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Review: 2008 Kia Rondo 7 EX-L, The Multi Purpose Vehicle

October 1st, 2008
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After a six year absence in Australia Kia has returned to the compact Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV) segment with the all new Rondo7. The model range kicks off from an extremely attractive $24,990, ensuring the Rondo is by far the cheapest seven seater on the market.  Heck, even the top of the range EX-L automatic we’re testing, with luxuries such as leather seats, sunroof and climate control air-conditioning, is priced at only $31,990.  On paper it certainly looks like it offers great value for money, but before we decide whether Australian buyers should put the Rondo7 on their shopping list, let’s have a look at the recent buying habits around this kind of money.

In 2001, the last full year of sales for the Rondo’s predecessor, the Kia Carens, 1 compact MPV sold to 9 compact SUV’s.  Fast forward to the end of 2007 and life for the compact MPV had gotten a lot worse.  1 compact MPV sold to 160 compact SUV’s! 

So whilst most of Kia’s competitors have decided against bringing their compact people movers to our big brown land, probably for fear that consumers won’t be swayed from buying an SUV, Kia Australia have decided to cater for families who want the functionality of seven seats in a vehicle not much longer than a Toyota Corolla.

Furthermore, to distance the Rondo7 from being a MPV, Kia is marketing the new model as an Urban Recreational Vehicle.

To judge if a young family should place the Rondo7 on their shopping list we decided to trace the steps of a drive we did only weeks earlier in a compact SUV.  We couldn’t get the average 2.3 kids so we settled with three, aged between 5 and 12 years old sitting comfortably in the second row, we left Melbourne for the snow fields for 400kms of driving split in half with a couple of hours of tobogganing and snow ball fights.

 

The Rondo 7 certainly looks the part.  Sitting on big 17” alloys with low profile tyres, a long wheelbase and a short rear overhang provides a sporty look, especially from the rear three quarter.  The front design is less aggressive, with one observer inferring that the front grille design reminds them of a friendly little hamster.  I suppose this isn’t a bad thing for a people mover.        

The large rear side doors hint that the second row passengers should have plenty of legroom, which is certainly the case.  A six foot tall passenger can sit behind a driver of the same height and stretch out.  The interior room available is impressive for a vehicle of this footprint; with only the third row seats being suitable for pre teens.  However the beauty of the third row is that when it’s not in use, it quite simply folds fully flat into the floor, growing cargo capacity from 200 odd litres to a very impressive 900 litres enabling owners to transport large objects.

 

On our test drive to the snow, the three kids in the back were all in the second row as the amount of snow gear meant the 3rd row had to be folded into the floor to increase cargo space. All three children gave the interior the thumbs up, with a ‘cool rating’ average of 8 out of 10 being awarded after a full day in the Rondo.  The side windows are nice and deep and kids can also see out from the third row so they knew when “we’re there yet”.                  

 

Up front the interior is also impressive.  We love the modern dash layout; with the position of the gear shifter making complete sense for an MPV.  The integrated audio is simple to use with not too many buttons, the feeling of the large HVAC control buttons and the cool circular air vents are a huge leap forward from previous generation KIAs.  Likewise the quality of the leather, which is standard on the EX-L, has improved from the brands previous attempts.                

On the open road we assessed how the Rondo travels with five aboard with luggage.  On the positive side the handling is fine for a vehicle with the main purpose of moving people around safely.  The ride wasn’t harsh on the low profile tyres, and sitting lower to the ground than a compact SUV, a lower centre of gravity only benefits handling.  However the Rondo is heavier than we’d hoped for, with a kerb weight of almost 1600kg being similar to many compact SUV’s.                                       

It’s this weight penalty combined with a non sporty 2.0L four cylinder petrol engine that puts a stop to spirited driving.  With maximum power of only 106kW and 189Nm of torque driving through a four speed automatic sequential transmission, you’re never going to say to your friends that this car is over powered.  It would be nice to drive the 120kW 2.4L engine that’s fitted to Nth American Rondo’s to see if it’s a better fit.                                 

Heading up the windy snow covered mountain, with large drops to the side of the road, we nodded with approval of the safety features provided. The ABS brakes with EBD help keep the Rondo7 on course when harder braking is needed on the ice.  Inside the entry level and mid grade Rondo7’s only come with driver and front passenger airbags, one way to contribute to such a low price, whilst our top spec EX-L gets valuable front side and full length curtain airbags.   

                                      

After having lots of tiring fun on our toboggans in the snow we had to turn back down the mountain and retrace our steps back home.  All three kids said that the seats were comfortable, and backed it up by falling asleep on the drive back to suburbia. Up front we opened the sunroof to get a little of the fresh mountain air, turned up the climate control to extra hot and listened to our favourite Coldplay CD on the standard sound system.                     

Arriving home we unpacked our bags of luggage and counted eight drink bottles that were secured in their cup holders, which considering it only offers seven seats is a bit of a mystery, but heh, can you ever have too many in a people mover.                 

                       

We calculated a fuel consumption reading of 8.8L per 100km from our 5 hours of highway and suburban driving which is mighty close to the 8.6L that Kia claim. I really wanted to like the Rondo7 and after driving it for a week we all gave it the nod of approval.  Its engine could be more powerful and we noted the absence of cruise control on even the top of the range EX-L, but that’s about it.  If you require 7 seats, have a budget around $30,000 we’d definitely recommend that you test drive the new Rondo7.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Competitors
Citroen C4 Picasso (2.0L Petrol)
Peugeot 308 Touring (1.6L Petrol)
Renault Scenic* (2.0L Petrol) & Grand Scenic (2.0L Petrol)
Skoda Roomster* FSI (1.6L Petrol)
Volkswagen Caddy Life (1.9L Turbo Diesel)

* 5 seats only


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