2013 KIA RONDO REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small people mover
Price: $33,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/transmission: 2.0 litre petrol/six-speed auto
Fuel Economy (listed): 7.9 l/100km | (tested): 9.8 l/100km
Are Australian motorists ready for a resurgence of the minivan? Kia thinks there is a market there for the right car.
Its a seven-seater with a footprint not much bigger than a hatch, yet offers van-like levels of practicality with a touch of exterior style.
It doesn't have the aesthetic appeal of Honda’s elegant Odyssey, but the Rondo isn’t without charm of its own.
But looks are one thing; functionality and driveability another.
Quality: The Rondo is typical Kia - its interior is modern with appealing surfaces and trim materials.
Switchgear is among the best in class, and everything operates smoothly. But for some painted plastic trim, we’d be tempted to say this interior challenges some European cabins for perceived quality.
The instrument panel is clear and legible, however the LCD touch screen display on the centre stack can be obscured by glare when the sun is low and coming through the side windows.
The leather-trimmed front seats are reasonably comfortable, and headroom is as generous as you’d expect for a minivan. All controls are within easy grasp, and the steering column adjusts for rake and reach.
But being a people mover, the real test is in the back.
Kia has equipped the second row with three identically-sized seats on their own individual sliders, which means even the centre passenger gets to ride along in comfort.
It’s a bit squeezy for shoulder-room there for three adults, but three kids will be fine.
The outboard passengers also get their own flip-up tray table with an integrated cup holder, and there are air outlets on the back of the centre console.
Flip the centre seatback down, and you get more tray space and a couple of extra cupholders too.
The third row however is strictly for children, and younger children at that (these seats are best employed on an occasional-use basis).
Entry to the third row is also compromised by the position of the roof-mounted seatbelt spool for the centre passenger in the second row. Clearly, this was designed with LHD markets in mind.
Equipment: With the mid-grade SLi, you get dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming rear view mirror, heated wing mirrors and LED daytime running lamps as standard.
The SLi also gains some chrome exterior bits, as well as 17-inch alloys, privacy glass and roof rails. Cruise control is standard, as is dual-zone climate control and powered driver’s seat.
The standard six-speaker audio system is controlled via a 4.3 inch touch screen and has USB and Bluetooth audio inputs, and Bluetooth phone integration is standard as well.
Storage: With 492 litres of space, the Rondo makes a pretty handy wagon when the third row seats are stowed away. Flip the second row forward and you have a flat load area measuring 1650 litres.
There’s also a handy stowage area below the boot floor for the cargo blind. However, with the third row in place there’s precious little boot space.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Rondo’s 2.0 litre direct-injected petrol engine is impressively smooth, but it’s lacking the low-end pull that a people mover needs.
Power and torque outputs of 122kW and 213Nm are adequate for highway motoring, but once you encounter a hill performance drops off - particularly when loaded.
It’s not helped by the six-speed auto’s calibration, which prefers to select the highest gear possible at the earliest opportunity (to save fuel), and doesn’t downshift readily enough when the car starts to travel up an incline.
The transmission however is smooth through the gears and free of ‘hunting’ through the ratios when going up hills.
Despite a fuel-saving transmission calibration, the Rondo can be thirsty. Try as we might, we couldn’t get fuel consumption to dip below 9.8 l/100km - and that was with one person in the car most of the time.
Refinement: Wind and tyre noise are well-suppressed, which is impressive for a boxy 'wagon' like the Rondo.
Even with the engine revving away it’s not an unpleasant place to be. It's also solid; we found no rattles or thunks over rougher roads.
Suspension: The Rondo’s suspension tune is bang-on for a family wagon. It isolates the cabin from hard bumps, and those in the third row will surely appreciate the smoothness of the ride.
The steering is inconsistent in its weighting though. Besides having little feel or feedback, the steering suddenly loses its self-centering when the wheel is within 40 degrees of centre.
Braking: The Rondo’s all-disc brake system provides good stopping power, with a pedal that’s easy to modulate and not too grabby.
ANCAP rating: Not tested.
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist are all standard, Every passenger gets a three-point seatbelt and there are six airbags on board.
However, while the first and second rows get curtain airbags, the third row misses out - an oversight for a family car.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years, unlimited kilometres.
Service costs: Service intervals are set for every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Caddy Maxi TDI 250 ($39,990) - VW’s own compact people mover has a more practical sliding-door configuration and roomier cabin, but its commercial van origins give it a less cosseting ride than the Rondo.
Its 1.6 litre diesel has only 75kW, but produces 250Nm of torque in the midrange. It’s a more effortless performer than the Rondo, but feels more utilitarian and is substantially more expensive. (see Caddy reviews)
Nissan Dualis +2 ST ($31,190 ) - The Dualis is getting on a bit, but is still a rather appealing package.
Its 2.0 litre port-injected petrol engine is even weaker than the Rondo’s motor though, and it can feel pretty slow underfoot. The third row is also extremely tight, and the Rondo also wins the interior quality fight. (see Dualis reviews)
Mitsubishi Outlander LS 2WD ($34,990) - If you want a big seven-seater, the Outlander is the cheapest option available.
In base model 2.0 litre LS form it’s no rocketship, but then again neither are any of its rivals. It’s a bit plain-Jane though, especially compared to the nicely finished Rondo SLi. (see Outlander reviews)
Note: All prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Rondo does the 'compact people mover' thing pretty well. At the wheel it feels more like a larger hatch than MPV.
The downside of its compact dimensions however is that the cramped third row isn't for permanent use. The Rondo is really for families with no more than three children.
Those with bigger broods will need to go up a size to something like the Grand Carnival.
If sticking with the Rondo, we’d also have to recommend opting for the diesel. It comes at a $2500 premium, but with 320Nm it has the right amount of torque for the load-carrying demands of a family.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Si - $29,990
- SLi - $33,990
- Platinum - $38,990
- Si - $32,490
- SLi - $36,490