Practical, et al.
The Kia Rondo is a compact MPV, offered in 5- and 7-seater layouts, that sits on a relatively niche end of the market. Rather, we should say it sits on a niche end now, due to the surge in the popularity of crossovers and SUVs. Not that long ago, cars like the Rondo were the ones to have for young, hip families who needed more practicality than the old hatchback but didn’t want to go the whole hog and get a van. And unlike some other categories, this has always been a style-conscious segment, and so the Rondo sits in that classification just fine.
The Rondo dukes it out with cars like the Citroen C4 Picasso, Mercedes-Benz B-Class, and the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer, and not much else if you limit your options strictly to body style. In reality, the Rondo has to also take on newer, more trendy crossover SUVs like the Citroen C4 Cactus, the Kia Sportage, the Honda CR-V and the like too, resulting in it having to take on a multi-pronged offensive, which it’s perfectly capable of doing (if you keep an objective mind).
Available in 5-seat Rondo S and 7-seat Rondo Si guise, is the Kia Rondo the perfect family car you didn’t realise you could have?
“The current third-generation model is far easier on the eyes. It’s well-proportioned, has a relatively low roofline, and looks more like a large hatch than a bland people mover. It’s not unattractive, even at this entry-level point.” — CarAdvice
The Kia Rondo is very much aware of the number of buyers that will be considering it as an upgrade from an older hatchback, striking a balance that allows them to retain the familiar package of the old car while making enough room for the expanding brood. As such, the Rondo bears a familiar family face, with a low nose and swept-back headlights, leading to an expansive windscreen that calls it a day at a pert, upright rear. The Rondo is certainly a stylish little thing, and certainly serves to remind that having a family doesn’t mean you forsake appearances entirely.
The Rondo S and Si are now easier to differentiate, with the lower model getting steel wheels while the Si gets alloys, though both sets measure 16-inches in diameter. The headlights are halogen projectors, while the taillights miss out on LEDs entirely. It’s an overall good-looking thing, more conventional in its appeal than the divisive-but-funky Citroen C4 Picasso.
Engine & Drivetrain
“… this is quite a parked little machine.” — Practical Motoring
As part of a model-year upgrade, the Rondo has lost its option of a torquey diesel powerplant, with the range now serviced by a sole 2.0-litre petrol engine. Said engine produces a modest 122kW and 213Nm of torque, hardly earth-shattering numbers no matter how you cut it, with power going to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox.
With its torque kicking in at a relatively high 4,300rpm (no wonder turbochargers are so prevalent), the naturally-aspirated powerplant requires a decent amount of jabbing before it reacts the way you want it too. It appears that the exterior is writing cheques that the powertrain can’t cash, with the (relatively) sporty styling of the Rondo going at odds with the unremarkable engine, which brings with it just enough performance to get it going. But then again, this is a family car. Maybe it’s not meant to light your hair on fire.
“The Rondo was already so impressively practical and roomy that it could have been terrible to drive and it would still be worth buying.” — CarsGuide
The MPV-ness of the Kia Rondo is most apparent inside, with its obvious family-friendly packaging coming through strong. There’s plenty of light throughout the cabin, thanks to large windows and a relatively-low window line, while all seats in the Rondo are individually-set (no bench seats, even on the third row) and provide adequate comfort and support.
The Rondo S is particularly noteworthy given its lack of a folding third-row, which frees up space for more cargo. This is important, with many young families having to haul lots of gear with them (especially on the weekends), the Rondo will be able to swallow everything and the kitchen sink.
Cabin revisions were minimal with the 2017 refresh, limited to repackaging rather than redesigning. As such, both cars get a colour infotainment system (larger in the Si, with the S missing out on GPS navigation too), a supervision cluster nestled between the dials, along with six speakers, which should be just good enough to keep the family entertained over a long road trip.
Behind the Wheel
“It’s like a big, friendly hug, albeit a soft one.” — TopGear
You may approach the Rondo with some hesitation if you enjoy driving, and that’s fair. If you’re used to piloting a nippy, responsive hatchback most of the time, the move to an MPV will undoubtedly leave you a little wanting in the area of driver involvement, but that’s entirely acceptable. More so in the Rondo, because underestimating it will lead to a pleasant surprise once you get behind the wheel.
It’s never going to amaze the senses, but the Rondo is a pretty tidy little thing to dart around town with. The engine is responsive and the steering accurate, though it follows the form of every modern car nowadays by offering as much steering feel as a pastry plate. Regardless, the Rondo doesn’t pitch and lean the way some other people movers do, and that’s a commendable effort.
Another aspect worth commendation is the cabin noise quality, where the Rondo is able to stay quiet and composed over long distances at motorway speeds. In town, the Rondo does better still, with its well-sorted ride able to deal with the usual smattering of course surfaces in a composed manner.
The weak link in the recipe is the gearbox, which constantly hunts for gears even with minimal throttle inputs. It’s constantly shifting up and down, not knowing where in the rev-range it wants to be, which may initially seem like a small gripe but will quickly become a major annoyance once some time is spent with the thing. Mercifully, urban driving is something the Rondo is good at, with smooth low-speed progress ensuring you don’t pull your hair out in traffic.
Safety & Technology
“The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rated the Kia Rondo 5-stars in its impact safety tests.” — WhichCar
With the Kia Rondo having first appeared in 2013, it admittedly lacks the sort of active safety tech that are being offered elsewhere, like autonomous emergency (AEB) braking, blind-spot monitoring, or rear cross-traffic alert. However, the Rondo does tick some mandatory boxes, by including things like traction control, ABS, EBD, and hill-start assist as standard.
The Rondo’s technology suite is also relatively limited, given the value-driven approach Kia is taking for the Rondo. That said, with things like a colour infotainment screen, supervision cluster, cruise control, reversing camera and air-conditioning vents for the second row. It’s not as paltrily-appointed as some other budget offerings on the market, but there are plusher options out there.
With the unstoppable tide of SUVs, MPVs like the Rondo are becoming rarer to spot on the road, and we can’t really see why. The Rondo is a surprisingly practical, well-sorted people mover that’s amazingly good value, undercutting Citroen’s C4 Picasso by a good $14,000, while offering very little drawbacks in terms of appearance and functionality. The Rondo is for the pragmatist who knows what a family car needs to do, and makes minimal concessions to trends
With the two variants on offer packing different seating arrangements, the Rondo you end up bringing home ultimately depends on the number of seats you need. With a list price of $26,990 (accurate at the time of writing), the Rondo S is very good value indeed, with the premium commanded by the Si going entirely to the fold-flat third row of seats.
Regardless of the number of pews you will ultimately demand from your Kia Rondo, there’s little doubt that you’ll be bringing home a tidy, well-sorted, well-thought-out family car that does its job in a stylish and entirely-appealing manner. If head rules over heart, this is definitely the family car for you.
CarsGuide – 7.4/10 – “It’s rare to see a Kia Rondo on the road; Spotting one is like when you get a commemorative 50-cent coin in your change, only not as exciting. Of the 219,270 cars sold so far this year, only 59 of them were Rondos. But the more I’ve driven it, the more I think 219,211 people may have missed out on something quite good."
CarAdvice – 7.5/10 – “The Kia Rondo has lost its diesel engine, but it’s also cheaper than before.”
Practical Motoring – 4.5/5.0 – “The Kia Rondo five-seat offers a very practical, flexible interior that offers more room than, say, a Kia Sportage. It also offers the sort of ride height you’d expect from a crossover yet isn’t much bigger than a regular hatchback.”
CarBuyer – 4.3/5.0 – “The Kia [Rondo] is emblematic of the great leap forward Kia has made recently: it’s well built, well equipped, cheap to run and better-looking than many other MPVs.”
TopGear UK – 7.0/10 – “Like the rest of the Kia range, the [Rondo] is a very capable machine.”
Autocar – 3.0/5.0 – “Low running costs and good practicality are the key positives."
WhatCar? – 6.0/10 – “The Kia [Rondo] is a competitively-priced and practical MPV, but its best rivals are more sophisticated to drive.”
AutoExpress – 4.0/5.0 – “Kia’s seven-seat [Rondo] MPV is a low-key but capable option in the large MPV class.”