Kia has released the latest version of its Rondo seven-seat compact people mover bringing it in line with the current company styling and adding the option of a diesel engine for the first time.
Rondo is aimed not only at those with three or four pre-teen children who are delaying the move into a full-size people mover but also those who want the functionality of an SUV without the higher running costs.
Kia Rondo’s profile is much sleeker than before with a swept-back roofline tapering to a small rear lip spoiler and squared off tail that gives it more of a hatchback look. The front features the current Kia ‘Tiger Nose’ corporate grille flanked by sweeping headlamps.
Although its wheelbase is 50 mm longer than before new Rondo is marginally smaller in its exterior dimensions. A 40 mm drop in height has been achieved without any adverse affect on driving height, an important feature for most potential people mover and SUV buyers.
There’s a reassuringly solid feel to the new Rondo. It’s easy to get into, especially so in the rear where the doors are wide to cater for third row access. There’s excellent headroom in the front two rows, even with the large sunroof in the top-specced Platinum variant. We didn’t even try to get into the third row seats but they’re designed for small fry so they shouldn’t have any problem.
The interior is remarkably versatile with the centre-row able to slide backwards and forwards on runners to juggle the amount of legroom available in all three rows. Seats can be folded in various ways, having a 60/40 split in the second row, and a 50/50 one the rear.
Interior stowage is very good, with large drawers under the second row foot wells and numerous spots throughout the cabin for drinks, wallets, phones, sunglasses and the various accoutrements of our modern lifestyles.
Engine options are 2.0-litre petrol and 1.7-litre turbo-diesel with the petrol available in three grades; Si, SLi and Platinum. The diesel is sold as Si and SLi only.
The petrol unit has maximum outputs of 122 kW and 213 Nm, up from the 106 kW and 189 Nm of the previous model while the first-time diesel peaks at 100 kW and a very handy 300 Nm.
The previous manual gearbox option has gone, with all Rondo models now getting a six-speed automatic transmission, replacing the old four-speed, and with the choice of standard and sport modes. Paddle shifts are standard in the SLi and Platinum models.
The Rondo press launch road test took us north out of Sydney to the Central Coast through a mixture of city, urban, freeway and semi-rural conditions. While Kia loaded the cars with a variety of pieces of equipment such as golf clubs, suitcases and shopping bags to demonstrate the various load space options, they weren’t able to supply the requisite number of five pre-teen children per car. Phew!
So, although it didn’t have its maximum capacity on board both engines coped with its two-adult load without any issues during the test even in the few hilly sections. We were especially impressed with the performance of the diesel and that would be our model of choice. Both engines are quiet and refined. Fuel consumption is listed at 7.9 litres per 100 km from the petrol and 6.4 L/100 km with the diesel on the combined cycle. We’ll do our own comparison when we conduct our extended test in a few months time.
Handling is competent without being in any way exciting.
Kia Rondo comes with an impressive list of standard safety features including ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist; ESP and Vehicle Stability Management; Hill-Start Assist; front, side and curtain airbags (the latter only for the front two rows of seats); reverse parking sensors; and reversing camera.
Also standard are cruise control; Bluetooth phone and audio streaming; Auxiliary and USB sockets: colour LCD touch screen (4.3-inch in the Si and SLi and a 7-inch in the Platinum); MyMusic function that enables MP3 copying; and steering wheel mounted controls.
SLi grade adds piano black grille mesh; chrome highlights; puddle lighting on the side mirrors; front parking sensors; LED daytime running lights; leather trimmed seats; powered driver’s seat; and fold-flat front passenger’s seat.
The flagship petrol-only Platinum variant also gets LED rear combination lamps; full-length sunroof; refrigerated glovebox; push-button start; satellite navigation with SUNA traffic information; climate controlled front seats
The SLi also comes with what Kia calls a Conversation Mirror, a wide-angled convex mirror designed to let the driver keep an eye on the back seats without turning around. All very nice in theory, but we can guarantee some drivers will check the kids when they should be looking at the road. It can be used equally effectively by the front passenger, an option that we’d strongly recommend. The timing of the release of the all-new Kia Rondo could be just right with new arrivals from Toyota (Prius v), Fiat (Freemont) and Opel (Zafira) combining to draw fresh attention to an under-achieving segment of the Australian market. Rondo’s combination of style, functionality, sharp pricing and five-year warranty could well see it at the forefront.
The complete 2013 Kia Rondo range with prices, excluding on-road costs, is: Si 2.0-litre petrol seven-seat people mover: $29,990 (automatic)
SLi 2.0-litre petrol seven-seat people mover: $33,990 (automatic)
Platinum 2.0-litre petrol seven-seat people mover: $38,990 (automatic)
Si 1.7-litre turbo-diesel seven-seat people mover: $32,490 (automatic)
SLi 1.7-litre turbo-diesel seven-seat people mover: $36,490 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Kia dealer for drive-away prices.