Kia Rondo EXL
by Ian Barrett
30th December, 2008
If we asked our readers to think of Kia, which model comes most readily to mind?
For most folk, we suspect, there is one name which immediately comes to mind:
Carnival. First released in the Australian market back in 1999, with a 132 kW 2.5L
V6, and standard 5-speed manual (optional 4-speed automatic), it quickly won the
hip-pockets of families looking for a stylish value-for-money people mover. By 2001,
it had managed to become the top-selling people mover in the country. The Carnival
is arguably the most successful and respected of all Kia's offerings, with the larger
Grand Carnival being added to the stable in recent years, with seating for eight,
and a longer body for additional luggage capacity.
And the carnival's not over yet. Now a new 'baby brother' has arrived on the scene:
Rondo 7. As the name suggests, Kia's latest people mover is a 7-seater like the
original Carnival, but comes with compact and stylish dimensions.
Kia are pitching the Rondo as an Urban Recreational Vehicle in much the same way as
Skoda does with its Roomster. But the Rondo has the advantage of 7 seats, along with a
clearly defined SUV look and feel. Top marks to the designers, who have turned out a
great looking vehicle, both inside and out. We tested the top specification Rondo7 EXL,
which was beautifully finished in 'Titanium Mica' paintwork ($350 option), and set off
with fat 225/50 tyres on 17" alloy wheels, giving the car a purposeful on-road stance.
Other external features included with the EXL are glass sunroof, roof rails with
cross-bars, front driving lights, and chrome highlights on door handles and grille.
The interior design is no less impressive, beginning with a bold looking dashboard
layout and well integrated centre console. Leather wrapped gearshift and steering wheel
(with audio controls, but adjustable for tilt only) complement the classy looking leather
seat trim. An AM/FM radio with MP3/WMA compatibility (with built-in auxiliary socket) and
single-CD player gives acceptable sound quality through the 6 speakers, but a 6-stacker
unit wouldn't go astray in a vehicle at this level. Cruise control would, likewise, be
desirable as a standard inclusion. Heated exterior mirrors are a very useful idea for damp
and frosty winter mornings.
Speaking of the weather, the climate control air conditioning features rear ducting to
ensure that all 7 occupants stay comfortable and happy. Well shaped front seats offer plenty
of adjustment, with 6-way manual adjustment for the driver. The 2 rows of rear seats offer
adequate head, shoulder and leg-room for 7 average adults when needed, and all positions
feature individual head restraints. While middle and rear seats don't appear overly shapely,
they were pronounced comfortable enough by our mixed male and female passenger team for a
2-hour open road trip.
The interior features lots of storage, with no less than 8 cup holders, in addition to
the obligatory door and seat back pockets. Covered storage boxes cater to 3rd-row passengers,
while a pull-out tray resides beneath the front passenger seat, and the driver scores a
sunglasses holder. And there's additional underfloor storage in the cargo area.
A 2,700 mm wheelbase, together with the SUV-inspired styling makes for a spacious load area.
With all 7 seats available, luggage space is a modest 184 litres. But Kia have further optimised
the space available with a wide choice of seating configurations to give plenty of versatility
in accommodation. Bed-flat, split-fold, or cargo-flat capabilities enables fairly long or bulky
items to be carried, and there's even stretch room for sleeping, with the 2nd row folded flat
to give 2,083 litres of space. In fact, we like the idea of a weekend camp-out for 2 at our
favourite getaway, if a suitable tailgate annexe were available - how about it, Mr. Kia?!
Buyers opting for the EXL version, as tested, are treated to a full array of safety gear.
Dual front, side and curtain airbags (the latter 2 optional on lower models) enhance the
feeling of security in the event of the unthinkable. This EXL specification also features
active head restraints for driver and front passenger.
But the unthinkable is less likely given the Rondo's evident primary safety credentials. Four
wheel disc brakes are coupled with ABS and EBD, while ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) and
traction control (TCS) are also included. Very car-like handling and ride are provided by coil and
strut-type front suspension with anti-roll bar, while the rear end sports the latest thinking in
coil and multi-link layout, with anti-roll bar and stroke-dependent dampers. The final result is
pleasantly safe and secure for this type of vehicle. And in any case, it's not likely to be driven
like a sports car.
Another reason for that is the excellent 2-litre, DOHC engine, which features CVVT to give
outputs of 106 kW @ 6,000 rpm, and 189 Nm of torque at a relatively high 4,250 rpm. Smooth and
quiet, it provides a very good balance between performance and economy, especially considering
the use of a 4-speed 'tiptronic' automatic. We didn't test it against the stop-watch. Overall
fuel consumption is quoted at a very respectable 8.6L/100 km (combined cycle). It goes well
enough with a few on board, but a full complement of 7 passengers is a fair ask for 2-litre
4-cylinder petrol engine. We'd like to see the larger 2.4 litre engine tucked under the bonnet,
as fitted to Kia's Magentis sedan.
That said, most buyers will find performance more than adequate for most requirements. Overall,
we think the Rondo 7 will satisfy a lot of buyers in the hunt for a stylish and practical people-mover
with room for 7. The top-level EXL comes as a fairly complete package, with a surprisingly modest
price tag. The asking price is from $31,990 plus on-road costs, which includes Kia's 5-year factory warranty.
There's no doubt that Kia has the power to surprise - and entice - with the Rondo 7, particularly
when value for money enters the picture!
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