Families demanding seven-seat practicality have a basic choice: SUVs or the new breed of seven seat wagons. In the latter segment, Kia’s stylish, all-new Rondo mounts a compelling argument.
The Kia Rondo presents all of Kia’s hallmark good looks, a nicely thought-out seven-seat layout and the choice of zippy yet economical four-cylinder petrol or diesel engines. All of that without the ‘excesses’ of SUVs (complex parking, high ride-height, fuel use and general size-related issues).
Kia Rondo Overview
CarShowroom.com.au tested the upscale Kia Rondo SLi petrol ($33,390). Over the Si model, SLi gains luxury/convenience features such as 17-inch alloy wheels, front parking sensors, LED DRLs, leather seats, fold-flat front passenger seat for even greater load-carrying versatility, electronic adjustment for the drivers’ seat, a 4.2-inch colour TFT instrument cluster and roof rails.
The all-new Rondo is yet another standout design from Kia and the standard specification includes impressive safety features such as traction and stability control, hill assist control, three-point ELR seat belts for all occupants, reverse parking sensors and a reversing camera.
And Kia has not short-changed on the practicality front with split-folding for the second and third row seats, a luggage screen and out-of-sight under floor storage.
Kia Rondo Engine
Petrol-powered versions of the Kia Rondo pick-up the ‘NU’ direct-injection 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine – an all-alloy powerplant with a friction-reducing offset crankshaft which is Euro 5 compliant..
Drive is via a conventional six-speed automatic transmission. Pleasingly Kia is a brand which does not offer a CVT transmission in Australia and the driving dynamics of all Kia vehicles prove the modern generation of conventional automatics is terrific.
Kia says combined cycle fuel consumption is rated at 7.9l/100kms.
Kia Rondo The Interior
Rake/reach adjustment for the nice three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel, 10-way power adjustment for the drivers’ seat and the extra glasshouse inherent in the excellent styling of the all-new Kia Rondo ensured a great driving environment in our SLi model test car.
We also liked the modern look for the dashboard – very clean and enhanced by both nice material choices and soft-touch finishes (all a significant improvement over the previous generation Rondo). The SLi model as tested picks-up the excellent graphics of the 4.2-inch colour TFT ‘Supervision’ instrument cluster.
Second row passengers enjoy variable legroom thanks to a 240mm slide function (which also eases access to the third row). The cleverly-designed second row seat split-folds 35/30/35 while the third row seat split-folds 50/50 and folds flat into the cargo bay floor when not in use.
Importantly for the family market, Kia has boosted the all-new Rondo’s boot space by 17 per-cent over the previous model (a downside in wagon-based seven-seaters has been reduced luggage capacity when all seven seats are used). All-new Kia Rondo delivers a minimum cargo capacity of 103-litres, 492-litres with five seats occupied and 1650-litres with just the front row occupied.
The cargo bay is also longer (999mm), taller (499mm) and the rear bumper cut-out has been lowered by 15mm for easier loading.
Kia Rondo Exterior & Styling
While previous generation Kia Rondos weren’t exactly works of art, this all-new model changes all that. Designed in Europe, the latest Kia Rondo benefits from the award-winning ‘penmanship’ of Kia’s German design chief Peter Schreyer and Frenchman Gregory Guillaume.
As we expect from that duo, the design is both stylish and clever. At 4.5-metres in length, the all-new Rondo is a tad shorter (by 20mm), 15mm narrower and 40mm lower than the previous generation but the combination of extra wheelbase (up by 50mm to 2750mm) and the cab-forward design - with the A-pillar above the centre line of the front wheels – means interior space is enhanced.
Kia says the new Rondo looks more purposeful but there’s no doubt the Kia ‘family’ front-end styling and the large glasshouse (the windscreen leading edge is very low) affords great all-round visibility – another advantage over SUV designs. Continuing that trend, front and rear overhangs (940mm and 835mm) are short – again a boon to urban operation and parking.
The Kia Rondo SLi model as tested gains 17-inch alloy wheels and a chrome beltline strip for added style.
And the all-new Kia Rondo’s sheetmetal is more than just good looks – the drag Cd is lower than the previous model at 0.30.
Kia Rondo On The Road
Around town, our all-new Kia Rondo SLi was a very pleasant place to be. Seated in the comfy leather-trimmed seats and with the climate control air-conditioning set at north of 20 degrees to ward-off Melbourne’s early spring chill we enjoyed a very quiet environment thanks to good levels of noise isolation and admirably low NVH – even when the 2.0-litre was working hard under full acceleration.
And that direct injection four-cylinder – developed in-house by Kia - was impressive with good torque across the range and nice matching to the six-speed automatic transmission.
As we know, Kia spends a lot of time – and dollars - finessing its suspension tune for Australian conditions and there’s no doubt the all-new Rondo is a cut above most rivals in that department. Drivers will enjoy great stability and feedback at all speeds plus nice isolation from Aussie potholes… and the good news is things didn’t deteriorate all that much when our Rondo was fully loaded with people and cargo.
Over our high-speed mountain roads test route – both full of people and with just the driver on-board – our Kia Rondo was more than capable. OK, it’s no Cerato Koup, but with the impressive suspension calibration and comprehensive arsenal of driver aids, we reckon Kia has this seven-seater just about spot-on for family drivers.
Our tight CBD carpark was ‘toast’ with the Kia Rondo SLi’s excellent all-round visibility, front/rear parking sensors, standard reversing camera and 11.0-metre turning circle.
Kia Rondo Issues
Families with grumpy teenagers might find the third-row seat a tad lacking in legroom.
Kia Rondo Verdict
Yep, we’d be happy with a Kia Rondo in our garage every day of the week. Like the Opel Zafira (which never made it to Australia before ‘quittin-time’ for the German brand) the all-new Kia Rondo – very much a car for the European market – shows how things have advanced in the wagon-based seven-seat segment.
We’d be the first to admit some of the early vehicles in this segment weren’t exactly dynamic but the Rondo confirms the automotive industry never stops improving – it’s spot-on for families who need seven-seat practicality but can’t cop all the excess of SUVs.
And like all of the Schreyer-Guillaume penned Kias, the all-new Rondo is also a sharp looker.
Kia Rondo The Competition
We like the luxo interior of the Dodge Journey and the extra power/smoothness of the 206kW/342Nm 3.6-litre V6 engine is not to be overlooked particularly by families who do lots of country driving. All of that comes at a slight price premium with the Journey stickered at $32,400 in SXT or $35,700 in R/T.
Fiat has the Dodge Journey’s cousin, the Freemont, sharply priced from $25,990 and Fiat’s 2.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine is slightly more powerful than Kia’s 2.0-litre with 125kW/220Nm on-tap. You’ll need $30,300 for the ‘Lounge’ model to match the specifications of the Kia Rondo in SLi guise.
Honda Odyssey is the luxury leader in this league and although some grumble at the demise of the V6-powered model, there’s no doubt Honda’s 132kW/218Nm 2.4-litre is a cracker (although let-down a tad by the ancient five-speed automatic transmission). Luxury does command a price and the Odyssey ranges from $37,100 to $44,920.
We’re fans of the Peugeot 5008 – like the Kia Rondo it’s the newest design in this segment – and Peugeot’s 115kW/240Nm turbocharged 1.6-litre engine is a cracker. You’ll need $36,990 to speak French in your seven-seat wagon.
Subaru Exiga is pricey ($37,990 - $42,490) but comes with a powerful 123kW/229Nm 2.5-litre boxer engine, the safety of Subaru’s all-wheel-drive traction and hallmark all-round quality.