds a power sliding and tilting sunroof, fully automatic climate controls, eight-way adjustable drivers seat and a handy trip computer that displays average fuel consumption, ambient temperature and trip time/distance et al. NRCan rates the V6-powered Rondo’s fuel economy at 11.8/7.9 L/100 km (highway/city)–about 9.85 combined. According to the computer I only managed to achieve 12.2 L/100 km combined, but this is likely due to a heavy foot. NRCan rates the four-banger at 11.0/7.5 L/100 km.

A fully independent suspension layout with 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin rubber serves the Rondo’s somewhat tall hatchback figure very well, minimizing body roll in corners to where it doesn’t feel like it’ll topple over. The EX handles surprisingly well in fact, soaking up the XL speed humps, uneven sewer grates, potholes and rail crossings I encountered respectably. I found the leather-wrapped steering wheel a bit tacky for my taste, but the power rack and pinion system is light with a good on-centre feel. It produces quality feedback although I would have liked a bit more room from lock-to-lock for those tighter cornering and parking situations.

Inside, all important controls are within easy reach and where you’d expect them to be. Cruise and redundant audio controls can be found on the steering wheel. Different shades of plastic dominate the interior panels and dashboard, however, the fit and finish is seriously excellent! Very little wind and engine noise can be heard from the driver’s seat. Although upholstered in quality leather, I found the front seats a bit too wide and lacking side bolstering for the rump and shoulders of my 5’10” frame.

The second row offers substantial legroom and fold flat in two stages (three if you secure the adjustable head rests properly in their dedicated slots) for a 50/50 split. The third row is a bit more cramped for average-size adults, but also fold flat (in one step) to create a gigantic cargo area that’s accessible through the huge rear lift-up hatch door. Behind the first row with everything folded down, the Rondo has a whopping total cargo space of 2,083 litres. For contrast, a Mazda5 has 857 litres.

For the money, the 2007 Rondo EX-L is an excellent vehicle (value) for active, young families. The exterior styling is a bit conservative (meaning it doesn’t really stand out) but the overall package is quite enticing. Not only was I pleasantly surprised by its comfortable ride and solid handling, but the build quality inside and out puts many domestic cars to shame. Functionality is abound in this vehicle and there’s so much room you could bring along the kitchen sink if that’s your thing.

Kia, one of the fastest-growing automakers in the world, has come very far in the last few years and there are now more than 140 Kia dealers in Canada. All Kias come with a five-year/100,000 km bumper-to-bumper warranty and it’s worth pointing out that Kia has received top honours in J.D. Power’s 2007 Initial Quality Study as well as Strategic Vision’s 2007 Total Quality Index Survey. I would suggest you don’t knock it before you test drive one. “Aiieee!”