ON THE ROAD
KIA doesn’t make exciting cars. It’s far better at building the practical and affordable ones. Just look at the Rondo. It represents good, cheap transport for a family of four or five, who sometimes need to bring along a couple of extra kids.
Though Kia has made the most of the available space, the Rondo really isn’t big enough to be used as a permanent seven-seater. If you need that much space you had better consider the Carnival, or the even larger Grand Carnival.
With a starting price of $24,990, the LX is a good alternative to larger used peoplemovers or seven-seat crossover wagons and comes with a big new-car warranty.
The third seat row is good for smaller kids and maybe young teens. It helps that the second row of seats can be slid back or forward if you need to accommodate larger kids in the back.
There is ample headroom in all three rows, unless you have had quite a growth spurt.
With all three rows in use there is room for only a couple of bags of shopping, but you can fold down either of the third-row seats if you need to carry four kids and some cargo.
Many drivers are likely to appreciate the high seating position in the Rondo, which is similar to that of other people movers and crossover wagons.
The engine is actually pretty perky with a decent amount of pull off the line.
Though it is smooth and quiet at idle, it is rough under acceleration, especially above 4000 revs.
The automatic is average and its changes are fairly slow, but Kia has done a good job with the suspension set-up.
The Rondo is a comfortable car to ride in and the suspension feels nice and compliant and soaks up most of the bumps with little fuss.
The steering is light for low-speed manoeuvres, but gives you little feel or feedback and isn’t much fun on winding country roads.
You soon notice a high level of tyre rumble and road noise, especially if you venture off the freeways and on to coarse-chip B-roads.
On any highway you will miss cruise control, which somewhat amazingly is avail- able on none of the Rondo models, not even the loaded range-topper.
At night, the low beam is poor and it feels as if you are rushing headlong into darkness until you are able to hit the high beams.
The interior is plain, but everything is well laid out and is all you would expect at this price point.