2014 KIA RONDO REVIEW
What’s Hot: Good looking, roomy but compact, and good to drive
What’s Not: No third-row curtain airbags, some ergonomic failings and it's pricey
X-FACTOR: Great balance of space, performance and comfort - there is a lot here for family buyers.
Vehicle Style: Five-door MPV
Price: $36,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 100kW/320Nm 4cyl turbo diesel | 6spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.4 l/100km | tested: 8.1 l/100km
The people-mover market is, however, making a small-ish comeback with family buyers.
While the bigger buses like the Kia Carnival and VW Caravelle have always done reasonably well with fleet buyers, cars like the Citroen C4 Picasso and the very cheap Proton Exora are treading gently back into the shallow end of the family people-mover pool.
But it's those pesky SUVs that the Rondo is really up against. Like the new seven-seat X-Trail and Captiva 7.
So; can the Rondo cut it against such varied and capable competition?
Quality: The Rondo is a great example of the strides Kia has made in interior quality over the past few years. The fit and finish is very, very good and most things work as intended.
The letdowns - which are minor - aren’t so much in the quality of the fit, it’s more the execution.
The seatbelts can sometimes be hard to reach or operate and the middle row of seats don’t tumble the way they should to allow easy rear-seat entry and exit.
Also, the third row belts dangle limply when that row is folded away and clack against the trim in corners.
Comfort: Front and middle-row occupants are well looked after. The front seats are very comfortable and look like captain’s chairs. Which is apt, because the steering wheel is ocean-liner big.
The second row seats are also comfortable if not as supportive. The front seatbacks have little airline-style tray tables that drop down - the kids we carried around loved these, as did a few adults.
The third row is made up of two forward-facing seats that flip up from the boot floor. They are not especially comfortable for anyone over about five feet but can be fitted with child seats.
Equipment: The Kia’s equipment list is long - front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, six speaker stereo with USB and Bluetooth, 4 inch screen, dual zone climate control with second and third row outlets, keyless entry, electric windows and mirrors, cruise control with brake function and speed limiter.
Added to that is tinted windows, partial leather trim, heated rear vision mirrors, electric drivers seat.
The screen is a bit small and really could do with at least another two inches to fill the space and be more easily legible.
Storage: Front passengers get door bins and cupholders and a generously-sized glove box.
Rear-seat passengers can fold the middle section of the 40/20/40 split for access two cupholders and a small picnic table that isn’t very comfortable as an armrest.
The drop down trays feature cutouts for a cups and there are door bins and seatback nets as well.
The third row has small bins built into the trim as well as shallow cupholders.
With the rear row stowed, there is 493 litres of boot space and with the middle row folded flat, 1650 litres.
While there’s no figure provided when all three rows are in use, but with the third row deployed there’s barely enough room for a couple of overnight bags there.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The most - or perhaps least - surprising thing about the Rondo is the flexible engine. The 1.7 litre turbodiesel can be found in a number of cars across the Kia/Hyundai empire, including the i40.
With that diesel urge taking care of things, it makes the car just so easy to drive.
The diesel, while more expensive, is a much more relaxed proposition than the petrol models, which have to be worked quite a bit harder when carrying a load or overtaking.
The Rondo has a curiously high-tech drive-by-wire throttle, but the advantages aren’t clear because response is fairly soft.
There’s also the Kia equivalent of Flex-steer, which allows the driver to select the steering weight. It still isn’t an adequate replacement for well-sorted single-mode electric steering.
Refinement: The diesel isn’t the quietest or smoothest unit on the planet, but it’s never too intrusive unless you’re driving like a lunatic.
The six-speed automatic, again an in-house effort shared with Hyundai, is very good and makes the most of the engine’s outputs.
Road and wind noise is well suppressed and even the big mirrors raise little more than a light rustle - easily drowned out by the stereo.
Ride and Handling: The Rondo rides surprisingly well for a reasonably short car with a tall body, big wheels and a lot of weight.
Crucially for a car of this type, body roll and top-heavy lurching is kept in check on corners to help prevent, or at least delay, unwelcome vomit stops.
While the ride is on the firm side, it's not too firm nor harsh. The springing and damping is actually pretty impressive: on the whole the Rondo handles quite surprisingly well.
Back roads aren’t a chore and little bit of fun is available to the keen driver as long as they don’t mind a bit of understeer courtesy of the tall, heavy body.
Braking: The Rondo’s four disc brakes are all up to the job, even with a car laden with kids and their gear. The pedal feel is not great, but required effort is low and the system copes well with repeated hard stops.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 36.2 out of 37
Safety features: The Rondo comes with six airbags - dual front, curtains back to the second row (but not for the third row) and side airbags for for the front seats.
Added to that is ABS, brake force distribution and stability control.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 5 years
Service costs: The Rondo requires a visit to the dealer every 15,000km or 12 months. Services range from $328 through to $498 (4yrs/60,000km) for a total of $1998 over five years.
The petrol averages around $40 less per service, for a total of $1770 over five years.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Citroen C4 Grand Picasso ($43,990) - The Kia has a significant headstart on the Picasso on price but the Citroen drives even better and is a very individual looker.
It is also well-equipped, has more power and torque and matches the Rondo’s six-speed transmission. (see Picasso reviews)
Peugeot 5008 Active HDi ($40,490) - The Peugeot is a bit of an old-stager in this company, but it is more people-mover than SUV.
It’s a bit cheap inside (few Peugeots aren’t) and could do with a bit more flair, but it does make up for that with a lot of features. It also has the most overall storage in its class. (see 5008 reviews)
Fiat Freemont ($32,600) - While the diesel is manual only and it’s not really a Fiat at all, the Freemont is worth a look.
The engine has more power and torque than the Kia, is very sharply-priced, comes with plenty of gear plus the requisite seven seats. (see Freemont reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Rondo hits a target that Korean carmakers are good at - offsetting any dynamic shortcomings or interior executions with a sharp price of entry into the range.
The Si petrol Rondo, for instance, is $6000 cheaper than the diesel model tested here. But the diesel is far the better car.
While the whole range for this second generation Rondo is significantly improved, with this up-spec SLi diesel model you won't have much change out of $40k by the time you've put it on the road.
That's getting 'up there' and will be a challenge for some.
Price notwithstanding, in a low volume but fiercely-fought sub-segment, the Rondo diesel is emerging as a top-two contender.
It’s extremely well-packaged, its around the same size externally as a Cerato, and it has the added bonus of the power and torque of the diesel engine.
All Kia has to do now is convince more suburban families they don’t need the AWD they’ll never use.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Si - $29,990
- SLi - $33,990
- Platinum - $38,990
- Si - $32,490
- SLi - $36,490