The Kia Rondo isn't an SUV and it isn't quite a people-mover, either. Regardless of segment, though, it's a versatile, clever, value-for-money way to move the family in style.
“Help me Rondo yeah”… I’ve always wanted to weave a Beach Boys lyric into a vehicular review and the 2017 Kia Rondo Platinum has been the best – if somewhat lame – opportunity for me to do so.
The Kia Rondo sits in an automotive no man’s land. It’s not a people mover and it’s not an SUV, but if you need to transport some vertically challenged singing troubadours (See what I did there?) around town, the three-row Rondo might just be the most space-efficient way to get the job done.
Like the Beach Boys’ last chart topper, it’s been a while between drinks for us at CarAdvice in regard to the Rondo. Just over 12 months in fact, since we last stepped into one (in Platinum guise that time too) and gave it a solid 7.5 overall.
The Kia Rondo might not have made Matt Campbell’s recent list of cars Australians should be buying more of but don’t, but it remains a sensible, compact people-moving option for family buyers on a budget. You might get trampled in the rush toward the Sportage or Sorento in your Kia dealership, but that doesn’t mean the smart money isn’t being spent just outside the wildly popular SUV segments.
While the Rondo doesn’t have many competitors and while it isn’t quite sure exactly what it is, there’s little doubt it’s a good-looking compact people mover. Have you looked at a BMW 2-Series Active Tourer recently? You can’t unsee what you’ve already seen. The Rondo, on the other hand, is nicely proportioned, well executed and devoid of any styling ugliness.
Its most attractive attribute, though, is the price. So let’s first dissect that.
As tested, our Titanium Silver Rondo starts from just $39,990 plus on-road costs. The only option here is the aforementioned premium paint finish, which costs $695 and takes the starting price up to $40,685 before on-road costs are added. There is no doubt whatsoever then, that the Rondo makes a compelling value statement, especially when you consider the hefty list of standard equipment.
Standard equipment highlights are many, but here are the standouts: 18-inch alloy wheels, a full suite of safety kit including six airbags, ABS, ESC, vehicle stability management, brake assist, hill-start assist, rear-view camera, reverse parking sensors and LED daytime lights. There're also six airbags, seven seats, leather trim, 10-way powered driver’s seat, second-row reclining and sliding seats, HID headlights, LED rear lights, panoramic sunroof, privacy glass, rain sensing wipers, and paddle shifters.
There's also a 7.0-inch full-colour LCD touchscreen, 4.2-inch colour multi-information display in the instrument cluster, all windows auto up and down, portable LED torch in cargo area, four 12V power outlets, six cupholders, four bottle holders, front seat back fold up tables, under floor storage compartments in the second row, under floor luggage compartment storage, steering wheel mounted controls, dual zone climate control, second row vents, heated and ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel.
You can see why I described the standard features list as hefty, then…
Under the bonnet, you’ll find a 2.0-litre four-cylinder DOHC 16-valve engine that generates 122kW at 6500rpm and 213Nm at 4700rpm. It’s mated to a six-speed automatic, that interestingly, only uses sixth as an overdriven gear with fifth at 1:1.
Fuel consumption is listed via the ADR claim as 7.9L/100km on the combined cycle and on test, over a variety of driving conditions, including a solid 100km highway run, we saw an indicated return of 11.0L/100km.
While the petrol engine is no firecracker, you don’t have an alternative if you desire Platinum specification as tested here. We know the diesel engines are punchier, especially once you load the Rondo up with five or more occupants. The top-spec diesel Rondo is the SLi, which starts from $36,990 and is still a solid option, but isn’t as well appointed as the Platinum.
So, while Australian buyers don’t love people movers even if they are indeed the most sensible choice, there’s plenty about the Rondo that makes it way more practical than any three row SUV – even SUVs in larger segments. So many buyers require practicality and yet, they’re happy to sacrifice that vital element for looks. Well, with the Rondo, you might just be able to have both.
The Rondo first stakes its claim in the practicality stakes the minute you open the door to get in. The seat height – like the Kia Soul – is almost perfectly neutral, such that getting in and out is effortless. It’s better than any SUV in the Kia stable, and markedly better than a sedan or hatch – something to keep in mind if you’re a family buyer who is in and out of the car numerous times a day.
Once seated, you’ll be impressed by the inherent quality of the Rondo’s cabin – regardless of the starting price. Kia has been executing a sense of luxury beyond the price point for some time now, and the Rondo is a stark reminder of that theory.
The leather seats are beautifully trimmed, heated and ventilated up front, and even the leather look trim on the console and doors doesn’t look cheap. Extensive adjustment – electric for driver – means there’s more than enough room in the front row whether you’re the driver or passenger.
The Rondo doesn’t get Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality, which is the only downer in regard to the infotainment system, with every other function working with typical Kia alacrity. The Bluetooth is crisp and clear, and all major functions are as easy to decipher and use as ever. The screen is clear in all lighting conditions too, and we continue to enjoy using the Kia satellite navigation system.
What’s perhaps most impressive is the actual design of the cabin and the way it is executed in practice. There’s a clean, unfussy feel to the layout of the switchgear and controls, plenty of clever, accessible storage, and the layout feels a lot more classy than the sub 40k starting price would have you expecting from the outset. You even get LED cabin lighting and blinds for the second row windows. Features like those don’t even come standard on vastly more expensive ‘luxury’ vehicles.
The second row is excellent, with separate pews that can all recline and slide fore and aft independently. The centre seat back can also be folded down to liberate a tray and cup holders for the two occupants of the outer seats. While the middle seat is tight if there are two large adults in the outer second row seats, there’s still enough room at a pinch, for three adults across the second row.
Climb back into the third row – which fold down flat into the floor when not in use – and there is once again more room than you expect. This row is the dominion of kids though, as it won’t accommodate adults in comfort. Still, if you have a young tribe, or the third row is occasional use only, the Rondo is definitely a consideration.
The interior packaging is such that, despite its diminutive exterior dimensions, the Rondo delivers more interior space than any comparable SUV. To better the Rondo in people mover terms, you’ll need to step up to a much larger vehicle like a Honda Odyssey. The luggage space is huge with the third row folded down for example, expanding from 492 litres to 1650 litres.
On road, the Rondo is nippy, precise and a joy to drive – almost all of the time. Boring I know, but it really is an enjoyable experience for what is a glorified minibus. The electric power steering is perfectly weighted regardless of road speed, and the engine works seamlessly with the automatic gearbox. CVT be damned, and the only time you’ll ever feel the engine straining a little is when the Rondo is fully loaded. At all other times, it’s quite refined and works away unobtrusively.
With a full tank of fuel, the Rondo tips the scales at 1582kg, so you can understand the small petrol engine having to work reasonably hard to haul a fully laden vehicle along. It’s the only reason you’d opt for the diesel Rondo – and therefore have to cop the lower spec level.
The urban ride is excellent – thanks once again to the smarts of the local suspension tune – and despite the 18-inch wheels and relatively low profile rubber, the Rondo is both comfortable and capable. Forget handling prowess or lateral grip – it’s irrelevant in this segment – the ride comfort is key. The suspension obviously weights up a little the more laden the Rondo is, but with four adults on board, it’s able to soak up the worst of Sydney’s urban road network with ease.
Positioning the Rondo is also a breeze, thanks to the square flanks, boxy design and excellent rear-view camera. The parking sensors help too, but the camera’s crystal clear image makes parking a cinch.
You know all about Kia’s seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, and that alone is attracting buyers to the South Korean brand. Add to that, the competitive capped price servicing scheme, which requires a service every 12 months or 15,000km and runs right up to seven years/105,000km. Prices range from $296.00 to $565.00 and all up will cost $2744.00 across that seven year time frame.
There’s much to like about Kia’s current portfolio across most of the hotly contested popular segments in Australia. It’s also worth noting that one of Kia’s most well-rounded and clever vehicles is this, the Rondo, in a segment that buyers don’t really love as much as they should. The Kia Rondo impressed us once again during its time in the CarAdvice garage.