2008 Kia Rondo Review

Family-oriented urban utility vehicle

2008 Kia Rondo Review
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Is it a car, wagon, sport ute or minivan? It's none of the above. Actually, the Kia Rondo is all four. The Korean car maker describes it as a “family-oriented urban utility vehicle.” With a seating capacity of up to seven (on EX models), a plethora of cargo-carrying configurations and oodles of standard equipment the likes of steel unibody construction, four-wheel ABS disc brakes, electronic stability and traction control, fully automatic climate controls, six-way power adjustable driver’s seat, power doors, locks, windows and mirrors, plus six wraparound airbags, it fits this bill. With all this and much more packed neatly into the base model, “Rondoism” is poised to attract new members.

FAST FACTS

1. The 2.7L V6 makes 182hp, just 20 more than the 2.4L inline-four cylinder.

2. Five-speed auto with V6 gives same fuel mileage as four-speed with inline-four.

Two engines are available on 2008 models, including a 2.4L inline-four that produces 162 hp through a four-speed automatic transmission with a manual Steptronic mode. My EX tester, however, had the available 2.7L V6 and five-speed auto Steptronic, with 182 hp. It's peppy enough to allow safe passing on two-lane highways, but I was quite impressed at how smooth and quiet it was.

The EX V6 offers premium options like heated leather front seats, a power sliding and tilting sunroof and Infinity AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system.

The EPA rates fuel consumption on both the four- and six-cylinder 2008 models at 18.5/26 mpg. According to the handy onboard trip computer my tester was equipped with, I managed to achieve 19.3 mpg combined on a short 160 mile test route.

GOOD DRIVING DYNAMICS

A fully independent suspension layout with 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin rubber serves the somewhat tall hatchback figure very well, minimizing body roll in corners to where it doesn't feel like it will topple over. The EX handles surprisingly well in fact, soaking up extra large speed humps, uneven sewer grates, potholes and rail crossings I encountered. The leather-wrapped steering wheel felt a bit tacky for my tastes, but the power rack and pinion system is light with a good on-center feel. It produces quality feedback although I would have liked a bit more room from lock-to-lock for those tighter cornering and parking situations.

WELL DESIGNED INTERIOR

Inside, all important controls are within easy reach and where you'd expect them to be. Cruise and redundant audio controls can be found on the steering wheel. Different shades of plastic dominate the interior panels and dashboard, however, the fit and finish is surprisingly good. Very little wind and engine noise can be heard from the drivers seat. Although upholstered in leather, I found the front seats a bit too wide and lacking side bolstering for the rump and shoulders.

The second row offers substantial legroom and folds flat in two stages (three if you secure the adjustable head rests properly in their dedicated slots) for a 50/50 split. The third row is a bit more cramped for average-size adults, but also folds flat (in one step) to create a gigantic cargo area that's accessible through the huge rear lift-up hatch door. Behind the first row with everything folded down, the Rondo has a whopping total cargo space of 74 cubic feet. By contrast, a Mazda5 has just 30 cubic feet of cargo area.

PLUS

Well designed interior
Surprisingly luxurious when fully optioned-out
Overall value package

MINUS

Four-cylinder comes with four-speed auto
Subdued exterior styling
Seats lack proper bolstering

THE VERDICT

No matter what trim level, the Rondo is an excellent vehicle (value) for active, young families. The exterior styling is a bit conservative (it doesn't really stand out) but the overall package is quite enticing. Not only was I pleasantly surprised by its comfortable ride and solid handling, but the build quality inside and out puts many domestic cars to shame. And with all the interior space it’s incredibly functional.

Kia, one of the fastest-growing automakers in the world, has come very far in the last few years with improved quality and well-rounded vehicles. All Kia models come with a great warranty and it's worth pointing out that Kia has received top honors in J.D. Power's Initial Quality Study as well as Strategic Vision's Total Quality Index Survey. I would suggest you don't knock it before you test drive one. “Aiieee!”

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