The mini-minivan modernized The driving experience in the Rondo is something I’d compare to a sporty hatchback, not a typical compact CUV.
Over the last few months I’ve been exposed to just about every major auto manufacturer, and the one brand that has taken me the most by surprise has been Kia. After driving a couple of the latest offerings from Kia, I’ve found myself on numerous occasions defending the brand. I myself have been converted from a non-believer, who’d been completely put off the brand by the likes of the Sephia, to someone who has experienced the value, quality and effort Kia is putting into their cars. Now, I find it hard not to share my positive experiences whenever I hear someone talking about their impression of the brand. Given the chance to spend a week with the 2014 Kia Rondo EX Luxury, I was hopeful that the Rondo would only confirm my newfound expectations for Kia.
On the outside I was not disappointed. Much like the Forte I tested in the summer, the Rondo has a modern, sporty look and the new corporate face. My tester came with some very nice-looking 18” rims which add a bit of sophistication to the overall look. What really impressed me about the styling is that fact that the Rondo actually looks bigger and more substantial than it really is; parked beside my Mercedes SLK the Rondo looks quite large, but the reality is that it’s only a couple inches longer. More importantly however, is the fact that I do not feel like a poor schmuck when I am behind the wheel. That has always been a bit of an issue for me with the compact CUV segment, but somehow Kia has managed to do a great job of hiding the fact that this really is a “mini-minivan”, and I am sure fathers everywhere are grateful.
More so than the styling, the Rondo really impressed me with its driving dynamics. To be honest, just based on the fact that it’s a compact 7-seater, I had pretty low expectations for the driving experience of the Rondo. I was pleasantly surprised when I actually found fun to whip around in. The ride is just right for this type of vehicle – it’s solid and comfortable even on rough city streets, never bouncy, and offers enough feedback to keep the driver engaged. The steering is no different; in ‘Sport’ mode the steering feels nicely weighted, tight and responsive. These factors combine to create a very agile little car, which easily whips around tight corners, navigates city traffic and is very easy to park. My one complaint in this area would be that the Rondo does tend to wander a little on the highway and I found myself having to correct the steering wheel quite a bit. That said, the driving experience in the Rondo is something I’d compare to a sporty hatchback, not a typical compact CUV; good news for anyone who enjoys the essence of driving mixed with practicality.
Under the hood, the Rondo’s 2.0L 4 cylinder is noticeably rough at idle, almost to the point of being annoying, but on the road the smooth 6-speed automatic makes great use of its 164 horsepower and I was rarely left wanting more from the engine. Over the course of my week with the Rondo I observed an average of 8.9L/100km in mixed commuting. While I had expected to do a little better, I think it would be a difficult task to find another vehicle on the market which can seat seven people and offers real-world fuel economy numbers under 9L/100km.
Where I think Kia has really made an improvement recently is with their interiors, and the Rondo is no exception. The materials all look and feel high-quality. Interior panel fit is greatly improved over the last generation Rondo and there are no squeaks or rattles. Due to the Rondo’s size, the third row of seats is best used only by small children, or not at all since the seats do reduce rear cargo space to a laughable limit when in the upright position. However, with both rows folded flat the Rondo easily handled a small dining room table and chairs, making it ideal for Ikea runs. My EX Luxury trim tester used LED lighting throughout, along with very soft leather covering nice thick comfortable seats and perforated leather trimmed door panels. Before even considering all the features offered inside the Rondo it does begin to feel quite luxurious, to the point where I can’t help but wonder if the Rondo may be a worthy competitor for the likes of the Mercedes B-Class.
On that note, my $32,000 tester does offer a laundry list of high-tech features that rivals those found in many $45k+ SUVs and luxury sedans. This one had huge panoramic roof, rain sensing wipers, heated steering wheel, heated seats all around and even a ventilated driver’s seat. Not only that, but my Rondo came equipped with the Kia corporate LDC cluster display which I absolutely adore; it’s so easy to navigate using the steering wheel controls and cleanly displays everything you’d want to know about the car without any clutter. The equipped UVO infotainment system is another favorite of mine as I find the touch screen to have very little lag and all the menus are very easy to understand. To top it off, the navigation system is one of the most user friendly systems I’ve used recently. The interface also powers a 6-speaker stereo system which offers very good sound quality and enough bass to keep the average driver very happy.
I’ll admit, I was a little worried that the Rondo wouldn’t live up to my expectations and all my preaching about how much the brand has changed recently would have been in vain. Happily though, the Rondo has proven to be a very competent companion. I could easily see the Rondo as a perfect fit for an urban family looking for a cost effective and well equipped vehicle that can keep up with hauling children and furniture while still having the maneuverability to easily navigate the city core. But what I also like about the Rondo is its versatility, it may not be the best at one particular function, but it’s pretty good at almost everything from commuting, to people moving and cargo hauling. I believe it’s this type of versatility that will attract the majority of Rondo buyers; the Rondo really does offer something for everyone, from university students to empty nesters.
2014 Kia Rondo EX Gallery