Kia Rondo7 Long Term Update - 1700km Family Road Trip

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Flying is the better option, given you can spend two extra days on the beach, and with cheap airfares, which have historically cost us less than $800 return for all four of us, it's the way to go, isn't it?
But things took a turn for the worse in November last year, when I logged on to the Flight Centre website for what I thought would be another good deal, only to received a rude shock.

The best fare I could come up with was going to relieve us of a whopping $1400, so it took all of a few seconds, before we decided to call up the Kia Rondo7, and run the gauntlet.

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This is the problem when your parents decide to pack up and leave Sydney for the Gold Coast, as they did some 24 years ago. Your annual holidays are always to the same place, but who's complaining.

In the hills above Tweed Heads, there lies a little jewel of a place called Terranora that is barely holding on to its semi rural status, as each block is a minimum of 750 square metres.

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That said, the Rondo7 was packed to the rafters complete with a good supply of lemon sherbet lollies and freshly made bread rolls, in readiness for an early morning start, or so we thought.

Our six year-old is already standing up on her pink Softie surfboard and loving it, so I was determined to take it with us so she could continue practising. With a stack of presents and bags consuming the third row seat area, the board would need to go on the roof, so we needed to hit a surf shop and buy some straps.

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We planned to drive this trip following the 'Stop, Revive, Survive' maxim, so it was agreed that we would stop for five minutes every two hours, for a stretch and driver change.

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My wife is a stickler for speed limits and worse still, she has trained the kids to watch the speedometer, whenever I'm behind the wheel, and report any violations.

As the only male in a family of four, this is what I have to contend with on a regular basis. The fact that we at CarAdvice have driven some of the word's fastest cars, at speeds up to 300km/h, counts for nothing with this lot.

After almost two and half months with the Rondo7, I maintain that it's always fun to drive, despite lacking some low down torque, We've learned to live with that, but a diesel option would solve the problem entirely, as long as it's a quiet diesel.

The ergonomics in this vehicle have been well thought out too, with switchgear and controls in easy reach of the driver, as well as being uncomplicated.

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If the Sydney-Newcastle Freeway were extended all the way to Brisbane, then there would be no complaints, but the fact is, once the motorway ends at Newcastle, you face hundreds of kilometres of undivided two lane roads with 80km/h speed limits, countless bottlenecks, and more police than at a police academy graduation day.

To the state's defence, there does appear to be ongoing road works along much of the route, which if they ever finish, will no doubt make this high traffic route, both quicker and a lot safer.

The Rondo7 performs well enough in freeway mode, despite its under-gunned four-speed automatic box. It's only when you want to overtake slower moving traffic at 100km/h, or negotiate undulating terrain at these speeds, do you ever need to bury the throttle, and hold it there!

That said, a five or better still, a six-speed gearbox, mated to this not so powerful 2.0-litre engine, would offer better driveability than the four-speed, and even better fuel economy. It would also be more cost effective, than the diesel option.

Its not that this powertrain is outdated, on the contrary, it's an in-line four-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve, CVVT that's just not tuned to produce a lot of power or torque.

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However, when I was speaking with legendary ex-race car driver Kevin Bartlett about the state of the Pacific Highway and the time it took us to get to Tweed Heads, he scalded me for not taking another route, which he says, takes him no more than nine hours from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast. I'll get proper directions from him and come back to you on that one, as it seems too good to be true.

Fortunately, we only had to endure one McDonalds hit on the way up, in what looked like a boutique version of the fast food chain. I try desperately to avoid this kind of food, but its hard to hold out, when you're surrounded by burgers, nuggets and fries and that intoxicating aroma, which is always more intense when you're hungry.

Given the mix of freeway, stop-start bottlenecks, and more than a few driver changes, we managed to clock up just over 500kms on one 55-litre tank of fuel, which I thought was an excellent result, considering four people and a 'tonne' of luggage.

There's a great local Chinese restaurant with superb food and reasonable prices, up near Bond University, called the Asian Court, and that's where we were heading for dinner soon after arriving and unloading the car.

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The second row seats simply slide forward using the same rail mechanism as employed on the front seats, allowing for instantly variable legroom, depending on the height of those in the third row.

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I took a close look at a December 2008 pricing guide, and if you want a seven-seat vehicle with similar driveability and features to the Rondo, you would need to spend many thousands more, and even then, I would put my money on the Kia, given the overall price/feature package coupled with its five-year warranty.
  • Chrysler Grand Voyager: $56,990
  • Citroen C4 Grand Picasso: $39,990
  • Dodge Journey: $36,990
  • Honda Odyssey: $39,290
  • Kia Carnival: $33,390
  • Mitsubishi Grandis: $40,590
  • Renault Grand Scenic: $40,490
  • Ssangyong Stavic: $32,990
  • Toyota Avensis: $37,990
  • Toyota Tarago: $50,000