The Kia Rondo provides a good mix of people mover practicality and small car convenience, writes David Bonnici
Descriptions such as ‘practical’, ‘people-mover’ and ‘compact’ from a car dealer’s mouth used to be enough to make this rev head run for the hills. Yet here I was driving a car with all three traits and I had a smile on my face.
Let’s face it, the Kia Rondo isn’t the sexiest car in the Kia stable, so I pushed the engine start button with some trepidation.
However, this car quickly grew on me and I even started to admire some of its lines from certain angles that make it look smaller than it really is.
While compact SUVs now represent a big slice of the market, compact people-movers haven’t really sold here in big numbers – surprising considering our love of practical family cars.
And the Rondo is pretty practical, with seven seats that fold down to provide almost van-like capacity, yet it looks and almost performs like a hatchback.
The impish exterior is deceptive, which you realise once inside. The floor is pretty low, thanks to the comically small wheels which means less interior space taken up by wheel arches. And it appears much wider inside.
The cockpit is very much like its Kia SUV stablemates in terms of uncluttered looks and equipment, which, being a Kia, is plentiful.
Standard equipment includes cruise control, LCD touchscreen with reverse camera, satnav steering wheel-mounted controls, Blutooth phone and audio, and USB/auxiliary sockets.
Then there’s the standard safety features including front, side and curtain airbags, brake assist, Hill-Start Assist and reverse parking sensors.
The driving position is comfortable and somewhat commanding, like larger people- movers, such as the Kia Carnival.
Passengers are well served, particularly in the second row, with two comfortable seats that slide back and forth, USB sockets and plenty of storage and cupholders.
The rear seats are for kids, but you could squeeze a couple of adults in there for shortish trips.
Rear storage with the rear seats up is excellent, but as with most seven seaters, you lose a lot of space once they’re up.
That said, it’s probably unfair to judge its limitations as a seven-seater against, say, the Carnival, which is considerably bigger.
The Rondo was pretty agile. I like the steering, which has different settings for driving and parking. The 2.0-litre petrol engine struggled a little with a full house, meaning fuel consumption got up to about 10 litres/100 km combined, according to my testing.
For some reason, Kia has stopped bringing out the Rondo with the very frugal 1.7 diesel engine, which received much better reviews when it was released a couple of years ago.
It only comes with a six-speed automatic transmission, which does a good job but may be happier with a slightly larger powerplant. That said, once on the highway it cruised along pretty well and was easy to handle in town.
The Rondo starts from $35,288 on road for the SI and $44,057 for the Platinum. I test-drove the latter and appreciated the extra features, including the 10-way electrically adjusted driver’s seat, panoramic sunroof, and airliner-style trays on the back of the front seats for mid-row passengers.
If it were winter I might have enjoyed the heated steering wheel (I once scoffed at heated seats until one particularly cold July day).
Both versions provide a lot of car for the prices and because it’s what Kia calls a niche seller, an opportunity to bring something unique to the proverbial soccer club car park.