Most Prized Ve­hicl

Kia’s new Rondo is the car you didn’t know you needed

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Cover Story - PAUL POT­TINGER CARS­GUIDE EDI­TOR paul.pot­tinger@cars­guide.com.au

THE au­to­mo­tive lex­i­con is lit­tered with acronyms, few lesser known yet more ac­cu­rate than MPV.

Multi-Pur­pose Ve­hi­cles (‘‘peo­ple-movers’’ as real peo­ple call them) do what they say on the label; cer­tainly more so than al­most most so-called com­pact SUVs.

And as for ‘‘ Sports Util­ity Ve­hi­cle’’? Please . . .

If your fam­ily num­bers four or above; if you’ve the need to move peo­ple and goodly chunks of cargo or ex­trav­a­gant recre­ational equip­ment; if you value prac­ti­cal­ity above pose, then this is what you should be driv­ing as op­posed to join­ing the lem­ming-like stam­pede to jacked-up hatch­backs.

If it didn’t serve only to fur­ther muddy the wa­ters, we’d sug­gest an al­ter­nate acro­nym for this class of car: SSSV. That’s School Shops Sports Ve­hi­cle.

Th­ese cars serve all those pur­poses. Fur­ther­more they pro­vide that cov­eted el­e­vated driv­ing po­si­tion.

The new­est— and one of the most con­vinc­ing ex­am­ples we’ve yet seen in this hardly over­crowded field— is Kia’s new ver­sion (‘‘all-new’’ as they say now, as op­posed to the old one re­vamped) of the Rondo seven-seater. This is among the slowly in­creas­ing num­ber of com­pact MPVs, one which in Kia’s case sits be­neath the vast Grand Car­ni­val peo­ple-mover.

Cars­guide had a preview drive of the Rondo SLi diesel, re­leased this week.

VALUE

You can move masses of cargo, trans­port seven or pretty much what­ever com­bi­na­tion of sen­tient and inan­i­mate ob­jects you want, for the price of an up­per-spec hatch­back. The Rondo starts at $29,990 for the en­try ver­sion with 2.0-litre petrol engine and tops out at $38,990 for the Plat­inum with sat­nav, 18-inch al­loys and big sun­roof.

As is usu­ally so of Kia, the sweet spot in the mid­dle ground. The SLi ver­sion is $33,990 in petrol form, $36,490 as a diesel.

Stan­dard on the S are the usual in­fo­tain­ment op­tions, 4.3-inch touch­screen, Blue­tooth with me­dia stream­ing, six-way driver’s seat ad­just­ment, split-fold sec­ond and third row seats, heated elec­tric fold­ing mir­rors and tinted glass. The SLi add-ons in­clude 17-inch al­loys, front park­ing sen­sors, day­light run­ning LEDs, leather trim, 10-way power ad­justable driver’s seat, side mir­ror-mounted in­di­ca­tors, roof rails and dual-zone cli­mate con­trol.

Es­sen­tially, the Plat­inum adds a bit of fruit and frip­pery. Choos­ing the SLi is made eas­ier by the Plat­inum’s lack of a diesel op­tion. All vari­ants get a six-speed auto.

TECH­NOL­OGY

Built on a stretched ver­sion of the Hyundai/Kia small car plat­form (a stretched Cer­ato— now there’s a niche con­cept for you), the Rondo com­bines ex­ter­nal com­pact­ness with a mod­u­lar in­te­rior.

The engine choice is no choice at all. The 2.0-litre di­rect in­jec­tion petrol engine gives good ser­vice else­where but we’d al­ways opt for the ex­tra grunt of the 1.7-litre turbo diesel. Such is its pulling power, we were al­most per­suaded there was a big­ger engine at work.

It’s not a ques­tion of achiev­ing some kind of il­lu­sory fuel fig­ure— there’s not a lot be­tween the petrol and diesel fig­ures. Rather it’s a mat­ter of the diesel’s abil­ity to stand up more read­ily un­der loads heav­ier than yours truly and a few suit­cases in the back.

The three-mode so-called flex steer sys­tem al­ters the weight­ing of the steer­ing barely dis­cernibly. The elec­tric rackand-pin­ion set-up is said to fea­ture a com­bined torque/ an­gle sen­sor to re­sist the ef­fects of side winds, which might prove use­ful given the Rondo stands at 1.6 me­tres. What­ever, it’s use­fully quick and di­rect at 2.7 turns lock-to-lock.

DE­SIGN

You can de­cry the per­ceived dag­gi­ness of peo­ple-movers if you must but you can’t show me a more clev­erly de­signed ve­hi­cle at the price or one that’s smarter look­ing than this Euro-drawn de­vice.

Sharp ob­jects have be­come Kia’s vis­ual stock-in-trade un­der de­signer Peter Schreyer and the fact he can make an MPV look al­most cool sug­gests he’s a bit of a de­ity.

The SLi’s front pas­sen­ger seat can fold for­ward. The sec­ond row slides and folds for a 35/30/35 split. The third row splits 50/50 and folds flat into the floor. The sec­ond row slides for­ward to ease ac­cess to the back.

Go­ing with a ba­sic rear sus­pen­sion en­hances lug­gage space. Even with all seats in and up, you’ll fit a bag of the team’s footy jumpers back there or a cricket kit. With the front and sec­ond row seats in use, there’s more boot space

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