For a few years, carmakers have been attempting to build a new breed of people-mover–part compact car, part crossover utility, and part traditional wagon. The Kia Rondo shows that no one has done it quite as smartly and comprehensively as Hyundai-Kia.
From the outside, the Rondo doesn’t offer the most attractive design. Its tall proportions and bland silhouette are not for those interested in an eye-catching set of wheels. Rather, its awkward styling speaks to those more keen on the conveniences of a hatchback with excellent carryall capabilities.
The interior packaging is another story. It’s hard to believe how spacious Kia made this car—for both passengers and cargo. With rear seats down, it offers as much room as some small to mid-size crossovers. And the oversized rear hatch will pretty much swallow anything you decide to cart. There’s a third-row seat, but like the Mazda5’s third row, it’s cramped and only suitable for small people.
The Rondo is also quite refined, with a solid feel and high-quality materials. Seats are nicely padded and very supportive. This cabin is as well made as anything from Honda or Toyota.
Power for the Rondo comes from one of two powertrains. There’s a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 162 horsepower, tied to a four-speed automatic transmission. There’s also a stouter 2.7 liter V6 with a five-speed automatic. This one puts out182 horses, quite a bit for what is still a compact car. Both engines utilize continuously variable valve timing, resulting in enhanced performance and higher efficiency.
Regardless, overall fuel economy will not blow you away. The 4-cylinder rates at 20 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway, while the V6 provides 18 city / 26 highway. The four-cylinder is adequate in most situations, but falls a little short under hard acceleration. The extra power of the V6 eliminates this issue and makes the Rondo a more powerful and confident daily driver—although you’ll take a little hit to fuel economy.
The Rondo offers a nice, smooth ride. And it’s very quiet. It’s perfect for all types of driving: cruising around town, highway commuting, and even long road trips. It may not be the most nimble car out there, and its height causes a considerable amount of body roll in the corners, but that’s of minimal consequence. Buyers of this car are a whole lot more concerned with ride comfort over agility and sportiness.
The Rondo brings electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and a full compliment of six airbags as standard equipment.
Regardless of how we classify it, the Kia Rondo has a lot to offer. It’s flexible, spacious, comfortable, well-powered, and reasonably efficient. Not to mention, very affordable. Starting around $17,000, this hatchback has as much capability and as many features as some vehicles priced several thousand dollars more.