By on April 16, 2007

rondofront.jpgIf Toyota is the new GM, Kia is the new Toyota. After establishing a U.S. beachhead with price-oriented products, the Korean automaker has gradually expanded its reach by replacing its penalty boxes with vehicles sporting upmarket features and class-leading safety, while maintaining the brand's value promise. The Rondo is yet another example of the kind of mass market machine The Big 2.5 should be building, but isn't.    

The Rondo boasts Kia's latest design language– which is about as familiar to the average American as Urdu. Translation: the Rondo's sheet metal splits the difference between a smart-looking pope-mobile and a shrunken minivan. The details are a bit fraught, what with over-sized headlights ruining any hope of proportionality and a rear window treatment the likes of which haven't been seen since the days of the Azteks. 

rear2.jpgClearly, the Rondo's a family bus with no sporting intentions whatsoever. And? In a world where car designers snort swage lines, flame broil perfectly innocent door panels and Bangle big butts (and they cannot lie), the plain Sook Rondo is a handsome beast. May Giorgio Guigiaro have mercy on my soul.

Ten years ago, a Kia's cabin was a space best suited to contemplating how little you paid for your perch. (Rumor had it the Sephia's interior was made out of old scotch tape.) Grab a seat behind the Rondo's wheel, poke, prod and play with the surfaces and controls, and you'll feel like you found a twenty dollar bill in your pocket. The Rondo's plastic quality and control snickery are on a par with Honda and Toyota's offerings, full stop. Even without factoring the price differential, it's an accomplishment that should give GM supporters pause for thought. And yes, it matters.

interior1.jpgUnlike some down market products I could mention (cough Cobalt cough), the Rondo's interior feels as finished as an episode of Law and Order. The corporate stereo head unit is a model of ergonomic (if not aural) clarity. The HVAC knobs are a breeze to operate (so to speak). The large oval vents break up the dash's landscape with symmetrical precision. The headliner is made from genuine woven material. All the Rondo's attempts at cheap chic are successful.

As a 180” car riding on the Optima platform, the Rondo's second row comfortably accommodates all but pro b-ballers and WWF refugees. The van's optional third row is perfect for your friends– provided you secretly hate them. More importantly, the Rondo's got your genetics covered. Mom and Dad get torso and head airbags and seat belt pretensioners, while everyone else gets side curtain airbags and five star government crash safety (save for four stars on rear seat side impact).

third-row.jpgCargo carrying is the Rondo's party trick. The second row does the flip and fold trick, the third row sinks into the abyss below and hey presto! You've got a perfectly level floor– to the point where a stranger happening upon a Rondo post-seat submersion would be forgiven for thinking the vehicle is a cleverly disguised delivery van. Between the huge rear hatch and the sky scraping roof, the Rondo is a big-box compatible schlepper.

Given the Rondo's 3500 lbs. curb weight, its [optional] 2.7-liter V6 generates a no-more-than-merely-adequate 182 horsepower. At least Kia did the right thing and hooked it up to a five-speed automatic gearbox. Acceleration is brisk when the car is unloaded. With a full crew, highway merging takes the patience of a Vulcan. There's no chance of a pistonhead mind meld with the base Rondo's 162hp 2.4-liter in-line four. Besides, the extra power only costs you a grand up front and one and two mpg at the pump (20/27 vs. 21/29 mpg).

six.jpgEven better, at highway speeds, the V6's song is quieter than the wind noise off the side mirrors. If you should somehow mistake silent speed for handling prowess, the Kia steps up to the plate with a coffee klatsch of e-nannies, including electronic stability control and ABS. Hear that Toyota? They're standard issue.

The Rondo drives like white bread tastes. Or the Midwest looks. Or Lindsay Lohan acts. Understeer? I suppose. More to the point, the Rondo's leather-wrapped wheel connects to a precise rack and pinion setup, with proper weight and feedback. The brakes work. Nuff said?

frontagain.jpgThe Rondo's ace: msrp. Actually, it's four aces. My nearly fully-loaded tester stickers at a family-friendly $21.5K. Considering a starting price in the high 16's, I'm going on record as saying the Rondo is the best family-car value in the U.S. It eviscerates Honda's Element and CR-V, Toyota's RAV4 and anything else in the price bracket. By building honest vehicles like the Rondo and pricing them aggressively, the Korean conquest of America's mainstream automotive market steamrolls ahead.

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68 Comments on “Kia Rondo Review...”


  • avatar

    When I drove the four-cylinder Rondo last November I concluded that it was “Very functional and affordable, but also very bland.”

    I drove an EX with the V6 and leather recently, and it was both more pleasant to look at and to drive. But still nothing to get excited about unless an exceptionally well-packaged interior excites you.

    During the press days in Chicago I found myself sitting behind Kia exec Len Hunt at the presentation for a modded Rondo. I told him I’d really like to see a sport trim Rondo from the factory, complete with manual transmission, well-bolstered seats, and a more aggressively tuned suspension.

    His response was he doubted there was a market for such a vehicle. So it looks like pistonheads will have to go with the less functional, even more underpowered, slider-equipped but better handling Mazda5.

    To compare pricing with the Mazda5 and others:

    http://www.truedelta.com/models/Rondo.php

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    I looked at the Rondo briefly prior to purchasing my Mazda5. The big sticking point was that it was in production for far less than a year, even for overseas markets, and I figured it was best to let others do the beta testing that lots of 1st year production cars go through. Mazda5 included, with the exhaust fire. Too bad, as the ESC/TRAC are nice standard features in a family hauler.

    It didn’t help that when seated in the 3rd row the 2nd row seat in front of me didn’t slide out as it was supposed to, requiring me to exit on the opposite side.

  • avatar
    Alex Rashev

    I must say, Toyota interior of the last few years is BAD. Not average, BAD. Casting flash, rough semi-hard plastic with big grain, bad visual design, panel gaps – pretty bad for a company that charges an arm and a leg. My father’s old(er) my2000 Camry has much better interior than the latest Camry.

    OTOH, smaller firms that started out with smaller cars, like Suzuki and Kia, are getting better and better. Deja vu?…

  • avatar
    taxman100

    I don’t know – the wife is interested in a vehicle similar to this, but from my shopping, you can get a short wheelbase Dodge Caravan SXT with a real third row seat and a 3.3 liter v-6 for less than $20,000 if you have any sort of negotiation ability. Fuel economy ratings are very similar to the v-6 Rondo ratings.

    Bonus is a sliding side doors. But, with the 2008 Caravans coming out, the sale prices may end then.

    Kids are going to puke in it anyways.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I like this category of vehicles, as the minivan market has fallen prey to the “bigger is better” mindset. But I don’t think the design specs for microvans as a category have been fully worked out yet. Some examples:

    (1)In my mind, sliding doors are a better choice as they allow better access to the third row and kids are less likely to ding doors in parking lots.

    (2) Personally, I would trade the second row bench for 2 captains chairs. This would allow better access to the “way back” and keeps the kiddies from fighting over “no man’s land.”

    (3) It will be intersting to see if many American consumers will accept these vehicles without the security blanket of a 200hp+ V6 and AWD. I doubt it, at least as long as gas is below $3.

    (4) The distance between the head of someone in the third row and the rear bumper look awfully close. Given how closely Suburban driving cellphone-yapping tailgaters tend to drive, do you really want Junior back there?

  • avatar
    Spanish guy

    My G*d, (South) Koreans are getting it.

    (South) Korea is a divided country, a divided country that suffered 35 years (1910-1945) of brutal Japanese occupation and the terrible make-no-prisoners 1950-1953 Korean war, that destroyed the country to the ground.

    And, despite these facts, they are able to make this competitive vehicle.

    Think about the power of the mind above “heritage”, “historical advantages”, “a difficult past” and the list of inane platitudes that one hears too often.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Oh, and by the way, excellent review. Thanks, Justin.

  • avatar

    Five speed automatic, electronic stability control, and a quality interior, Why can Kia get it right so quick as opposed to the domestics?

  • avatar

    I second SherbornSean. Excellent review indeed. I reviewed the Rondo for Autoblog and agree with some of what Justin says. As a family guy the interior space was indeed more than adequate and the price spot on. But I disagree that the V6 wasn’t up to snuff. It wasn’t Corvette-like, but it never suffered under a load with us. And while the interior bits looked on par with Honda and Toyota, they didn’t hold up as well and the non-leather seat coverings, to a parent, look like dirt-catching welcome mats.

    My wife and I liked the Rondo, and after the review actually considered buying one. But I think we’re leaning more toward a Mazda5 instead because of Mazda’s longer track record and those love ‘em/hate ‘em sliding doors.

    But, again, very well written. Thanks.

  • avatar
    Jason Pollock

    I would take this way ahead of Caravan, just because 5 years from now I expect the Rondo would still have most of it’s components as “functional”. Oh, and Chrysler has the nastiest interiors available in the North American market, to my eyes.

  • avatar
    blautens

    Nice article. And I would agree that the Rondo makes a more convincing argument as a frugal family hauler than a CRV (particularly the 3rd gen CRV, which gave up some interior space for a swoopy C pillar). Hell, if I needed a commuter car, I might even consider it (to offset some other pistonhead things I own)…

    But I’d still hesitate unless I saw some hard numbers concerning resale values on the Rondo (which is almost impossible given the fact that it’s a new model). Historically Kia’s haven’t had great residual factors, and although that *should* improve with the very competent vehicles they have produced in the last 3 years, it takes a long time to increase that to Honda like levels.

    And if you’re in the market for super practical vehicles like this (as opposed to 400 HP screamers which somehow are allowed to depreciate rapidly without making the owners feel like idiots), I’d think resale might be an important factor to those practical shoppers.

    But Kia/Hyundai is doing everything they can do to show GM how to build affordable, practical cars that people might want. So they’re on the right track.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Sherman Lin:

    I think the Rondo and Mazda5 (plus predecessors Nissan Axxess and Mitsubishi Expo/Colt Vista) are designed for other markets, then brought to NA as more of an afterthought.

    Mazda left off the some of the most desirable features from the NA market 5 such as ESC/TRAC, 5AT, power doors/hatch, factory roof rack/rails, and the 7th stowaway seat.

  • avatar
    durailer

    Great review, Justin.
    From the outside, me thinks this to be one of Kia’s more handsome offerings, disproportons aside. I’m glad to hear its interior beguiles its sticker price, for once.
    If this product is sucessful, you would think that Chrysler should consider a scaled-down version of their Minivan, more along the lines of their first generation offerings.

  • avatar

    starlightmica I believe you are correct and I will be interested in seeing if this type of vehicle (market segment) takes off with higher fuel costs. Sort of a slightly more mini van than the current mini van. The practicality makes too much sense. Where are the equivalent models from GM and for that matter toyoya? I don’t consider the CRV or the RAV in the same segment

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    This vehicle won’t succeed in NA.

    With a short wheelbase Caravan you get more space, better versatility, greater comfort, and a more powerful engine.

    The Mazda 5 is the other more direct competitor for this vehicle. The 5 has a cleaner design and a much better image. However Kia’s warranty may help make it competitive with the other two.

    A very low mileage Caravan with all the options would be the best choice of these three vehicles IMHO.

    Also, I really don’t get all the bashing that’s taking place. The domestics are actually quite good in the small-SUV and minivan markets in terms of reliability and durability. There are other segments where they’re less competitive but overall they’ve actually done well here.

    Oh, the Escape and Liberty will most liekly be cross-shopped as well. You can throw in a Suzuki or two, but I believe most folks looking for a RAV4 or CR-V will consider a non-Toyonda product as a second tier offering.

  • avatar
    Orian

    I think this type of vehicle will succeed in NA. Look at how many are starting to show up now. Mini-vans and SUV sales are starting to slide and these things are picking up the slack because they offer better mileage and reasonable space.

    People realize they are going to have to sacrifice some space and performance for better fuel economy and are fine with that.

  • avatar
    Alex Rashev

    Wow. Almost 30mpg, 10 year powertrain warranty, and cheaper than most sedans. Compare that to most minivans that struggle to get low 20′s and cost an arm and a leg. Not to mention the fact that most minivans are overpowered – being “slower than a minivan” is no longer an insult it used to be.

    A 2 liter turbodiesel would make it a sale for me, actually :)

  • avatar
    boredlawstudent

    I’m wondering how the Freestar and Caravan compete with the Rondo. Considering one can get a new Caravan for around $19K w/ discounts or $13K for a slightly used 2006 model, is the Rondo still the better value?

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    I don’t get shopping by fuel mileage unless you’re going to take a *BIG* step.

    EPA combined on a Caravan is 21; it’s 23 on the Rondo. At $3/gal for 15,000 miles/year, you’re looking at $15.50 a month. I wouldn’t give up any utility for that. The difference would have to be made up in quality, power, handling, looks, etc.

    Same thing in downsizing from a 20mpg SUV to a 30mpg car. $62.50/month. The money lost to depreciation on the SUV more than eats up the fuel savings going to a new, smaller car.

  • avatar

    Steven Lang and Orian, well we are going to find out if this type of vehicle will succeed in NA. They really are just smaller mini vans not mini Suvs. If this market segment fails, then Steve not only will you be correct on your take on the Rondo but also on an unwarranted criticism of the big 2.5 but if it does take off then the criticism is justified. A dollar short, a day late, never anticipate market trends, getting caught with their pants down again. Time will tell.

  • avatar

    If you want sliders and second row captains, head on over to Mazda. I personally don’t see the point in having a third row that must be foled if you want to carry luggage just to get one extra seat. I’d personally need a three-place second row, since I have three kids and would like to be able to carry both them and our luggage.

    The Kia’s second row is also roomier and more comfortable than the Mazda’s.

    People would buy one of these over a Caravan if they want a semblance of agility.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Sherman Lin:

    Overseas, that’s where. Toyota has the Wish with swing-out doors in many Asian markets, as well as a few JDM vans such as the Isis. GM has the 2nd gen Opel Zafira. Both look nice and won’t be coming Stateside anytime soon.

  • avatar
    blautens

    I don’t know why someone would think the Caravan would be a better choice than the Rondo, unless you’re stricly into the most inches per dollar.

    I spend a lot of time in minivans (usually rental domestics, but I had the pleasure of two wonderful Odysseys, a 2003 and a 2007), and the Caravan is an awful place to spend time compared to Odysseys (even a used one!). The seats are flimsy and uncomfortable, the doors poke you in the wrong places, the interior bits are so flimsy and awful – I don’t want them now let alone 5 years from now under heavy use. And real world mileage in either isn’t great.

    Stow-N-Go seating is great – as long as you NEVER have to sit in the seat – it’s very similar to tie strapping a folding chair to a cargo van floor.

    Look, I like Caravans – I had a 1993 Caravan (4 cylinder, bought new at a fire sale price) that I’d still have today if the ex hadn’t got it just to spite me. It was practical, thrifty, reasonably roomy, and decently sized. Everything the Rondo would appear to be. And the interior seats were actually more comfy than the 2007 Grand Caravan just foisted on me by Enterprise.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    I must say, Toyota interior of the last few years is BAD. Not average, BAD. Casting flash, rough semi-hard plastic with big grain, bad visual design, panel gaps – pretty bad for a company that charges an arm and a leg.

    Glad you noticed that too, Alex. My Camry review stated that, but I don’t think people believe it. But I sat in a new Amanti and was very impressed with the quality of materials since the last (2005) model I checked out. They are really getting better.

    Toyota’s going downmarket but still charging more than Kia? I think its true.

    I gotta say the Rondo is a nice looking CUV, esp from the back. Aside from the mediocre engine and suspension (which won’t turn off many people) its got a lot going for it.

    And don’t forget that insane 10 year, 100k warranty.

    Great writeup, Justin!

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Michael K,
    I’d be curious to hear your Top 10 list of best vehicles for people with 3 kids. I’m trying to avoid an Odyssey, but don’t know how much longer I can hold out!
    -Sean

  • avatar
    SuperAROD

    I guess I am the only one who thinks the Rondo looks like a horrid baby toy. Can you say UGLY!!!!!! Isn’t the Rondo the official vehicle of the Dora the Explorer show? I swear I saw Boots driving one around in the last episode. There isn’t enough high-grade plastic for me to ever be seen in one of these.

    Swiper, please swiping the Rondo.

  • avatar
    SuperAROD

    And man, gotta love that all black plastic interior. High grade plastics. It would make KITT proud. Where is the “Turbo Boost” button?

  • avatar
    Seth

    Those 10 year warranties are often voided citing some idiotic reason (you put better oil and filter and not by us etc)..

    Rondo doesnt look good aesthetically. That itself will eliminate it from most of the shopping lists. Design language is as cohesive as Peanut butter/banana sandwich.

    Mazda5 was on my shopping list until (horror) I noticed the lack of ARMRESTS. For Pete’s sake, it will be torture chamber for anybody in it except the driver. Hands hangin loose? No sir..

    Went with 2007 Mitsubishi Outlander XLS… Havent looked back since. Pity, Mazda5 would’ve made it but mazda’s engineers got too lazy to spend 100 dollars to add armrests. Sorry, there is simply no excuse for it (space is abundant between captain chairs to put an outward armrest). Logic for passenger chair lacking one is moronic as well (it will get in the way of shifter in countries with RHD)

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    “is the Rondo still the better value?”

    Yes. Not only is it newer, upgraded technology, but I have greater confidence in the Korean product over the Caravan. My brother’s 2002 Grand Caravan has been recalled 4 times, has had (in my consideration) 2 ridiculous repairs (brakes? Rotors? At 42k???), and no resale. Sorry….it’s not even on my radar screen.

    Something roomy but tossable is definately attractive to me in place of my SUV….

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Just a quick jump-in about the base minivan comparison.

    To get a Caravan with even vaguely similar equipment, it is going to be far more expensive than the Rondo. Side curtain airbags (side torso are not available for front passengers in the Caravan and many Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep vehicles) are extra money. Power windows, power locks, cruise control, and a tilt steering wheel are part of a $1100 option package. You can’t get antilock brakes on a Caravan SE. You’ve got to step up to the longer Grand Caravan SE or Caravan SXT, which are a lot more money. In fact, the Caravan SE packs rear drum brakes. Don’t even think about electronic stability control.

    Anyway, you get the idea. Yes, for pure volume and sliding doors, the Caravan is a better deal. But in nearly every other category, my opinion is that the Rondo trounces the Caravan – from acceleration, to ride quality, to safety, to value.

  • avatar
    boredlawstudent

    I priced the Freestar out and it appears (at least in price) to be competitive with the Rondo. A Freestar SE w/ side airbag package is around $19K w/ large incentives.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Seth:

    The Mazda5′s lack of a front passenger seat armrest is due to the flip-top console fitted to the NA variant taking up that space; the JDM Premacy has dual arm rests and no center console. Yes, a lousy design, fortunately it’s my commuter car.

    The lack of outboard 2nd row armrests is likely for side impact reasons, as my 8 passenger Sienna with the extra wide 2nd row lacks them, too.

    Yes, I’m a TTAC regular who drives one of two minivans. Life goes on…

  • avatar
    Orian

    Seth,

    The warranties aren’t voided like that. I had a 2000 Hyundai Tiburon that I put over 117k on in less than 5 years. I beat that poor car and it still kept going. Anytime I had any issues with the car (and the one major was admittedly self-inflicted) I was never put on the spot about the warranty at all.

    The car was driven frequently in SCCA Solo 2 events

  • avatar
    NickR

    Why can Kia get it right so quick as opposed to the domestics?

    I was saying the same thing about Hyundai recently. When they first launched the Pony in Canada in the 80s, it was cheap, but awful. 20 years later, and the Sonata (at least in my neighbourhood) is jostling aside the Camry Accord duo. Now it’s Kia snapping at their heels. If they can do it…

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    Given the Rondo’s 3500 lbs. curb weight, its [optional] 2.7-liter V6 generates a no-more-than-merely-adequate 182 horsepower.

    Gearhead, please.

    My Toyota pickup has a 120HP straight 4 and weighs only a little less.

    My Mercedes 300D weighs more and has half the power.

    Barely adequate for 3500 pounds? It’s not a sports car, remember? You said that explicitly, right?

    I suspect the power of the standard 4 is “adequate”, while the six is more like what the actual market would call “fun”.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Sigivald:

    Gearhead, please
    Great line.

    You’re absolutely right that it’s not a sports car. But keep in mind that this is a load-lugger, and with a full complement of gear and people, would be nearer to 4200 lbs.

    And “fun” is “no more than merely adequate” for us car guys. :-)

  • avatar
    willbodine

    I think Kia is on to something the Europeans have been selling (outside the US) for sometime now…the mini-minivan. Amazed no one has brought one here sooner (other than Mazda.) It is homely, but that probably won’t be an issue for the intended audience. Price/content/build quality/functionality is what will probably sell a lot of these thingies. One aspect that Hyundai/Kia shares with the General is overlapping/redundant model lines. And why would they need two different sales channels? Clearly, the Hyundai marketing is not as well thought-out as their products.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    It’s not a minivan, it is a station wagon. I don’t understand this silly marketing obsession – call it what it is.

    We had a Country Squire back when I was a kid that would seat 10 – the four in the back had to be little.

    I’d still take a short wheelbase Caravan, though I admit that Chryslers have not been good to me in the past.

  • avatar
    dejal

    I love it when everyone say, “I’d buy a used Blah-blah before I’d buy a new one of these.” Like you can never buy the car in question used, it always has to be new. The OTHER ones CAN be bought used.

    How about, wait a year. Kia still takes a pretty good hit in depreciation in a year and buy a used Rondo? Now, compare that deal against the Freestar or Caravan or a Blah-Blah.

  • avatar
    LT56

    If I was married with children and had to get a family hauler i would without a doubt buy this over a Caravan. Caravans are ugly, plus the interior on those just really turn me off also. I guess if you brake it down pound for pound, bang for the buck you would go with a Caravan BUT who really does that, not to many as I see it. If people acually did that they probably would have sold more Camaro’s then Mustang’s, everyone would go right for a vette and not even consider a porsche(

  • avatar
    Johnson

    Hear that Toyota? They’re standard issue.

    I would like to point out that all of Toyota’s new and future models (with the exception of super-cheap models like the Yaris) come loaded with standard satefy features.

    The new Tundra? The most standard safety in it’s class. The new Camry is loaded with safety features, and the next-gen Highlander too will have top in class standard safety.

    As for the Rondo, I will definitely agree it’s value packed and priced right, but it’s certainly not the best family hauler for 16 – 21K. The Rav 4 and CR-V remain more versatile than the Rondo. Also, unlike the Rav 4, I would be afraid to drive the Rondo on anything other than pavement.

    And then there is the Rondo’s styling: neither elegant nor modern, it’s looks back up it’s price and origin exactly. In other words, it looks like a low cost Korean car. You’re definitely not going to mistake the Rondo for being more expensive than it actually is.

  • avatar
    Terry

    I find the negative comments concerning the Mazda5 humorous, if unwarranted.
    Underpowered? Hardly. I dont drive a dyno chart, but our ’07 M5 could run away and hide from our as-new ’92 Mazda MPV V6. The wife LOVES the sliding doors. The steering and handling is light-years ahead of the old MPV, as is the gas mileage–29.7mpg at average 75 mph on a recent 600+ mile trip, while her MPV got 21 on a good day.
    Yes, a passenger-side armrest would have been nice, but the whole driving experience is a huge positive. Employee pricing didnt hurt either.

  • avatar

    The warranties aren’t voided like that. I had a 2000 Hyundai Tiburon that I put over 117k on in less than 5 years

    Actually, Hyundai/Kia do have a TSB out that using non-OEM oil filters can void the warranty.

    John

  • avatar
    MR42HH

    Two words: Saturn Zafira. GM, are you listening?

  • avatar
    viamede

    I love many things about the Rondo…the value, the utility, the safety features, the roominess and gee the value…sadly my wife and boys hate the Rondo. They hate the way it looks. They hate that the rear seats recline about 1.5 inches. We test drove a 4 cyl.It was a very pleasant driving car and the engine was very smooth and not thrashy. The deal killer was putting my test music cd I bring along and listening to the windows and door vibrate like an old puttied in wood frame window on a log cabin. Couldn’t believe it. My heart sank. Happy dreams of me cruisin along in a black cherry V6 EX sunk like a fallen souffle. This was with the basic sound system not the Infinity that they do not offer in Canada. Yes the CD was bass heavy…that being the point. Pity isn’t it.

  • avatar

    If it’s any consolation, viamede, after two weeks with the Rondo, the Infiniti radio didn’t impress either. I was also very disappointed to find it lacking an mp3 player input of any kind. How can any new car in 2007 lack a $1.50 input jack?

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Johnson
    How do you think the CR-V and RAV4 are more versatile than the Rondo, aside from their available (and laughably bad) all wheel drive?

  • avatar
    Johnson

    How do you think the CR-V and RAV4 are more versatile than the Rondo, aside from their available (and laughably bad) all wheel drive? For one thing, they have higher ground clearance. To be fair, Honda did admit the CR-V was designed mostly for pavement and urban roads. Toyota has said their Rav 4 is made to handle light off-roading. By virtue of a higher ground clearance, both of these off the road would be a bit more capable. The Rav 4 would be the most capable out of the three. The Rondo likely would struggle on any sort of muddy road or terrain. Are the Rondo’s 2nd row seats sliding and reclining like the Rav 4’s? Did I mention the Rav 4 gets better fuel economy? For 23K, you can get the V6 Rav 4, a vastly more drivable and more powerful machine than the Rondo. There are also little things that add up to make the Rav 4 and CR-V a more versatile vehicle. For instance, they both have a tilt-telescope wheel, where the Rondo only has tilt. It’s great that the Rondo has ABS and stability control standard, but the CR-V and Rav 4 have that standard too, and more. On top of ABS and stability control, the Rav 4 and CR-V also have Electronic Brake Distribution, and Brake Assist. Both the Rav 4 and CR-V have roll-sensing side airbags, while on the Rondo it’s not listed anywhere in the specifications, so it’s safe to assume it doesn’t have it. Little things here and there, that ultimately add up to more versatility for both the Rav 4 and CR-V.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Johnson
    I’m not sure where your numbers are coming from, but the MSRP on a RAV4 with the V6 is $25,000.

    As far as ground clearance goes, if you’re off-roading I suggest a proper off-road capable vehicle – all of these would be totally rubbish. And truth be told, I’d imagine less than 1% of them are intentionally taken off road, anyway.

    In terms of safety, the Rondo does come with electronic brake distribution, they just don’t have an Alphabet Soup abbreviation for it. It also has active headrests, which has become a top priority for the IIHS.

    I agree that the RAV4, when properly equipped, is a great vehicle (although no better IMHO than a Camry), but you’re almost comparing apples and oranges when you look at the price differentials between the RAV and the Rondo. The fact that the Rondo offers nearly everything that the RAV does, aside from a mainly useless AWD system and the big V6, for far less money, makes it a beating in my book. A telescoping steering wheel and reclining second row seats, unfortunately, don’t do a whole lot for me, especially when you add in the Rondo’s cargo capacity.

  • avatar
    Johnson

    Justin,

    http://www.toyota.com/rav4/models.html

    4×2 base V6 starts at around 23K.

    I don’t know about you, but if I was on the road with my family, and happened to get caught in the middle of a snowstorm, I’d much rather be in a Rav 4 AWD , or a CR-V AWD, than a Rondo. The Rav 4 also happens to have a better stock audio system than the Rondo, not to mention a much better optional audio system. There are things the Rav 4 has that are not available on the Rondo. The Rav 4 has available Hill Start Assist Control and Downhill Assist Control, both of which are optional on the 4 cyl models, and standard on V6 models. Again, useful features when doing some light off-roading, like going on a camping trip.

    Towing capacity on the Rondo is a dissapointing 1000lbs. The Rav 4 starts off at 1500lbs capacity, and the V6 models can tow up to 3500 lbs. Again, more versatility than the Rondo. It should also be noted that the CR-V’s towing capacity is 1500lbs.

    Not only that, but the Rav 4 has noticeably more cargo room than the Rondo.

    Again, little things here and there, but the cohesive styling, higher ground clearance and larger cargo room alone would be enough for me to get a Rav 4 over a Rondo. And that’s not even getting into the little details, which matter to most buyers, including myself. Consumers appreciate little details.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Johnson, you’re asking to have your cake and eat it too, and then to say it’s better than my brownie is.

    The Rondo was never meant to be an SUV – it’s an MPV for the 99.9% of people who realize they don’t need off road abilities, high ground clearance, or towing capability, and the review is aimed at that majority.

    So keeping in mind all of the qualifications you’ve listed – that I need an all wheel drive vehicle capable of towing my boat and hauling my family of seven through a snowstorm on the way home from our off-road camping trip, and that several thousand dollars of leeway is acceptable – I’ll take a GMC Yukon.

  • avatar
    Johnson

    Justin, I used the Rav 4 and CR-V in this discussion because you originally mentioned it. MPV or not, the Rondo still is a CUV. It rides on a car platform, yet has SUV-like passenger/cargo versatility. The Rav 4 and CR-V both ride on a car platform as well.

    If you did not wish to compare the Rav 4 and CR-V in this case, then it would have been better to not mention them in the review.

    Mentioning the Yukon is a bit silly. It has an over-10K price differential between the Rav 4 and CR-V.

    I deem that you get what you pay for, and that the Rav 4 is a wholly better vehicle than the Rondo. Full-size SUVs have nothing to do with this.

    Strictly speaking in terms of compact CUVs/MPVs, the Rav 4 and CR-V are more versatile vehicles than the Rondo, and have little details which warrant their slightly higher cost.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    If you did not wish to compare the Rav 4 and CR-V in this case, then it would have been better to not mention them in the review.

    I appreciate the lesson. But your determination that the RAV4 (and laughably the CR-V) are more “versatile” is a normative statement, which depends entirely on your under-described and self-generated definition of versatility. The majority of that definition, as far as I can tell, is premised on towing and off-road abilities, and your impression that the cargo space in the RAV4 “looks larger.”

    Towing and off-road prowess were omitted from my consideration of the Rondo with respect to the CR-V and RAV4 because (1) the vast majority of people (upwards of 90%) who buy any of the three never go off road and (2) objectively speaking, all three suck in the towing and off-roading department compared to vehicles designed around those ends, like the Wrangler.

    Finally, I stand by my contention that a vehicle like the Yukon fits your framework of comparison against the RAV4 V6 AWD (and blows it away). The Rondo runs from $16,000-$22,000 and you compared it to the AWD V6 RAV4 at $25,000 (an increase of 13.7% over the most-loaded version). The RAV4 runs from $20,000 to $30,500, whereas a reasonably equipped Yukon (pre-rebate) is $35,000 (an increase of 14.7% over the most loaded version). Apples and oranges? You bet. So is an AWD V6 RAV4 against the Rondo.

    If you wish to continue this conversation, I encourage you to e-mail me at (my name) @ yahoo

  • avatar
    wsn

    Replying Justin Berkowitz:
    Finally, I stand by my contention that a vehicle like the Yukon fits your framework of comparison against the RAV4 V6 AWD (and blows it away). The Rondo runs from $16,000-$22,000 and you compared it to the AWD V6 RAV4 at $25,000 (an increase of 13.7% over the most-loaded version). The RAV4 runs from $20,000 to $30,500, whereas a reasonably equipped Yukon (pre-rebate) is $35,000 (an increase of 14.7% over the most loaded version). Apples and oranges? You bet. So is an AWD V6 RAV4 against the Rondo.

    Justin, there is a fatal flaw in your argument here.

    1)RAV4 is compared to Rondo, because it’s the closest thing to Rondao in Toyota’s line up. Comparing Yukon to Rav4 is NOT valid, because a closer competition (4Runner or Highlander) is available.

    2)A is comparable to B, while B is comparable to C, doesn’t necessarily warrant a valid comparison among A, B, and C. Fit can be compared to Versa, Versa can be compared to Civic, Civic to Impreza and so on you will have S65AMG comparing to Fit soon.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    wsn:

    Fatal flaw, you say? Only if you read what I wrote the wrong way. What I’m saying, and have been saying all along, is very simple:

    -I believe that the Rondo is superior to 4-cylinder RAV4s.
    -Saying that “the” RAV4 is better than the Rondo is too broad to be accurate, because the RAV4 ranges over $10,000 in price depending on engines and equipment.
    -The claim was that since there is only a few thousand dollar price difference between a fully loaded Rondo and a base V6 AWD RAV4, they are a reasonable comparison.
    -I disagreed with that.
    -As an example of why I disagreed, I used the same reasoning (a few thousand dollar price difference) to show that comparing cars on that basis could lead to unreasonable outcomes – in this case, the Yukon and the RAV4 V6 AWD are within a few thousand dollars of one another but clearly are very different. Since the logic of “a few thousand dollars difference in price makes for a worthy comparison” is untenable in the Yukon example, it should be rejected when applied to the Rondo and V6 AWD RAV4.

    You’re now introducing the claim that the RAV4 is the closest thing Toyota makes, and hence is a good comparison to the Rondo.
    -First, see above – “the” RAV4 is too broad.
    -Second, the Matrix and 4-Cylinder RAV4 are better comparisons than the V6 AWD RAV4, because they have more similar equipment and prices.
    -Third, comparing on the base of “closest thing a manufacturer makes” is untenable as well. Being the closest thing a company makes does not make it a proper competitor. Consider: Dodge Viper is the closest thing to the Mercedes SL that Dodge makes, but they are not a realistic comparison.

  • avatar
    boredlawstudent

    Justin,

    I have a hard time seeing the utility advantage of the Rondo over the Rav4 or CRV. The later models have AWD, the former does not. In many northern areas of the country, only 4WD RAV’s are available on dealer lots; making the comparison to a 2WD-only Rondo seems disjointed.

    You say the Rav4 and CRV’s systems are “laughably bad.” I have driven both in deep snow and both have handled WNY winters without complaint. I don’t think the Rondo would have faired as well. I’m wondering what makes the systems inadequate?

    In my opinion, neither of these autos offer as much utility as a Subaru Forrester. With corrent rebates, one can have a base 5-speed (woot!) for under $20K. Now that’s a bargain.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    boredlawstudent
    Subaru Forester turbo for under $20k? Even though I haven’t seen it, I’ll take your word for it. That’d be pretty freakin’ awesome.

    I didn’t mean to say that the RAV4 or CR-V’s AWD would get them stuck in snow, just that in my experience they do only marginally better than FWD with a price and weight penalty. I, too, spent an unfortunately high number of winters in WNY and found FWD just as good as the occasional-time AWD systems in friends’ cars. One guy I knew had an Audi S4 wagon, and that was really unstoppable.

  • avatar
    boredlawstudent

    Sorry, I meant X not “XT.” No turbo but still 173 HP…not bad for under 20K.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Agreed!

  • avatar

    I thought it was a very well written review. I then went through the comments hoping to hear from people who had actually bought the Rondo. I like what I see in the car, but worry about its reliability. Has any out there had any REAL experiences?

  • avatar
    tomlct

    A while back, someone mentioned “Saturn Zafira” – I had driven an Opel Zafira a few years back, and I wished that something like this was available in the US. Well, when the Rondo came out, this finally was true. I bought mine (4-cylinder) last December, even before the official debut, and I really like it – most of all, the combination of good fule economy and useful space (even rear seat space). If gasoline goes even higher, then I think more North Americans would be willing to drive a smaller van like this.

  • avatar
    kilroy01

    I own a Rondo Ex V6 5 seater. We considered a Mazda5 which was more enjoyable to drive but it lost out on comfort and practicality. That and the Mazda5′s price was thousands more and it felt cheaper.
    Great visibility, lots of glass and enough room to travel with 4 tall adults without death threats from the people in back.
    The looks are growing on me, slowly. I think I’ll be able to live with bland.

  • avatar
    AmandaD

    My husband is 6’9″ and it is very difficult to find a comfortable car for him to sit in or drive. We bought the Rondo simply because it is one of the best fits available (next to the mini cooper of all things). We were prepared to pay $10-15k more for a car but even the large SUVs pack the dashboard full of plastic without a purpose which minimizes usable legroom. The Rondo dashboard has cut-outs in the dash for long legs and fits me perfectly too at 5’6″. Tall people should know about this car. Reviews about the cab being ugly because it is too large/tall are frustrating, because there is a need for a car that has different dimensions than the norm.

  • avatar
    donaldo

    Unfortunately, European news doesn’t make it to the States. The Rondo, known in Europe as the Caren, has been around for 9 years. The Rondo is Third generation. All the kinks have long been ironed out. It is roomier, more powerful, just as comfortable as any comparable models from other mfgs. Most reviews call it a family car. It is absolutely perfect for seniors. Not too small and not too big. You slide onto the seat and out of it. Not up or down like vans or sedans. The V6 works really well and the 5 passenger version is ideal for all seniors.

  • avatar
    Quackledork

    I got a Rondo as a rental just recently. When they told me what I got, I groaned – ugh a KIA! But, I took it an plodded out to the rental. Within a few minutes of driving the Rondo I was impressed. And I own a Mercedes and an Acura as my main cars. It was an extremely handy and practical car with decent acceleration, handling and fit an finish. The base stereo is very good. It sounds as good as the stereo in my Acura! After driving it around a busy town and hauling all sorts of stuff – I was sold. This is a very good car (crossover, van, whatever) Kia and Hyundai are making quite a stir in the automarket. Their cars just keep getting better and better. The new Genesis for example is an awesome looking luxury sedan. I might just have to let my Mercedes go and get one!

  • avatar
    devans72304

    We just bought a used 2008 Kia Rondo that was a dealer loaner. It had less than 10K and is a V6. I LOVE MY RONDO!!!!!!! I have yet to see any others on the roads which is annoying. I almost didn;t give it a chance because it was a KIA. But I am so glad I did. We do not have the 3rd row seating, thus the storage is AMAZING!!!! It has more storage than the Chevy Equinox we just turned in and it drives so much nicer. I highly recommend this car!

  • avatar
    robert_h

    I just spent a few days driving a rented Rondo in rainy southern California. It was bland, but I mean that in a good way: a sensible, practical car. Very little about the car made me angry. Ours had the four. It didn’t feel underpowered and the transmission, though only a four-speed, did a good job of picking the right gear. Roomy, lots of storage, excellent outward visibility. Good ergonomics- all the controls were where I expected, and felt good. There was a bit too much road noise at freeway speeds. We hated the overly-intrusive headrests.

    Wading through Kia’s (painfully bad) website, I found the Rondo’s maintenance schedule. The V-6 engine calls for a timing belt replacement every 4 years or 60k miles. Ouch!

  • avatar
    jasonliu

    I have a 2009 kia rondo EX, the tire (hankook) have a bulge on the side at 15000km/8th month. the dealer checked and know it is a qulity problem. You have to pay for it, even though the sell guy told me that the car come up with one year tire worrenty. NOW I KNOW WHY THEY SAID THEY WOULD GIVE ME THE TIRE WORRENTY.
    DO NOT BUY THIS CHEAP CAR AND DO NOT BELIVE THOSE WARRENTY THEY PROMISE TO YOU. THEY KNOW THEIR CAR IS A JUNK, BUD THEY DO NOT KEEP THEIR PROMISE AS WELL.


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