When Kia first handed us the keys to the Rondo back in October 2007, our biggest debate had been what to call this vehicle. It has three rows of seats, yet no AWD or 4WD (so it isn't a crossover or an SUV), no sliding side doors (calling it a minivan is out), and a cargo area (could that make this the only seven-passenger hatchback in the U.S.?). Perhaps it would be best to refer to it as a wagon. Whatever you call it, the Rondo has proven a reliable, capable, and frugal SUV alternative. For an as-tested price of $23,495, our EX came with the 182-horse, 2.7-liter V-6, optional third row, heated (front) leather seats, power sunroof, and an AM/FM/CD system. The small-size/big-cabin combo appealed to many staffers, who went to work putting miles on the hard-to-define vehicle.
The second question that popped up about the Rondo: How long do we get to keep it? What started out as a basic one-year long-term evaluation has continued for nearly two years, making the Rondo the elder statesman of the long-term fleet. It was here for the housing boom and the recession. It was in our fleet for two presidents. It was here during the Beijing Olympics and saw two Super Bowl and two World Series champs get crowned. It's been with us a long time. That's not to say it hasn't been fun. Within a week of getting our hands on the Rondo, senior editor Ron Kiino took advantage of the generous cargo area for a fishing trip to Mammoth Lakes. A buddy rode shotgun and the rest of the cabin was filled with gear-but the Rondo easily held it all. A month later, photographer Brian Vance used the Kia to scoot up to Reno, noting that his trip "was done in record time on Thanksgiving morning; the Rondo's bean shape and dark blue paint allowed me to skip past slower traffic and fly under the radar of the California Highway Patrol." Sometimes you can drive faster in an economy car than in a sports car.
Mark Williams used the Rondo to drive his daughter and her belongings home from college in San Francisco. Even with the seats folded flat and "every inch of the rear cargo area" used, "there was still plenty of good visibility out of all the windows." However, on a run to dinner, he filled the Rondo with people, noting "with seven aboard, the engine and suspension felt tapped out. It's not made for adult passengers all the time, but it still got us there and back safely."
Everyone who drove the Rondo for an extended amount of time was impressed with the vehicle's economy and surprising spaciousness, but many were not so thrilled with its plain-Jane cabin and strange yet dull styling. The interior was noted by more than one staffer as having an odd plasticky smell. Also, many were disappointed with the seats: You sit on them rather than being nestled in them. And it didn't have navigation, an iPod/aux jack, satellite radio, or tire-pressure monitoring system. We know these aren't things you can't live without, but for a 2007 model, these were options available in similarly priced vehicles. That, plus the somewhat outdated styling, and old-tech, small V-6 made the Rondo feel decidedly behind the times. As of the 2009 model year though, all the aforementioned interior features have been made standard (TPMS) or options.
Our Rondo has been to the dealer three times for scheduled maintenance, at 7500-mile increments. The first trip came about four months into our time with the Kia, at which point the dealership changed the oil and filter, rotated the tires, and checked the tire pressures ($95.13). The adjusting clip (lets you change the angle of the vent) had come off one of the vents on the center stack, so we had them take a look at that. The techs wedged the clip back in place-the logical thing to do-and sent us on our way. By the next visit, the clip had come off again, so while it was in for its next oil/filter change, inspection, tire rotation, and rear brake adjustment ($228.12), the service advisor ordered the replacement parts for the clip. When the Rondo was getting its 22,500-mile service, the parts were in and we discovered that the vent itself-not just the clip-would have to be replaced, which would require pulling the entire dash assembly and about five hours of time. Instead, we waited an hour for the oil change, inspection, and tire rotation ($97.17) and accepted that we would find other ways to redirect airflow. Adjusting clip aside, we had zero mechanical problems and no other issues needed to be resolved.
In terms of styling, interior amenities, and power, the Rondo has fallen behind the pack. However, during our year-plus, it more than made up for those shortcomings in interior volume, frugality, and value. While we still have it, we've learned that the Rondo will be going away soon, and when it does, we'll lose a long-termer with the seating capacity of a minivan or SUV with the size and fuel economy of a compact-not a bad combination.
From The Logbook
"The V-6 is small, but is a good match for a car of this size and weight."
- Brian Vance
- Brian Vance
"This Kia is practical, useful and, best of all, cheap."
- Ed Loh
- Ed Loh
"The Rondo is an interesting combination of ample power, mundane styling, questionable interior aesthetics, and excellent functionality."
- Kirill Ougarov
- Kirill Ougarov
"I'd feel comfortable recommending this car to someone who's looking for a frugal, spacious, easy-to-drive car that focuses more on practicality than enjoyment."
- Rory Jurnecka
- Rory Jurnecka
|Options||Premium Package ($1200: power sunroof, Infinity AM/FM/CD stereo system); Leather Package ($1000: leather seat trim, heated front seats), third-row seat ($500)|
|MSRP, as tested||$23,495|
|Avg fuel economy||19.6 mpg|
|Problem areas||Broken vent clip|
|Normal-wear cost||$29.98 Replacement of wiper blades|
|Three-year residual value*||$8,928|
|* Automotive Lease Guide|
|2007 Kia Rondo EX|
|Drivetrain layout||Front engine, FWD|
|Engine type||60 V-6, alum block/heads|
|Valvetrain||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|Displacement||162.1 cu in/2656 cc|
|Power (SAE net)||182 hp @ 6000 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||182 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm|
|Weight to power||20.4 lb/hp|
|Suspension, front; rear||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|Steering ratio||14.2:1 (est)|
|Brakes, f;r||11.0-in vented disc; 10.8-in disc, ABS|
|Wheels||6.5 x 17 in, aluminum|
|Tires||225/50R17 93V M+S Michelin Energy MXV4 S8|
|Track, f/r||62.0/61.8 in|
|Length x width x height||179.0 x 71.7 x 65.0 in|
|Turning circle||36.1 ft|
|Curb weight||3705 lb|
|Weight dist, f/r||59/41%|
|Headroom, f/m/r||41.3/38.2/31.3 in|
|Legroom, f/m/r||40.9/39.8/32.4 in|
|Shoulder room, f/m/r||57.7/56.9/51.2 in|
|Cargo vol behind, f/m/r||74.4/32.8/6.6 cu ft|
|Acceleration to mph|
|Passing, 45-65 mph||4.8|
|Quarter mile||16.8 sec @ 83.3 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||132 ft|
|Lateral acceleration||0.75 g (avg)|
|MT figure eight||29.5 sec @ 0.55 g (avg)|
|Top-gear revs @ 60 mph||2200 rpm|
|Airbags||Dual front, front side, f/r curtain|
|Basic warranty||5 yrs/60,000 miles|
|Powertrain warranty||10 yrs/100,000 miles|
|Roadside assistance||5 yrs/60,000 miles|
|Fuel capacity||15.8 gal|
|EPA city/hwy econ||20/26 mpg*|
|CO2 emissions||0.86 lb/mile*|
|Recommended fuel||Unleaded regular|
|*Based on 2008 rating|