By on September 17, 2008

Puppy-dog cute or space shuttle zoomy - your choice.Almost a quarter-century ago, Chrysler rocked the automotive scene by putting a two-box body on the K-car platform, calling it a minivan and inventing the soccer mom. Unfortunately, the intervening years haven’t been kind to the concept; the mini minivan is no more. In fact, the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan is almost two feet longer than the full-sized 1984 Dodge Ram van. If you’re looking for a three-row people mover that won’t max out your garage, you can always go the CUV route– if you’re into poseurmobiles. Or you can consider the Mazda5 or Kia Rondo. But do these reborn minivans carry the torch, or has the genre’s flame fizzled-out?

The Mazda5 Grand Touring and the Rondo EX adhere to the original formula. Both are built on passenger car platforms and share drivetrains with economy cars. Both are within a couple of inches of the size of the original Chrysler minivan. Both have three rows of seats; like the original Caravoyagers, the third row is optional on the Rondo. And like those early minvans, you can have a flat cargo floor if you desire. But that’s where the similarities between them end.

Mazda and Kia took decidedly divergent design directions. The Mazda5 looks like the love child of a Mazda3 and the space shuttle. The family DNA shows in the grille that precedes a steeply sloping hood and windshield. While the more traditionally minivannish of the two, it shows some style with a beltline that swoops upward from the obligatory swept-back headlights, past the dual sliding doors and toward the rear– where you’re greeted by two huge silver… things… mounted next to the rear window. These pods contain the LED taillights and backup lights. They’re easy to see, but look oh-so-last-decade.

The Rondo eschews zoominess for cute. With its huge headlights, trapezoidal grill opening and rounded corners, it looks like one of the talking cars in the Chevron commercials. The Rondo departs from the standard minivan recipe with parking lot-unfriendly hinged doors instead of sliders. The softly rounded shape continues to the rear where it’s abruptly terminated with a sharp crease below the rear window.

More different than they seem

At first blush, both vehicles look similar inside, down to the shift levers sprouting at a 45-degree angle from the console. However, differences abound. The Mazda5 is rated at six passengers, offering front buckets, center captain’s chairs and a two-person bench in the wayback. The Rondo claims to seat seven, with a split bench in the middle and an optional two-seater in the rear. Unfortunately, the compact dimensions of both become glaringly apparent when you get to the rearmost seats. There’s only enough room for preteens (or adults you hate) in the back of either minivan. If you have to buckle the kids into car seats or booster seats, hip room’s too tight to mention. In an attempt to give access to the torture chamber, the door openings are wide and the center seats slide forward. But you’ll still have a long stretch to get everyone settled back there.

The second row is much better. The Rondo provides ample legroom, even with the front seats pushed all the way back. But all the Rondo’s second row does is recline, move fore and aft and fold flat. The Mazda’s does that and more. Flip-up the cushion on the left side and there’s a storage bin large enough to stash an extra supply of diapers for long trips. Flip up the cushion on the right and there are cup holders and tray you can flop over into the space between the seats. Lift the bottom of that tray and there’s a net beneath to hold small toys and other flotsam that seems to be de rigueur for traveling with young ‘uns nowadays. In contrast, the Rondo’s rear cup holders slide out of the bottom of the console at floor level where they would be totally useless for little ones who are strapped in high above them.

Not a bad place to be.

Both cars offer plenty of space up front. But the Mazda5 has a very annoying bulge at the side of the console where the driver’s leg should be. It partially blocks the accelerator, making you hold your foot at a strange angle. Then, when you rest your leg against the console, it’s against hard plastic with a 90-degree edge on it. If you’re above average size, you’ll notice they made it feel so spacious by downsizing everything in the interior. The steering wheel is the size of a dinner plate and every time I wedged my 6’3” carcass behind it I felt like I was in a parent-teacher conference sitting in a third-grader’s chair. The mail-slot sized sunroof opening only added to the sensation. The second-row seats have very low backs-– so low in fact that when the headrests were all the way down they didn’t even come to the top of my shoulders. You adapt to the seven-eights scale furniture eventually, but it’s still disconcerting.

Neither the Rondo or the Madza5 have an abundance of cargo room with the third seat up. The Mazda’s trunk has enough room to hold a small suitcase or a few soccer balls. The Kia offers only 6.5 cubic feet. Fold down the third row in either, though, and there’s plenty of room for the beer run. The Rondo has 35 cubic feet behind the second seat and the Mazda5 holds 44 cubic feet.

The Mazda5 Grand Touring and Rondo EX are both at the apex of their respective model’s food chain. The Mazda blows the Kia out of the water equipment-wise. Both come with the usual power stuff, remote locking, six-speaker sound systems, and steering-wheel mounted radio and cruise controls. However, the Grand Touring also includes leather seats, electroluminescent gauges, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, the aforementioned sunroof, heated seats, Bluetooth and it an optional nav system. The leather, sunroof and heated seats are optional on the Rondo EX and you have to pay extra for third row seating. The remaining electronic toys aren’t available at any price.

Plenty of room

In return, the Rondo offers two things that aren’t available on the Mazda5. The first is electronic stability control, standard on the Kia. The second is a V6 engine. Mazda’s excellent 2.3-liter four-pot pumps out 153hp; it isn’t enough to provide the zoom-zoom you expect, especially if there are three or four people on board. It takes almost 10 seconds to stroll from 0 to 60 mph. You find yourself wishing they built a MazdaSpeed5.

The Rondo’s standard 2.4-liter four cranks out 162hp, and the smooth 2.7-liter V6 ups the ante to 182hp. With the larger engine, the Rondo does the 0 to 60 shuffle in just under nine seconds. Around town it’s more than sufficient. Push the mill into the higher RPM ranges to wring-out more speed and methinks it doth protest too much. With both of these vanlets, you should plan your passing maneuvers in advance, especially in hilly terrain.

The Kia and Mazda both handle fairly well for nose-heavy 3500-pound boxes. The Mazda5’s steering feels more directly connected to the front wheels than the Rondo’s, but it exhibits more body roll when pushed into a corner. Both are very maneuverable in city traffic and small enough to squeeze into spaces where larger SUVs fear to tread. You wouldn’t want to enter any gymkhanas, but there is driving fun to be had. As an added bonus, the base-level Mazda5 is available with a five-speed manual transmission.

For highway cruising, the Rondo beats the Mazda5, hands-down. Its front seats are more supportive and much more comfortable. The large analog instruments are easier to read than the Mazda’s high-tech electroluminescent ones. The radio controls are much more straightforward than Mazda’s radio cum nav system, where you have to agree not to sue them just to get to the basic radio functions. The only really annoying thing about the Rondo was the wind noise around the rearview mirror on the driver’s side.

The Mazda’s shrunken front seats and strange shaped console conspire to keep anyone above average size from getting comfortable. That, added to a resonance that boomed through the interior at speeds above 40 mph, made me wish I’d taken the Rondo every time I drove it.

Pricewise, it’s advantage Kia, as you’d expect. My fully-loaded tester listed for $23,495. They’re offering $2k incentives, so you’re just above the $21k mark before you start haggling. The admittedly much-better-equipped Mazda5 stickered for $25,395 (currently there are no incentives offered).

When you’re talking about a Kia, there are a few other considerations to factor in. First is the horrible first-year depreciation. You can expect the Rondo’s value to drop by about a third of its sticker price as soon as you drive it off the lot. Then, there’s the matter of durability. Although Kias have improved quality-wise and include one of the best warranties in the business, it’s still too soon to tell how well the Rondo will hold up over the years. Everything in my tester was tight and felt solid. But that doesn’t mean it’ll hold up for five or ten years.

The revival of the minivan?

In spite of that, I preferred the Rondo. It was more comfortable, more fun to drive and provided more straightforward controls than the Mazda5. Still, either is preferable to the bloated monstrosities they currently market as “minivans” and would probably do 95 percent of what people driving SUVs need a vehicle to do. Maybe the real minivan’s time has come again.

[Kia and Mazda provided the cars reviewed, insurance and a tank of gas.]

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111 Comments on “2008 Kia Rondo EX vs. 2009 Mazda Mazda5 Grand Touring...”


  • avatar
    AKM

    Thanks for the great review. That kind of vehicle is extremely popular in Europe, where they’re called “monospaces”, for the ability to perform so many different tasks, at a decent price and with pretty good fuel economy.
    Diesels would probably be more adapted to those, especially when loaded up with cargo and passengers.

    Being childless for now, I don’t need one as my hatchback is roomy enough for the occasional friend or trip to Ikea, but yes, those vehicles are the most logical step up if one does not like CUVs (and why would you like CUVs)?

  • avatar
    ash78

    I’ve looked at both, but still driven neither. The Mazda wins in the looks department (IMHO) by such a large margin, the Kia has an uphill battle.

    Also, sliding doors and 5-speed make a pretty strong case to overcome the shortfalls…but the 5-speed is only available with bare-bones options, sadly. Damn American marketing.

    I just can’t get over the Kia’s looks in person. The low beltline is very functional for visibility, but it doesn’t have the same cuteness that causes a Scion xB or Honda Element to grow on you over time. Every time I see a Rondo on the streets, I do a double-take (and not in a good way).

    Guess it’s time to go drive them back-to-back. Nice review!

    You find yourself wishing they built a MazdaSpeed5.

    Can’t be repeated enough.

  • avatar
    rpenna

    I like the side by side comparison of the vehicles. I don’t think I’ve seen this on TTAC before. There should be more of these!

  • avatar
    jberger

    While Minivan shopping my wife and I looked at the Mazda5, but never even considered the Rondo. It’s hard to have a minivan without the sliding doors, so the Rondo was out even before we saw the Kia badge.

    There is a reason that minivans have grown larger over the last 20 years. Both of these vehicles are nicely packaged, but just a bit too small if you are really in the minivan market. Hard to fit 2 carseats and 2 strollers in the back without folding down the rear seats (aka the Penalty Box).

    The entire seating setup in the 5 is just plain weird. The models we drove didn’t have armrests on both sides, only one side was available as an option. WTF, who builds a car with no armrests?

    The center console looked like an afterthought and would be much better if they had chosen a console shift instead.

    Make the 5 about 6 inches longer and drop in a Direct Injection Diesel, THAT would be a heck of a minivan.

  • avatar

    rpenna
    I like the side by side comparison of the vehicles. I don’t think I’ve seen this on TTAC before. There should be more of these!

    We’ve also done the G6 vs. Sebring convertibles, M3 vs. RS4, and Matrix AWD vs. Impreza. These comparisons all depend on being able to get the cars simultaneously or at least back-to-back. I got really lucky in that I was able to get both at the same time and keep them for a week.

  • avatar
    blautens

    More comparison articles!

  • avatar
    GS650G

    A family member owns one and I like it. I would take one in a heartbeat. Forget all the extra appointments and the base model with V-6 is very affordable. As to long term durability, I would give KIA a break on this since Hyundai has the reins and they have proven to be a dramatically better maker the past few years.

  • avatar
    unregular

    So, over 6’1″ tall, Kia. Under 6’1″, Mazda.

    The Mazda is much better looking inside and out.

    Middle row has a center egress to the 3rd row, by that picture? So that you don’t have to slide the seat forward to get to the back? If so, you don’t know how valuable that is…

  • avatar

    unregular :
    Middle row has a center egress to the 3rd row, by that picture? So that you don’t have to slide the seat forward to get to the back? If so, you don’t know how valuable that is…

    There’s 9 or 10 inches between the seats, so smaller folks could shuffle between them, provided the cup holders are folded back under the seat cushion. Don’t expect anyone school age or above to do it easily, though, because there’s even less space between the seat backs thanks to the arm rests mounted on the sides.

  • avatar
    ash78

    That center section in the Mazda’s second row is also used for the optional 7th seat…in Europe only. Allegedly they couldn’t certify the seat belt anchors for US standards, so they left the seat out. Too bad…

  • avatar
    JJ

    In Europe these kind of vehicles are quite popular, ever since the first Opel Zafira (about 1999) was launched which was then the first vehicle of this size with 7 ‘seats’.

    The Zafira was rushed to the European market after the ‘much acclaimed’ Chevrolet/Pontiac Transport derivative Opel Sintra had proven to be a death trap in Euro NCAP testing and was pulled from the Euro market after the bad publicity.
    Of course then a small decade later the Transport in its ultimate form went on to so deservedly win the erstwhile TTAC TWAT award.

    Anyway, nowadays you have 7 seat versions of the Volkswagen Touran, Renault Scénic, Citroën C4 Picasso, Mazda5, Toyota Corolla Verso etc. You see a lot of all of those, while I haven’t seen a new Voyager yet, even if in the past Voyagers used to be on every streetcorner here as well (really one of the view popular US cars over here in the more recent past). Obviously the price of fuel and the cars itself helps here in communist Western-Europe but also, in many ways for most families it’s the best ‘utility’ car they can buy.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    What a straight-forward, thought-out review. I love the styling of the Rondo and the four normal doors, but I can’t believe the Mazda doesn’t offer ESC. And the MPG isn’t alot better than other more powerful, larger vans like the Sienna. Actually, at the Mazda’s price, you could get a Chrysler T+C, as it’s super discounted and heavily rebated, which the Mazda isn’t.

    More comparison reviews!! May I suggest the Camry and Sonata? :o)

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve been looking for a professional comparison of these two for some time. I guess neither is sexy enough for “real” car journalists to address.

    And yes, the front-row space in the Mazda is a problem. If the seat could travel rearwards even an inch or two, it’d help, though pushing the console and back would be the ultimate fix. I’d have to give it to the Kia, after driving both:
    * ESC: I can’t stress how critical this is in a family car. This makes the decision
    * Content: You get more for the same price with the Kia.
    * Smarter packaging: It holds slightly more while being shorter
    * Driver accomodations: People can fit in the front seat. As much as the Mazda’s sliding doors are useful, this more than makes up for them.
    * Noise & ride: The Mazda’s more fun, but for this market, the Kia’s ride and quiet make more sense.

    I drove the four-cylinder Rondo and found it totally adequate. The mileage isn’t great, but it’s appreciably better than the next-best fullsize van (the Sienna) while being significantly cheaper. If Kia could see fit to putting a five-speed automatic (entirely do-able) or a more frugal powerplant (unlikely) it’d be even better.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @jberger: the missing armrests were added for MY2008. For some reason the outboard 2nd row armrests didn’t make it across the Pacific the first couple of model years, and the front passenger seat’s armrest conficted with the lid to the center console. For ’08 that lid was deleted and sorely needed 2nd row center AC vents added. Lack of room in a small vehicle + cheap gas are I believe the reasons why minivans got so big. It’s just so convenient to have all that space in the well behind the 3rd row.

    @romanjetfighter: our Sienna gets 19mpg, the Mazda5 gets 24mpg in mixed driving. Agreed, the lack of ESC in the US is a bad marketing decision.

    I have base (Sport) 07 Mazda5 with the 4 speed slushbox, and it’s my daily driver with occasional kid-hauling duty. With short legs I fit up front just fine; the Mrs. gripes about the hard seats and the cheap interior plastics. The interior noise doesn’t bother me, must be the combination of aftermarket speakers + impending deafness. The Rondo was just beginning to arrive in showrooms and didn’t have any reliability data, so we passed.

    A couple of pictures I posted on the Mazda5 forum: A Britax Roundabout in the second row, two Britax Monarch boosters in the 3rd row. There’s just enough room in back there, but rear visibility with the booster headrests raised is minimal. Thanks to the lack of a 2nd row bench, the school-age boys don’t need any help getting in and out, and the lightweight spring-loaded sliding doors are a nice touch.

    Since space behind the third row is tight, we save the Mazda5 for short-duration road trips. A well-packed big duffel back fits back there, and the front seat gets the other half of our stuff.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    And the MPG isn’t alot better than other more powerful, larger vans like the Sienna

    Yes, but it is better, especially around-town. And both these cars a lot less expensive than the Sienna.

    Actually, at the Mazda’s price, you could get a Chrysler T+C, as it’s super discounted and heavily rebated, which the Mazda isn’t.

    I don’t know about the US, but in Canada, the Caravan Value Package and SXT track the price of the Rondo (LX and EX/V6) and 5 (GS and GT). I looked at the Caravan and, even with the dealer practically offering to polish my shoes it wasn’t fair.

    Yes, the GC is bigger, but they’re also about a thousand pounds heavier, the engine (especially the 3.3 in the Value edition) isn’t helpful, the feature content spotty (manual mirrors on a car this wide?!) and the materials just awful. I’ll take small and quality, though admittedly I’d be using this for in-city and wouldn’t need to haul people and stuff long distances.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    And the MPG isn’t alot better than other more powerful, larger vans like the Sienna

    Yes, but it is better, especially around-town. And both these cars a lot less expensive than the Sienna.

    Actually, at the Mazda’s price, you could get a Chrysler T+C, as it’s super discounted and heavily rebated, which the Mazda isn’t.

    I don’t know about the US, but in Canada, the Caravan Value Package and SXT track the price of the Rondo (LX and EX/V6) and 5 (GS and GT). I looked at the Caravan and, even with the dealer practically offering to polish my shoes it wasn’t fair.

    Yes, the GC is bigger, but they’re also about a thousand pounds heavier, the engine (especially the 3.3 in the Value edition) isn’t helpful, the feature content spotty (manual mirrors on a car this wide?!) and the materials and build just awful. I’ll take small and quality, though admittedly I’d be using this for in-city and wouldn’t need to haul people and stuff long distances.

  • avatar
    sean362880

    If I ever get kids (God help them), I’m shipping over a Nissan Urvan.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/nissan-urvan-review/

    Even so, I think the (right-sized) minivan market is undersupplied in the US. Besides these two, what’ve you got? The people demand the Ford S-Max!

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    What a great little segment. I had fun driving a Mazda5 Sport as a loaner car and that was a 2005 with the 4AT. I would mind a newer model as a replacement for the Mazda3 wagon I have. It’s on my list of more family-like vehicles once we get a #2. I was considering an Escape and used XC70 as well, which are more suited for Idaho but the Mazda5 would take care of any issues with needing room when people visit or future carpool scenarios…while still being fun and frugal.

  • avatar
    phil

    -more comparos whenever you can!
    -very nice review but comparative gas mileage in real world use would have been very useful, esp in this class of vehicle
    -IMO if you have a family and need a minivan these are too small
    -i have driven the Kia, not the Mazda, and it is nowhere near as comfortable as the honda or toyota minivans, esp for a long highway drive.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    Frank
    Great review
    As a 20 yr minivan owner I have to say the Kia without sliding rear doors,by definition, is not a minivan. the easy access with the sliding door is the whole point.
    A cousin and her Swiss husband were back in the States visiting. They borrowed our standard length Voyager to go camping, with their young daughter. When they returned he stated that he never understood why Americans liked these things. Then he said “Now I get it, I wish we could buy these.”
    Plus, few people are buying them. They are being outsold over 10 to 1 by traditional Minivans. The market has spoken and the market is always right.

  • avatar

    psarhjinian :
    If Kia could see fit to putting a five-speed automatic (entirely do-able) or a more frugal powerplant (unlikely) it’d be even better.

    I don’t understand why they don’t put the 5-speed automatic on the 4-cyl. It’s standard with the V-6 so it shouldn’t be that much of a problem (unless the housings are different and would require a retooling to fit the 5-speed on the four).

    Incidentally, there’s only a 1 mpg penalty in the city for the six. The highway rating is the same for both, so I don’t see why anyone would want the four unless they were really pinching pennies at purchase time.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    It’s not for me and my wife (dinks), but I thought the Mazda5 was cute, better alternative to the “mini” vans available from the other manufacturers the first time I saw it in 2004.

    Great comparison review, by the way. Beats the heck out of the type offered by the more traditional mags (MT, C&D, etc.). A mention of observed and EPA mileage ratings for each vehicle that you drove as well as the EPA mileage rating for the 4 banger Rondo would have been a nice addition, though.

  • avatar
    Beelzebubba

    The Mazda5 has appealed to me from the first time I read about it. Being a Mazda3 owner, I won’t deny being a bit biased. But the idea of a small people-mover with “Zoom Zoom” DNA was unlike anything else on the US market. A few months after they were introduced, I drove one for a day while my MZ3 was in for service.

    I was very impressed with the handling, design and the interior design/layout. But the lack of power was it’s Achilles’ heel. I couldn’t believe that it had the same 2.3L under the hood as my Mazda3 s! The added weight of the Mazda5 plus the automatic transmission do NOT “Zoom Zoom” make!

    Advice to Mazda- you can’t get the new 2.5L from the Mazda6 under the hood fast enough!

    My best friend’s mom recently bought a Kia Rondo LX V6. I’m very impressed with the quality of materials, ride/handling and the V6 is buttery smooth. I wasn’t expecting much in terms of performance- I’m pretty sure it has the least hp of any V6 available here….but it’s more than enough for the Rondo. I’ve driven it quite a bit and can’t find anything to dislike. It’s the perfect car for a young family or anyone who needs room for a few passengers.

  • avatar
    ppellico

    Nice to hear from you again, Frank.

    Here is the question…and answer, WHY buy any of these over the full(er) sized Caravan?

    The Caravan has the power, size and mpg.

    Facts:

    09 Caravan 4.0 EPA 17/25/20 overall

    09 Mazda5 2.3 21/27/23 overall

    09 Kia Rondo 2.4 20/27/22 overall
    2.7 18/26/21

    I sure as hell wouldn’t get these for a gain of 2 mpg.
    Not even close.

  • avatar

    With three kids, I need one of these, but neither quite fits the bill.

    No second-row bench in the Mazda. So I’d have to choose between my family and my luggage on trips–or get a rooftop carrier.

    No manual transmission in the Kia. And Lynn Hunt repeatedly rejected my request for a sport version while he was still running the show at Kia USA–said the market wouldn’t be large enough.

    The solution: Ford’s European S-Max. Except that it would cost too much here.

    On the reliability front, TrueDelta’s surveys reported a moderately high problem rate with the 2006 Mazda5 when it was new. Reliability has since improved to average, maybe a bit better. And the 2007, based on a small sample size, appears to be better than average. The 2007 Kia appears to be similar to the first-year Mazda, about average, maybe a bit better.

    Insufficient data for the 2008s of both–they don’t seem to be strong sellers. Instead, everyone’s buying CUVs…

    The full set of results:

    http://www.truedelta.com/latest_results.php

  • avatar
    Stevo

    Juniper +1
    Sliding doors make the minivan. With kids getting in and out all the time the sliders mean they can open the doors themselves without risk to other cars, dogs, my car, etc. My wife drove an R class MB on vacation and agreed with the (non) buyers that it is a complete joke for a three row vehicle.
    While our Odyssey seems so large at times, a daily carpool with five and even six kids and weekend runs with gear, 3 kids, 2 dogs proves its worth.

  • avatar
    NickR

    It would be interesting to see how the Dodge Journey compares…isn’t it in sort of the same class, more or less?

  • avatar
    drzombie

    In Canada, you can get the top of the line Mazda5 (we call that the “GT” model) with leather and a 5 speed instead of the slushbox. That pretty much sealed the deal for me as it is a great tranny and doesn’t make me feel so bad for having to drive a minivan (I don’t try to fool myself into thinking that it’s anything but that). Plus it makes it feel faster then it is. Not sure why in the US the manual only comes with the base model. If the Kia had a manual transmission option, I would consider it, especially if they mated it to the V6, but otherwise, no way.
    That is also why I would never drive anything like a Caravan or Odyssey. Granted, I’m sure there are only a small number of enthusiasts that would demand a manual transmission in their minivan or SUV, but I’ve always found it strange how there are so few offerings in either of these categories in N. America.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    @ Juniper: I’m sure your friends in Switzerland can by the Caravan… at least the previous SWB version was sold in Europe. With a CRD no less.

    @ Micheal: Don’t the rear seats fold independently? Or would that not give enough cargo room. I have just one kid and we pack the cargo area in the Mazda3 wagon pretty tight (3 person weekend trip with pack n’ play and stroller). Camping uses up the rear seat a bit.

    In fact each of these vehicles would make great camping vehicles…even if you towed a small pop-up, you can still fit an air mattress inside for 2.

    One final comment on the MZ5. That green LCD screen is terrible, why not the amber from all the other Mazdas (save the Ford-clones). Out of curiousity, what color is the illumination of the gauges and switches?

  • avatar
    Orian

    I haven’t been able to concretely determine which Hyundai platform underpins the Rondo yet, but I know the Elantra “Touring” version that is coming has the same wheel base. The kicker is the engine choices are the same as the old Sonota (not the current generation).

    Kia would do well to ditch the 2.7 and go with the 3.2 in the Sonata for the EX.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Incidentally, there’s only a 1 mpg penalty in the city for the six. The highway rating is the same for both, so I don’t see why anyone would want the four unless they were really pinching pennies at purchase time.
    There’s a few reasons: the four (at least in my opinion) is a smoother engine, gets better mileage in the real world and should be cheaper to maintain (less complexity, wider availability, more modern design). The five-speed would help economy, though I don’t think Hyundai (or Dodge or Mitsubishi) have equipped this engine with a five-speed; Mitsubishi does tie it to a CVT.

    And yes, it’s cheaper at purchase time. I’m not exactly going to go racing in a seven-seat family hauler, so the few thousand dollar difference is fine, and more than makes up for the performance hit. And hey, if Europeans can cope with a 2.0L-equipped Rondo, I can certainly accept the 2.4.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    It would be interesting to see how the Dodge Journey compares…isn’t it in sort of the same class, more or less?

    It’s much longer and, despite that, more cramped inside. Check the floor height of the Journey (or any crossover) and it’ll be apparent how stupid crossovers-as-minivans really are.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Nice Review Frank.

    In the various long term tests, the real world Kia Rondo MPG numbers have been about the same as full-size minivans. The Mazda 5 does a couple MPG better but at the cost of elbow room etc. Kudos to Mazda for offering a 5-speed stick. Hopefully the Mazda5 will be getting the 170+ horsepower 2.5 liter engine that the Mazda6 and Ford Fusion get in 2009.

    The Dodge Journey seems to share the same problems that these vehicles have, the third row seat is not completely usable. The Journey with the 3.5 liter V6 and 4wd actually has worse gas mileage than the T&C + no sliding doors.

    Thanks to deep discounts and rebates, you can actually get a fairly well equipped Dodge or Chrysler minivan for mid-20s, $6-7 k off sticker.

  • avatar
    gman37

    The Rondo is not a bad deal. For the money, it is hard to beat. You can get a base model with all basic power features and cruise for around 14K after rebates. Cheaper than a Yaris right now.

  • avatar
    ash78

    drzombie

    US marketing is still stuck very much in the “manual tranny is low-rent” for most cars, the only exceptions being expensive sports/sporty cars. I understand most options packages, but I will never understand nor accept that an automatic tranny is necessary for luxury packages.

  • avatar

    This is a great review! I love the head-to-head, and the mini-MPV segment is one I’m personally very interested in. Up to now, the Mazda5 had a definite place as 1/2 (maybe 1/3) of my dream garage. While I think the sliding door is the best, most useful portal ever devised, I will definitely be giving the Rondo a closer look when it comes time to replace my aging Jeep with something more… paternal. The Mazda definitely gets the style crown, but this Rondo sounds better than expected.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    “I sure as hell wouldn’t get these for a gain of 2 mpg.
    Not even close.”

    Mileage isn’t the only consideration. I want a vehicle that actually fits in my garage (without dominating it) and is easy to park in the city. Both of these vehicles win over a standard minivan or CUV on that count. If I had 3 kids, I’d have considered one of these in a heartbeat. As it is with 2, my ’08 xB fits perfectly.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    For all those who are saying that a minivan would be a better choice, you need to consider….

    1) Size – A lot of folks simply don’t want to have a bigger vehicle these days. Not only because of gas pumps. But the very fact that size is no longer a fashionable quality for a lot of consumers. Throw in the younger, more enthusiast oriented and environmentally focused folks (and those who are simply young at heart) and you now have a very substantial market for both these vehicles.

    2) Economy – The fellow who mentioned the diesel may be right on the money. But a lot of folks looking at these cars would gladly sacrifice one to two seconds of acceleration for 2 to 3 MPG’s. You rarely will need to go for flat out acceleration in a mini-minivan.

    3) Safety – We’re reaching a turning point in the development of vehicles where size does not equate to safety. The very high strength steels in Volvo’s and Honda’s, combined with the development of materials that didn’t even exist a decade ago, is enabling these smaller family haulers to be exceptionally safe.

    Honda and Volvo would likely be able to offer these mini-minivans and get sales in the 100,000+ range if they did it well. The opportunity for minivan buyers to cross over to this smaller segment is huge given the changes in tastes in today’s market.

    I can easily see a Honda Fit stretched out in both directions and simply blowing these two vehicles away. The powertrain and chassis represents a world of difference vis-a-vis the Mazda/Kia compromise. The Ford S-Max with a more upscale interior, and a far friendlier cost structure, would also likely be very popular as would a Renault Modus sold in the states as a Nissan model.

    Of course, all bets are off if the next gen Sienna hybrid offers high 20 mpg’s combined and a competitive price. I think the former will happen. Not the later.

  • avatar
    shaker

    A very useful and funny review!

    I drove a Rondo (V6/5 sp auto) as a rental from Milwaukee to Pittsburgh – quite a useful and comfortable ride, surprisingly stable at highway speeds (a quick lane change on I 94 to avoid debris did NOT faze it).

    But: The center console definitely “caressed” my right knee (I’m 6’4″); they should pad those darn corners!

    And the V6, if stomped, lets out a noise not unlike a woman with a narrow pelvis giving birth*

    The lack of sliding doors does lend it more to “adult people mover” duty.

    I’ve not driven the “5″, but I’m sure that poor 2.3 is being asked a bit too much in the larger platform.

    It’s a matter of preference, though, both are the only solid choices in their segment…

    * from “Venus On The Half Shell” by Kilgore Trout (aka Philip Jose Farmer, I believe)

  • avatar
    menno

    Frank said: “I don’t understand why they don’t put the 5-speed automatic on the 4-cyl. It’s standard with the V-6 so it shouldn’t be that much of a problem (unless the housings are different and would require a retooling to fit the 5-speed on the four).

    Incidentally, there’s only a 1 mpg penalty in the city for the six. The highway rating is the same for both, so I don’t see why anyone would want the four unless they were really pinching pennies at purchase time.”

    Well, Frank, I can think of one reason to go with the four instead of the V6. My wife had a 2002 Sonata with this 2.7 V6 and it has cam belts, not cam chains. At 70,000 miles we dropped $800 on replacing the belts, then when Hyundai offered us an unpass-up-able deal on a 2007 Sonata, we traded the ’02 in at 73,000 miles. The four banger actually has two things going for it; it has cam chains (no huge expense at 70,000 miles) and it is engineered to last 250,000 miles (I read the SAE type paper before it even came out).

    The same four banger is used in the Kia Optima (which has had the 5 speed automatic since 2006.5 intro) and the 2009 Hyundai Sonata (new 5 speed auto), as well as the 2006-2008 Sonata (4 speed auto). Unsure if the 5-cog will fit in the Rondo, but if it will, at a guess, I’d say you’ll see it (or the upcoming 6-cog auto box instead) by 2011.

  • avatar
    marc_m

    What kind of real world fuel mileage do this vehicles get?

    Thank you.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I can easily see a Honda Fit stretched out in both directions and simply blowing these two vehicles away.

    Behold, the Honda Freed

    I think a lot of manufacturers are holding back selling their EDM/JDM microvans because they’d eat into the margins of the high-profit crossovers and larger minivans. Honda, for example, would lose a lot of Pilot, CRV and Odyssey sales to the Freed, and there’s no way they could make the kind of money on Freed sales that they do on the Pilot.

    It’s the same reason we get don’t get wagons: a automaker cannot justify >$2K+ over the sedan for a wagon, but they sure as hell can do it for a “crossover”. Seriously, would you pay $27K (Canadian, versus $21K for a top-trim Civic) for a Civic wagon with AWD? Because that’s what the CRV is, and that’s what it sells for.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    What kind of real world fuel mileage do this vehicles get?

    Per Consumer Reports, which I find pretty accurate:

    City/Highway/150-trip/Overall vs EPA City/Hwy

    Mazda5: 16/31/28/23 vs 21/26
    Rondo V6: 14/29/25/21 vs 20/27
    Caravan 3.8: 11/26/20/16 vs 16/23
    Sienna FWD: 13/28/24/19 vs 19/26

    Overall, real-world, these two cream their full-size competition in MPG–especially in city mileage, where the big vans are atrociously bad. The full-size vans weigh a thousand pounds more, there’s no way to escape that.

  • avatar
    brianmack

    I’m glad you did a comparo on these 2 as I’ll be shopping in this segment soon.

    Why is the short wheelbase version of the Sedona never considered a competitor? I know it’s in the no-man’s land with it’s size (bigger than these 2, smaller than everything else), but price-wise it’s close.

  • avatar
    marc_m

    @psarhjinian

    Thanks allot for the quick reply.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Great review Frank – a good functional focus for what are utilitarian vehicles.

    I looked at a Mazda5 when I was shopping for a Mazda3 and found the two-seat only middle row a deal breaker. Since the third row is so tight, a family with three kids would probably be better served by a wagon with back seat that seats three.

    Also, if the real world city mileage of the Ronda and Mazda is 14/16 MPGs then that isn’t much of an advanatage over some larger wagons and CUVs which provide better utility and are better long distance highway cruisers.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Yes I would rather invest $23,000 on a car than putting that money on my 403b or 401k retirement plan in a unpredictable stock market or money market.

    What’s next retirement plan down the drain too!!!

    God help the American people and I am predicting a full blown recession by the end of this year. I hope not another great depression.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Last year, I drove a rental (w/about 22k miles) Grand Caravan from Pittsburgh to Milwaukee and back. The 3.3L V6 auto got 20MPG at a 70mph average speed (verified by calculation).

    I was astounded that it got 6 MPG less than a Grand Marquis V8 RWD That I had rented previously for the same trip.

    Glad to see that the 3.8 does better — that would be my choice.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Also, if the real world city mileage of the Ronda and Mazda is 14/16 MPGs then that isn’t much of an advanatage over some larger wagons and CUVs

    Yes, it is. People don’t think about MPG in the right terms; they think “Well, it’s only 1-2 MPG better”, which, especially below 20MPG, is grossly incorrect. MPG “distorts” the real-world mileage and gives a psychological advantage to gas-guzzlers.

    Let’s convert those figures to gallons per 100 miles travelled:
    14mpg = 7.14 g/100mi (Mazda)
    16mpg = 6.25 g/100mi (Kia)
    11mpg = 9.09 g/100mi (Dodge)
    13mpg = 7.69 g/100mi (Toyota)

    For reference

    25mpg = 4.0 g/100mi
    35mpg = 2.8 g/100mi
    45mpg = 2.2 g/100mi

    See the difference, as well as the distortion that MPG creates? For every 100 miles you travel, the Mazda uses three fewer gallons than the Caravan. That’s a lot.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Psarhjinian

    Using Your numbers, comparing the Rondo V6 to the Sienna (which has a honey of a V6), the Rondo is 1 MPG better city, highway and 150 mile trip, and 2 mpg overall.

    It makes it clear that Kia has a long way to go before it can move metal as efficiently as Toyota. When you figure the Toyota’s lower depreciation, it’s probably actually cheaper to buy (or lease) the Sienna.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    The last time I rented a car, my reservation for a compact turned out to be a choice between a Dodge Dakota Crew Cab or a Kia Rondo. I took the Rondo and was pleasantly surprised by the overall package. The one I rented only had two seats, but lots of cargo room in the back. It was a bit cheap-seeming, and the gas mileage was pretty disappointing. Still it was more than adequate for someone wanting a station wagon. There seem to be a lot of Rondos on the rental lots.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Curious as to why the pushbutton auto hasn’t made a comeback. Given that most people seem to be totally disinterested in shifting for themselves, they may as well do away with the shifter altogether and save some space. Hey, we could go back to front bench seats again!

  • avatar
    BobJava

    I can only complain about the shortcomings of the Mazda5 …

    The third row seat in the 5 is so small as to make it, in my childless opinion, entirely useless. In fact, they’d only seem to get in the way of full utilization of the cargo space in the rear. This wouldn’t be so bad, except that the car only has two seats in the middle.

    So unless you have two children under 10 (and by the way, they weren’t exactly easy to access), you’re stuck with a proverbial 4-seater.

    The manual version is the only version I’d consider, and as mentioned, “cheap interior” doesn’t begin to describe it. And yes, I’ve seen Hyundai and Toyota lately. It’s really a shame.

    That said, this and the Rondo stand out because there’s so little competition amid oversized CUVs and minivans. If it fits the bill, and your family fits the van, you can make out with either for less than 20k.

  • avatar

    TrueDelta has a Fuel Economy Survey that provides more detailed info than any others. Pages for these two:

    http://www.truedelta.com/fuel_economy.php?stage=pt&bd=Mazda&mc=173

    http://www.truedelta.com/fuel_economy.php?stage=pt&bd=Kia&mc=734

  • avatar

    Honda does have a vehicle like these — the Stream — they just don’t sell it in the U.S. (although Honda has said they may bring the gen3 Stream here late next year). Like the Mazda5, it’s based on the Civic platform, stretched in wheelbase and height.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    I dont know about the rest of the world but the American consumer has already responded to the question asked by these mini min-vans and the answer is, “It just does not fit our needs”

    How many of these things have we seen come to market and gain little to no traction.
    1st gen Honda Odyessy
    Nissan Stanza wagon
    Nissan Access
    Mitsu Summit??
    1st gen Toyota Sienna

    And I am sure that I am forgetting a few!

    The problem is they do nothing very well.
    For people they are cramped once you add more than two passangers
    For cargo they work fine as long as you leave the people behind.
    Once you load one of these things up the engines are NOT up to the task.
    With a decent load the fuel efficency sucks.
    They suck in crosswinds just like a full-sized mini-van.

    A general rule of thumb is; if you need a mini-van than you need a minivan!

    The “American” mini-van has grown to the size that the folks hwo actually buy these things find useful and COMFORTABLE. Is a Mazda5 any more comfortable on a 800 mile road trip with 4 passangers than a Mazda3? I would say that when you factor in the compromises in seat & cabin design the answer is NO, but it get worse mielage and cant carry much more cargo.

    These are the vehicles that people with one child buy and than need to replace when they have the second child once they find out they cant fit the additional stoller in the back along with a load of groceries. Once you discover that you need a roof box for a simple trip to grandma’s, folks begin to reaccess what their true needs are. It like buying a 2 bedroom house when you know your family will continue to grow.

  • avatar
    pourspeller

    Actually, the good folks with far too much time on their hands over at Car and Driver are creating a MazdaSpeed 5 right now, using a wrecked MazdaSpeed 3 and a willing 5.

    Check it:
    http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/hot_lists/high_performance/features_classic_cars/c_d_boss_wagon_vi_contest

  • avatar
    DaveT

    We recently purchased (March) a ’08 Mazda5 Grand Touring for my wife after test driving an Odyssey and Sienna. Why? For less then 21K it provided the sliding doors and the ability to occasionally carry six people. It certainly is a compromise over a full sized minivan but for an averaged sized family of four it fits the bill. What is great about it? Mileage (we average 26MPG and run 32MPG on trips). Visibility is fantastic. Very well equipped for the price. Can really haul a lot of 10ft 2x4’s in a pinch. Power is adequate, we toured Skyline Drive on the Blue Ridge Mountains with four adults and two kids and it did fine. The downside? It is still an economy car with less then comfortable seats for cruising and the road noise is very annoying.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Is a Mazda5 any more comfortable on a 800 mile road trip with 4 passangers than a Mazda3?

    I think the question is: how often do you do that trip? If the answer is “not very” then the 5 or Rondo make more sense.

    People in North America have been overbuying versus their actual needs for years. Unless you tow something huge on a regular basis, you probably don’t “need” a Suburban. If you don’t take your family of four or more on vacation more than a few times a year, you don’t need a minivan. If it’s just you and your trophy partner, you probably don’t need more than a Miata…

    …but we’ve gotten into the habit of buying more just on the off-chance we might need it some day. And that’s a bad thing to do. For most people, driving one to three kids around the city, the microvans are totally sufficient. Caravans are available–en masse–at rental lots for those times you need more.

    Similarly, to use your example, it might be worthwhile buying a four-bedroom house if you’re planning to have more than two kids, but you shouldn’t buy one just so that your grown children and their family have places to sleep at Christmas. That’s what hotels are for.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    The S-Max and Mazda5 are built on the same C1 platform…correct? Or is the C-Max is Focus-based?

    @whatdoIknow: Head over to some of the Mazda forums where there are Mazda5 owners…they’ve loaded these things to the gills with cargo and/or people. Seems to do rather well for a family of 4 on a long trip and hauling a bit more than 4 around town.

    I can definitely see myself replacing the 3 wagon when another kid comes along. And it’d be more handy with the extra seats when people come to visit. As I see it, families of 4/5 that have a 7-seat vehicle use the 3rd row for luggage on long trips and for people around town (carpooling, visitors, heading to a game or downtown).
    So, no…this isn’t really meant for a family of 6. They should have kept the larger MPV for that reason (maybe call it the Mazda7). But you can get a nice 2006 model for a great price.

    I’m just glad there are some manufactures willing to fill such niches…even if they don’t sell enough in the US to justify the vehicle(luckily they do in other markets).

  • avatar

    We currently own a 2008 Mazda5, 5 speed, fully appointed. No contest here folks! A Kia Rondo is no Mazda5.

    Now my wife and I are both under 5 feet 8 inches so the Mazda fits us perfectly. We have one child and this sporty, versatile little runner does everything our Toyota Sienna did, with better MPG, more fun (GET THE STICK!!!!) and sticky handling. (Interesting that Frank didn’t mention the wheel sizes on these vehicles, which to me is a huge factor)

    Not sure where you got yours Frank, but our 5 was nowhere near that price. Shop around folks, and did I mention….

    GET THE 5-SPEED!!!!

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    How many of these things have we seen come to market and gain little to no traction.
    1st gen Honda Odyessy
    Nissan Stanza wagon
    Nissan Access
    Mitsu Summit??
    1st gen Toyota Sienna

    You can throw in the moderately successful Mazda MPV into the mix… take out the Sienna minivan… and throw in the Dodge Colt Wagon.

    All of the vehicles you mentioned were sold at a time where gas was usually cheap, and the domestics had a substantial ‘value’ advantage due to their economies of scale.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    whatdoiknow1:
    Is a Mazda5 any more comfortable on a 800 mile road trip with 4 passengers than a Mazda3? I would say that when you factor in the compromises in seat & cabin design the answer is NO, but it get worse mileage and can’t carry much more cargo.

    The Mazda3 only handles 2 child car/booster seats, the Mazda5 can take up to 4. There have been a couple of times I wish mine had the 7th seat, for an extra passenger for a very short haul. I suppose you could get a trailer hitch + cargo box for about $600. Haven’t seen anyone on the forum do it (yet).

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Great review…

    I rented a V-6 Rondo for 4 days last year and was impressed with the feel of quality throughout. Door closed with a nice solid thunk and around town, the steering had a bit of weight to it. Definitely reshaped my idea of Kia.

    Still, it’s an economy car and drives like one the highway. Steering is vague, brakes a bit mushy, but again, nothing that horrified me. It was NOT a roomy car, but cargo space seemed good (had thrown ski gear and skis in the back. Even had the ‘fun’ of replacing a dishwasher, and was impressed with the clearance and space in back).

    I would have jumped at the Mazda5 had the rental car agency had one, but it wasn’t in the cards.

  • avatar
    davey49

    My aunt just bought a Rondo. I’ll have to ask her what she thinks.
    People on the CR forums talk about these cars a lot. For them the Rondo wins because of ESC. If the Mazda had ESC it would win this fight.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I’m amazed that ESC keeps coming up, especially on an enthusiast forum. Can anyone explain to me what the fascination is? These are fairly simple vehicles–FWD, normal wheelbase, fairly low Cg, low on power. Doesn’t seem to me that you could easily get into trouble in either of these cars.

    What exactly does modern ESC do–what situations, corrections, etc? Is it mostly an appeal to people who drive in snow?

  • avatar
    derek533

    To the popular song “Last Kiss”:

    Where oh where is my MPV
    Mazada went and took it away from me
    It’s gone for good and all that is left
    Is a pseudo-replacement without much heft.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. I honestly don’t know why they aren’t selling it over here though. It is a competent competitor to today’s minivans offerings and actually looks pleasing to the eyes. I imagine they would sell quite a few of them over here.

    +1 on more comparison articles. Thanks for the excellent review as always.

  • avatar
    bumpy

    If y’all get bored sometime, perhaps you could scare up an old Dodge Colt Vista wagon to see how it compares to these two?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    These are fairly simple vehicles–FWD, normal wheelbase, fairly low Cg, low on power. Doesn’t seem to me that you could easily get into trouble in either of these cars.

    If you mean “swap ends” trouble, no, you’re right, these aren’t Porsches. But they are driven by inexperienced or distracted drivers and have less-than-optimal dynamics, which many sportier cars don’t.

    What exactly does modern ESC do–what situations, corrections, etc? Is it mostly an appeal to people who drive in snow?

    ESC will, in a car like this, function mostly as a traction control. That said, ESC can also correct a skid, balance power between the drive wheels to prevent a skid from occuring, or distribute brakeforce more safely. And yes, it’s most useful on snow and ice, but could come into play any time you overcook a corner.

    It won’t defy physics, but–and as a parent, I can say this unequivocally–if you’re hauling children, the best accident is the one you don’t get into in the first place. Next to being a safe driver, ESC is your best bet for that.

    As a bonus, ESC is all software. Unlike a hefty crash structure and AWD, it adds no mass. Both the NHTSA and IIHS heavily promote it, and it carries none of the downsides of other systems.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    People who need ESC in anything short of a 300+hp RWD car shouldn’t even be on the road in the first place

    I honestly can’t imagine a scenario in which ESC would need to activate in a FWD ecnonocar/family sedan/minivan. I drove my mother’s 2001 4cyl/auto Camry for about 8 years (in Toronto, in all weather conditions), and I drove that thing like it was an M5. I honestly think I drove that Camry more aggressively than 99.99999% of econocar/family sedan/minivan drivers would ever dare to drive and I never got myself in a situation where ESC would have been helpful.

    When I bought my first car, a 1999 Lexus GS with 300hp and RWD, the ESC saved me one time, when it was raining and I was taking an onramp fairly aggressively, and the stupid transmission decided to downshift in the middle of the turn. The rear end stepped out, and the ESC reigned it back in. I’m blaming that one entirely on the transmission though, after that I realized I never want to drive a powerful RWD car with a computer choosing the gears for me.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    People who need ESC in anything short of a 300+hp RWD car shouldn’t even be on the road in the first place

    Hit black ice under drifting snow on the 401 ion heavy traffic and then tell me that.

    …and I never got myself in a situation where ESC would have been helpful.

    Well, bully for you.

    Some of us aren’t nearly so lucky.I found myself many a time driving up or down 115 to or from the 401 and hitting some ugly, yet hidden, patches under drifting snow and suddenly having my non-ESC-equipped car step sideways. Once or twice, it stepped out even further. Not fun at all.

    I also have memories of being with my father–a very cautious driver, mind you–when he spun our 1988 Toyota Van (admittedly rear-drive) on the QEW outside of Hamilton. Spun. In traffic. With kids on board. Again, black ice and snowdrifts.

    Look, I’m glad nothing has ever happened to you, but the sooner you realize that you’re not a perfect driver (and going balls-out in a GS430 in the rain on a public road is evidence of that) and admit that ESC really does save lives, the luckier you’ll be. Yes, some people aren’t perfectly skilled drivers, but please, don’t begrudge them a safety feature that would otherwise save their lives (or yours, if they lose it in range of you), and certainly don’t assume that your skills warrant your not needing ESC.

    I’ll admit that the TCS on my Saab gets disabled in empty parking lots in the winter and open tracks, but I’m damn well leaving it on when I’m commuting to and from work or taking my family about. I’m not a bad driver, but Lady Luck is fickle bitch and I’m not taking chances I don’t have to.

  • avatar
    Kman

    I love both of these cars; both in concept, and in the actual Kia and Mazda implementations.

    Conceptually, as you state, they provide 95 percent of what most families need, and IMHO both have great looks. As far as family-haulers go, both the Rondo and the ’5′ look much better than a Chryco MagicWagon, an Odyssey or a Siena. I remember when I first saw the Mazda5, I thought it was downright sexy!

    Re: a Mazdaspeed 5. First: “Amen” to that. Second: The much-maligned-on-TTAC Car and Driver has started on *just* such a project — modifying a Mazda 5 to ‘speed specifications. I can’t wait to see the result.

  • avatar
    cpmanx

    I’m amused by all the ‘bigger is better’ comments in here. I bought a Rondo because it takes care of all my current needs (in a pinch I can do a road trip with the three of us along with another couple and their kid–try doing that in a Mazda 3), it’s cheap, it gets decent mileage, it’s a perfect size for urban parking, the interior packaging is top-notch, visibility is excellent, and I happen to like the look of the thing.

    Yes, if I were willing to pay an extra $10,000, sacrifice a couple MPG, and feel like I was driving a bus I could be in a Sienna. Continuing that logic, why settle for a Sienna when I could be driving a Suburban or an Econoline?

    If you live in a congested city, as I do, and expect the Rondo will suit your needs for the next 5-7 years, as I do, what exactly is the point of supersizing? Parking in my neighborhood would be drastically harder with an Odyssey/Sienna. For much of the US these MPVs or monoboxes or whatever you want to call them remain a niche product, though rising gas prices could change that. Then again, traditional minivans are themselves rapidly becoming niche products–sales numbers alone don’t say a whole lot about the quality or usefulness of a given type of vehicle.

    Bottom line: The Rondo may not be exciting, but it sure is a cleverly packaged, very satisfying little people mover.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    psarhjinian :

    It’s funny you mention the 401 because I have driven tens of thousands of kms on that highway in the Camry, in the winter (even those ‘blizzard warning’ days when people are told to stay off the road) and never came close to losing control of a car. I’m not sure ‘luck’ has much to do with it after many years and many thousands of kms.

    I was definitely not a perfect driver in my Camry-driving days (partially because I was a teenager with limited experience for most of it), but I do know how to control a car. You don’t have to be a perfect driver, basic competence is all that is required to maintain control of a low-powered, FWD car in nearly any situation. I’m not advocating banning ESC (what would be the point?), but I still believe that a person that can’t control a 4cyl FWD car without ESC shouldn’t be on the road.

    As an aside, I’m not seeing the relationship between taking an onramp a little faster than normal in a GS (I wouldn’t use the term ‘balls out’ because I think it’s against the law to go ‘balls out’ in any Lexus vehicle), in the rain and not being a ‘perfect driver’. Not that I am a perfect driver, but I did mange to make it through last winter daily driving a 2006 Corvette with summer tires, so I would say I know how to control a car. The Lexus was more than capable of handling the speed I was going, although I was under the (obviously mistaken) impression that the transmission was programmed to not downshift out of the blue mid-corner. Without ESC, it would have been nothing more than a slight scrape with the concrete barrier at the angle/speed I was traveling. Not that I will have to worry about this kind of thing in the future because I can’t imagine subjecting myself to an automatic transmission again anytime soon

  • avatar
    changsta

    Hmmm… interesting. I own a 2006 Mazda5 GT, and I’m pretty happy with it. Yes, there were quite a few technical bulletins on it the first year out, but now that everything has been sorted out, it’s a solid vehicle. The Rondo wasn’t out when I got my 5, but I think it looks terrible in person, so no regrets here!

    I don’t think the engine is too small for the car, and in fact, I think it’s just right. In other markets, the 2.3L 4-cylinder is the TOP engine choice, with smaller 4-cylinders as standard. Anyway, I get about 10L/100km in mixed driving, and 8L/100km on highways trips. That is pretty good in my books.

    Also, I would disagree that the Mazda is too small to get comfortable in. I’m 5’11 and it fits me just right. I actually like the firm seats as well. The third row is definitely not the roomiest, but it has been used by my friends on many occasions without complaint.

    It is interesting to me that these cars aren’t more popular in the states. If I remember correctly, the Mazda5 is actually the second best selling car for Mazda here in Canada after the Mazda3. Yep, beats out the Mazda6, Tribute, CX-7 etc. I’m glad that these cars are finally catching on!

  • avatar
    ppellico

    Frank Williams

    I totally agree with blautens above…MORE comparison reviews.

    We are all usually buying within a slot, and there are soooo many competitive cars in each slot.
    It would be nice to get reviews from TTAC that go beyond the simple stat comparisons available at sights like Automotive.com.
    TTAC reviews have a lot of emotion and real drive feel added.
    This truly helps.

    And most cannot test drive a car long enough to fish out all of the details.
    After all, most cannot take a car on a 55 mph plus road for highway feel during a test drive.

    TTAC reviewers spend time and a detailed, comprehensive review of a group would truly help.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    ash78 :
    September 17th, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    US marketing is still stuck very much in the “manual tranny is low-rent” for most cars, the only exceptions being expensive sports/sporty cars. I understand most options packages, but I will never understand nor accept that an automatic tranny is necessary for luxury packages.

    It’s not just marketing, it’s the market. The number of people in the US who want a high-end non-sporty vehicle with a manual is extremely tiny; way too small to be economically viabile to bother to offer it in that configuation. A high end manual Mazda 5 would sit unsold on a dealer’s lot for six months in most places. For the most part, the only people who want a manual are cheapstakes and sports car buyers.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Geotpf

    I hear ya…the question it begs, though, is why the Canadian market is so much different than the US. Canada’s car offerings/packages often have more in common with Europe’s than with the States’. While I could maybe understand that for, say Quebec, most of Canada is not that culturally or economically different than the US.

    Surely it can’t just be driven by gas prices…and if it is, how long before the US comes around?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Surely it can’t just be driven by gas prices…and if it is, how long before the US comes around?

    Its gas prices, tax rates and relative liquid wealth. The last is important: Americans have more access to credit and higher net incomes, but also less of a safety net and significantly more “rope” to hand their financial selves with.

    What you see in the Canadian auto market is a reflection of the more conservative Canadian economic climate.

  • avatar
    raspykart

    What no mention of fuel economy actual? Seriously Kia is junk, ugly, and yeah they have great warranty but what good is that in the middle of the desert? Mazda 5 is far superior, gas mileage is better, functionality is more logical, and I’m confident I’d stomp a Kia Rondo on the track with my 5. Kia Rondo=fail, but because there are so many ignorant consumers out there it’ll still sell well.

  • avatar
    allythom

    Looked at both of these when shopping last year.

    Liked the Mazda, still do, but I like a bit of zoom zoom, and it hasn’t got any.

    The Rondo is a great car too, but the badge (I’m a bit of a snob I guess) and quality concerns scared me off.

    I wish there were other choices in this category. Sienna/Odessey/Sedona/Caravan and the like are too big and thirsty for my needs.

    I ended up with a CUV, a V6 RAV4 Limited AWD with a (tiny) 3rd row. More expensive by quite a margin than both the Mazda5 and Rondo, but practical, reliable (so far), safe and quick, without truly horrible gas mileage (we see about 21mpg real world). It’s just a bit dull.

  • avatar
    Nedmundo

    I always enjoy good comparos, and this is no exception. We bought a Mazda5, with five-speed manual, in early 2006. We live in a townhouse in Center City Philadelphia. The townhouse has a narrow garage, frequently occupied by my Saab, and we regularly park on the street too. We have two children. In this environment, the Mazda is simply perfect.

    The sliding doors make a world of difference in our garage and for parallel parking on chaotic streets, and the agility and tight dimensions are ideal for navigating the urban jungle. I’ve even been impressed with the Mazda’s suspension compliance, which provides excellent ride quality over the cratered-out Philly streets, with surprising handling for a minivan. The steering, while not worthy of a sport sedan, is quite good, and the highway path control is fantastic. (I definitely appreciate these dynamics. My daily driver is a Saab 9-5 Aero, which replaced a Jetta GLX with track-worthy suspension mods.) The shifter and clutch are excellent — comparable to good Hondas. And, unless you use the third row regularly, the cargo space is fine for runs to Home Depot, family vacations, hauling gear to gigs with my rock band, etc.

    After two and a half years, and about 24,000 miles, literally NOTHING has gone wrong on this Mazda. It has been perfect. No squeaks or rattles either, which is surprising with all the plastic in the interior. After the Jetta and Saab, I cannot overstate how refreshing this is.

    So we’ve been thrilled. In terms of achieving its design objectives, I think it’s easily the best vehicle I’ve ever owned. And for $17,000, it was a steal.

    But I’d like to see a few improvements, some of which were mentioned in the review. Chief among these is road and tire noise. It is distracting, and the biggest deterrent to taking the Mazda for long road trips, though it does fine on those trips nonetheless. I’ve also noticed the awkward position of my right leg caused by the console and pedal position. It’s annoying, but I’ve gotten used to it. Of course it could use more power, and the seats, while adequate, are nothing special. It should have stability control.

    So, let’s have a MazdaSpeed version with better seats, stability control, more sound insulation, a tighter suspension, and north of 200 horsepower — bring it on!

  • avatar
    p00ch

    Nedmundo: as the owner of a manual ’06 GT, I couldn’t agree more.

    These are city cars and they are not intended for families of 5 or more; the back row seats are only meant for occasional use.

    The Mazda’s 2.3 is no prize but with the stickshift, it’s perfectly adequate and even fun to drive. Decent shifting skills can easily compensate for the lack of a V6, especially in a FWD vehicle.

  • avatar
    davey49

    It doesn’t really matter whether or not you think ESC is useful.
    Professional drivers and driving instructors think it is.
    I trust them more than you.
    The people who want to buy these vehicles want ESC.
    The Rondo outsells the 5 by 2 to 1 or so. There could be other factors but the ESC availability is a pretty strong argument.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    I’d be willing to be that rental fleet sales, PRICE, and lack of sliding doors has more to do with the Rondo outselling the 5 than ESC. Simple traction control would suffice for many drivers in a vehicle of this type.

    And I live in the Rockies where both ESC and TC can be beneficial but a great set of snow tires is the most beneficial.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    The real question is….can you put a 4×8 sheet of plywood in the back of either the Mazda or Kia and shut the door? Wasn’t that a design consideration in the original 1984 caravan??? If either can’t do it they shouldn’t be compared to the caravan standard set in the 80′s.

    While I agree the minivans of today have grown, they still are the best utility vehicles for hauling people over the age of 3 and/or the occasional load from the lumber yard.

    As for MPG’s I can speak for the Odyssey which a close family member has, and I’ve used on several occasions. City driving gets right around 20 mpg providing you don’t constantly flog the gas pedal and on highways it does a solid 26 unless heading straight into 50mph winds. That’s pretty good for something that can comfortably seat 6 adults and is vastly more luxurious inside than the 5 or Rondo.

    So far as driving dynamics I have driven the 5 and found it quite boring when compared to the 3 or 6 and it’s fugly as well. Can’t comment on Kia as I still joke about that brand as I did Hyundai 15 years back. Granted the Odyssey isn’t the race car their marketing bills it as, but it’ll blow away the mazda. Anyway, someone who enjoys the sport of driving isn’t buying either so does it really matter?

  • avatar
    200k-min

    why the Canadian market is so much different than the US. Canada’s car offerings/packages

    My wife is Canadian and from what I’ve seen their cars aren’t that different, aside from more expensive. Maybe the added cost up there forces the dealers to offer things like standard transmissions to shave a few $$ off the price. For the most part every Canadian I know is always trying to find a way to buy their next car in the states.

  • avatar
    ktm

    When I bought my first car, a 1999 Lexus GS with 300hp and RWD, the ESC saved me one time, when it was raining and I was taking an onramp fairly aggressively, and the stupid transmission decided to downshift in the middle of the turn. The rear end stepped out, and the ESC reigned it back in. I’m blaming that one entirely on the transmission though, after that I realized I never want to drive a powerful RWD car with a computer choosing the gears for me.

    How about blaming yourself for taking the on ramp, as you clearly stated, fairly aggressively in the rain. You were driving too fast for conditions. You are the type of person who needs ESC. Personal accountability. Look it up.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    ktm :

    Reading is fundamental: I never said I wouldn’t want ESC in a powerful RWD car. I said I do not see the need for it in an low-powered, FWD car. I also realize the part I played in the ‘incident’ (‘incident’ is in quotations because nothing happened, ‘personal accountability’ also doesn’t apply because there’s nothing to be accountable for), but it had nothing to do with going too fast for conditions. The speed wasn’t the problem, the sudden 1500+rpm jump due to the downshift is what made the tires spin. I’ll take the blame for assuming that Lexus engineers would know better than to program the tranny to downshift mid-corner, but it had nothing to do with speed

  • avatar
    joeaverage

    ash78: I hear ya…the question it begs, though, is why the Canadian market is so much different than the US.

    Probably has alot to do with comments and questions you can see above.

    Many comments stating that this vehicle is just too small, doesn’t have enough power, and for a few thousand more they could buy a V-6 or larger vehicle.

    The comment about being able to carry a sheet of plywood is also very American.

    I have ridden in minature Italian cars that Americans would just shake their heads at. Cars with 500cc and 18HP. Cars with 900cc and 45 HP. They were perfectly adeaquate for short distances (across town for a bite to eat and a movie or out the grocery store). Comfortable even. It depends on your expectations. I have heard American buddies declare a car reliably and safely hauling them around town a pice of ****. It just didn’t meet their expectations of style, power, image, etc so it has no value to them.

    The Mazda 5 is yet another vehicle on my short list. It is much like our 1st Gen CR-V with a 3rd row for occasional use.

    Just what we need for out of town trips (less than 200 miles 99% of the time). I want a big Eurovan Weekender but the Mazda might be the more practical vehicle (newer, not discontinued, better mileage).

    As for retrieving plywood I prefer to haul my construction materials home of my $350 trailer. I can pull it with anything I own. If I need materials enough to build a deck I’ll just have it delivered. A $50 delivery fee is still less than what it costs to maintain or insure a full sized vehicle each year. Nice trucks, but costly. No risk of damaging my $20K vehicle that way. Let the trailer take the scrapes and scratches. Every 5 years or so I’ll sandblast and repaint the trailer.

    This Mazda might be a very good distance tourer with even 5 or 6 people. Those 5 people might need to be a combination of 2-3 adults and 2-3 kids. They might not be comfortable if they are 300 lb or tall teenagers sitting in the 3rd row though.

    A person’s expectations would have to adapt though. In Europe I saw families travelling in cars the size of an early 90s Civic pulling a small weatherproof trailer big enough to carry all of their luggage and shopping. Trailers were quite light-weight and could stand on their tailgates in the corner of a garage when not used. It’s possible depending on your expectations.

    Frankly I’d rather rent a larger vehicle for trips or travel in something smaller that I owned with a tiny luggage trailer. That way the other 51 weeks a year I did not have to pay for or operate a large vehicle.

  • avatar
    p00ch

    200k-min :
    Anyway, someone who enjoys the sport of driving isn’t buying either so does it really matter?

    That’s a highly inaccurate statement.

    When kids pop up, that Boxster may not be happening. So, you end up with a choice: get something that looks and drives like a tub (Odyssey, Sienna), or get something smaller and nimbler with a stickshift (Mazda 5). It’s the closest to sporty driving some of us will get till the sprogs hit college.

  • avatar
    davey49

    200k-min- American car fans used to make the same jokes about Toyota and Honda like you make about Hyundai/Kia. History repeats itself

  • avatar
    MattPete

    My wife and I bought a 5 this summer. We had several goals in mind: seating for 4+, good gas mileage, and a wagon/hatch so that we could load large items. The last ruled out sedans. Good gas mileage ruled out nearly all SUVs, save the hybrids. The hybrids cost an arm-and-a-leg, and there is 99 year waiting list, so the Mariner hybrid was a moot choice.

    We liked the VW Passat and Subaru Outback wagons, but they were more than we wanted to pay. We thought the new Forester was a dud. We finally waffled back and forth between the 5 and the Honda CRV.

    The 5 does not have AWD, but it was nearly as nice as the CRV, handles better, and cost us $4k+ less. Although it’s my wife’s car, I do get to drive it on occasion. My everyday car is a 2004 BMW 325 (sport suspension), and I must say that I’m impressed with the 5. For what it is, it is fairly nimble. And despite all of the reviews I had read, the acceleration feels fairly spritely. Maybe it’s the 5-speed automatic that is new for this year?

    As for the last row of seats, my wife and I view the 5 as a 4 seater with a huge cargo area that has optional bonus seats that can be used in an emergency. If you view the 3rd row that way, then the 5 is a great vehicle. And if you are expecting a baby, then the height of the passenger row vs. a sedan’s is a big bonus, as are the twin sliding rear doors. My one gripe is I wish the front seats were longer and had more thigh support (I’m 5’8, so the 5 is great size for us). My second gripe (yeah, I said I only had one gripe…tough) is that the stereo has a big hole in the midrange. Conversations disappear in newscasts and guitars disappear when listening to rock. I had to crank up the midrange on the iPod so that I could comprehend “This American Life”. My wife doesn’t notice it, so maybe it’s just me.

  • avatar
    MattPete

    DaveT: Are you in NoVa? It seems everyday I see a different 5 driving around the Fairfax area.

  • avatar
    Nue

    Some of us are race drivers it seems in this thread. Anywho, stick or bust. My vote goes for the 5 simply because it’s got the essential 3rd pedal and I’m not talking about the parking brake.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    The comment about being able to carry a sheet of plywood is also very American.

    Maybe so, but that was fundamental to the design of the original Caravan. If the 5 or Rondo can’t carry it, they souldn’t be compared to it.

    As for retrieving plywood I prefer to haul my construction materials home of my $350 trailer.

    As do I. Additionally I’ve proved that all but the largest lumber can fit in my Accord with the back seat folded down. But some people don’t have room to store a trailer (or extra vehicle). Delivery of large things like construction materials works fine most of the time but what about the people in TX last weekend? I doubt Home Depot was delivering small orders of plywood right before the hurricane. That extra utility can be very precious at times. I’m willing to bet a large portion of people own full sized pickup trucks for that emergency situation.

    American car fans used to make the same jokes about Toyota and Honda like you make about Hyundai/Kia. History repeats itself

    Not sure about the early Kia’s but the original Hyundai’s were abysmal to the point where I will not ever buy one. A Hyundai has left me stranded in the middle of nowhere before the days of cell phones. My attitude about them is not one bit different than all the comments from people burned by GM or Ford. I’ll grant you that everyone is making better vehicles today but why should one company be granted forgiveness over another?

    When kids pop up, that Boxster may not be happening. So, you end up with a choice: get something that looks and drives like a tub (Odyssey, Sienna), or get something smaller and nimbler with a stickshift (Mazda 5). It’s the closest to sporty driving some of us will get till the sprogs hit college.

    I didn’t drive a 5 with the stick, but just failing to see where else the 5 would be non-tub when compared to larget minivans. Put a stick in the Odyssey with a stiffer suspension and you have the same “sporty” ride.

    Seems to me the argument for these cars is that they are cheaper than the Honda and Toyota minivans or other near alternatives. My real world experience with the Honda says otherwise on the “huge” MPG gains from the smaller 5 or Rondo. Everything else just seems like a compromise.

    I wish Americans were given real options in wagon models. I would argue that an Accord or Camry wagon with a 3rd row jump seat would be a more “sporty” ride, more fuel efficient and command equal utility value. Yea to wagons, boo to whatever the heck you call the 5 and Rondo.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Put a stick in the Odyssey with a stiffer suspension and you have the same “sporty” ride.

    The 5 weighs a little over three thousand pounds. The Oddy and it’s kin all tip the scales at well over four thousand.

    You cannot, no matter what suspension tricks you pull, make a four-and-half-thousand-pound vehicle with a big six on it’s nose feel like a vehicle that’s 1200lbs lighter.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Yea to wagons, boo to whatever the heck you call the 5 and Rondo.

    One reason why low-roof wagons died out–and even in Europe, are losing out to MPVs like these two, as well as numerous others–is that the taller chair height does give serious packaging advantages.

    If you compare the Mazda5 to the Mazda6 Sport Wagon, the 5 has more usable cargo room, slightly better people room in the first two rows and is a heck of a lot easier to load small children into than the lower-down 6. Oh, and it weighs less and has a physically smaller footprint.

    I’m all for getting rid of high-floor crossovers, but the 5 and Rondo, with their low floors, tall seating and high roofs, are much better vehicles, from a versatility standpoint, than “real wagons”.

  • avatar
    unregular

    But some people don’t have room to store a trailer (or extra vehicle). Delivery of large things like construction materials works fine most of the time but what about the people in TX last weekend? I doubt Home Depot was delivering small orders of plywood right before the hurricane.

    That’s what the roof rails are for.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Tons of interesting comments on here, this is why I love online forums. The fact that there are niche cars like the Rondo and the Mazda5 are great… I like choice. Not everyone needs or wants a SUV or “full-sized mini” van… including me. This is why my wife and I bought a 5.

    We have one child. We liked the ease of entry of the sliding doors but disliked the idea of driving around a 4,500 lb. beast every day. We use the 5 primarily as a 4-seater but have used the third row on occassion, usually outings with friends or when family comes to visit rather than needing two cars. The car is surprisingly fun to drive (and this from a guy with a Miata, a Porsche 911, and a Mercedes E-Class). When it comes to driving around town, running errands, family drives a few hours away to visit family, or runs to Costco, the Mazda5 is the always the first choice. It just has an easygoing pleasant nature and ease of use that I find very endearing.

    The only downsides to the car that I would change is that it’s a bit noisy at freeway speeds (primarily tire noise) but around town the engine is smooth and very quiet.

    But as many have mentioned, it isn’t for everyone. At least two friends have purchased Mazda5s since riding in ours. Another recently needed a new car and has baby #3 on the way. He like the 5 but ended up with an Odyssey as the 5 just isn’t the first choice when you have three kids in infant or booster seats at the same time and need to carry a double stroller.

    The Honda is a fine choice and an excellent vehicle, I just don’t want to drive one, park one, and fuel one every day because I might need the extra space once a year. So far, the 5 hasn’t failed to hold anything that we’ve thrown at it… even a bed and matress from Ikea.

    With regard to sales of this car, I have to say that I think low sales is a matter of supply rather than demand. Around here in Northern California it’s difficult to even find a Mazda5 in stock. I also think that slow sales of the manual transmission option is also a bit of a chicken and egg problem. The dealers are scared to order these with stick shifts so supplies stay low, which leads the factory to stop offering the stick shift option.

    Similarly, I had a BMW 525iT wagon a few years back with a manual transmission… a very rare bird indeed. When it came time to sell it I had car nuts beating down my door all of whom mentioned looking long and hard for a manual transmission sport wagon like that. Finding one new at a dealership was nearly impossible.

  • avatar
    MattPete

    I’m with psarhjinian on roof height: one of the things I didn’t like about the Outback and Passat was the low height of the roof in the cargo area. Sure, the wagon-back allows you to load larger items than the sedan versions of those cars, but it’s still really limiting. That’s why the Forrester is so cool. It’s also what makes the 5 so great: we can easily haul big awkward thing, but the 5 has a footprint that is only a little larger than my BMW 325.

    The 5 isn’t wagon, nor is it a minivan*, but it’s something in-between, and it’s very flexible and usable.

    *interestingly, the 5 has almost the same exact dimension as the original Chrysler minivan

  • avatar
    don1967

    A buddy of mine recently bought a Rondo, and after my initial sneers I was impressed by the build quality, comfort and quietness. The weirdest thing of all is how it seems bigger on the inside than the outside… much more practical than my not-so-mini Nissan minivan.

  • avatar
    Riz

    My $0.02 – you’d be surprised at how versatile the 5 is if your kids aren’t too big. We’ve got 4 kids – our ’06 ’5 has 3 boosters and one carseat (LATCH system), and the three in boosters can walk through the car (including the middle aisle) and seat / strap themselves fine. With a portable DVD player it’s survived 3 summer trips averaging 1k miles round trip each time, with minimal complaints from the kids. Roof top box is a must for luggage, but with the seats all down it has lots of usable cargo room for supply runs.

  • avatar
    donaldo

    200k-min……Rondo has a roof rack for 4×8 plywood. Rondo does not call itself a CUV or minivan. It is a Urban Utility Vehicle. For its compact wheelbase, the 5 seater has more interior space than any other micro van. Why do some of you compare it to sporty cars? It was never designed to be sporty or driven fast around on ramps. jkross22, Twice in 3 days, I had to take serious avoidance maneuvers to not be hit by cars coming off a ramp. It handled them beautifully. Find me another car that is as roomy for its wheelbase length. The complaints about the rear seat just don’t make sense. Compare fitting 3 people in the rear seat of a Mazda 3, or 5, or a Camry. Its fittings and features are great. My ExV6 has, leather covered wheel, heated seats, extra ceiling lights, that come on when a door or the trunk lid, or both are opened. The A/C blows cold air, not cool, the seat covers and plastic materials are as soft as necessary, and not cheap looking.

    In my opinion the car is perfect for Seniors and couples with 1 or 2 kids. The seat height, adjustments and headrests are as comfortable as anyone could want. On 5 hour trips, my very sensitive rear end is as happy as a clam and so are my legs and neck.

    FOR THE MONEY, THERE IS NOTHING ELSE ON THE ROAD THAT COMPARES. We have had 12 months and 18,000 kms (11,000 miles) of happy motoring.

  • avatar
    skygreenleopard

    I don’t see why everyone here in America doesn’t drive these things. If millions of people realized there are sensible options out there for families if you’re willing to downgrade a little from your Land Cruiser that has never seen dirt, we’d save MUCH more oil than if only well-off people buy hybrids. If people just woke up and bought smaller cars that still don’t inhibit your lifestyle (like Europeans have known for decades), you’ll still be ok, and your wallet will be that much fatter in the end. I rented a Mazda5 once, and I loved it! Sure, it’s ugly – what sensible car isn’t – but it’d be perfect for a city car.

  • avatar
    gjo59

    Having owned a Dodge Colt Vista, a first generation Plymouth Voyager, and now a Kia Rondo pehaps I can provode some perspective.

    The original Chrysler van had a length x width x height of 176.5 x 69.6 x 67.5 (my measurements). The longer “Grand” versions came later. It was available with 4 or 6 cyl engines (the later, producing between 140 and 150 HP and around 170 ft/lbs of torque). While you could fit sheets of plywood between the wheel wells, you could not close the hatch. I once hauled a tool-shed-in-a-box home from Home Depot which was 4x3x7 feet. All this was only possible after removing the seats, and the rear bench was unpleasantly heavy. The original owner of the van never took it out of the car. The middle seat was relatively easy to remove, but didn’t fold at all. Cargo room with the 3rd seat folded/removed was about 40/50 cubic feet. With all seats removed about 120 cu/ft. All in all a real pain-in-the-back to haul stuff.

    The Rondo by comparison is 179.0 x 71.7 x 67.7 (LxWxH). Less cargo space, more people space. Equal ability to tow (which the Mazda 5 is not rated to do).

    The paragon of practicality, the Colt Vista, fit 7 people into a footprint of 171.6 x 64.6 x 62.5. I could go into much depth about how its Transformer-like seats could flip and fold but this post is long enough.

    - Greg -

  • avatar
    Duken4evr

    I bought an ’07 Rondo V6 LX for my wife and 2 kids about 9 months ago. We have 11,000 miles on the car to date. For 17K out the door, I feel we got a nice car for the money.

    “Functional” describes the Rondo. It has a very tight turning radius and makes the most of it’s size. The tall roofline gives sense of spaciousness. The ESC is great in the snow. I like the manumatic trans – very nice on hills and when towing a light trailer loaded with dirt bikes. The Rondo has a 2,000 pound tow rating and a tranny cooler by the way – something the Mazda does not offer. 2,000 pound is not much, but it is enough for my dirt bike trailer. The V6 Rondo tows that (probably around 1,000 pounds all up) with ease.

    My only complaints are the fidelity on the stereo is lame, the bump strips on the doors are too low, and the gas tank is a bit small. Gas mileage in city driving is around 18. Highway it is easy to get 26 mpg with steady cruising.

    The V6 feels smooth and revvy, and the car is quiet and nice to drive. The interior feels above it’s pay grade too and no squeaks or rattles have appeared over the 11,000 miles I’ve owned it.

    Adding window tint helped greatly in keeping the interior cool and making this low beltline tall window car look a bit less dorky. If you buy a Rondo, get the gold paint. Hands down it looks better than the other colors, particularly if you add lightly tinted windows.

    I like the size of the Rondo. I have two kids and occasionally take their friends along. While i would not want to ride any distance in the rearmost seat, it is fine for kids. People are always amazed to see 7 girl scouts get out of the little Rondo. Full size “minivans” feel bloated, much like the average American I suppose. The Rondo and the Mazda both have a more Euro feel to them. We can learn from our friends across the pond. The Rondo has nice direct steering and feels like a sports car compared to the blunderbus Chrysler Minivan I rented last year.

    The Rondo does not set my heart atwitter (I have a 1,000cc sport bike that makes about the same 182 peak hp the the Rondo does for that) but it is a solid and useful vehicle that represents a good value for the money. I would buy another. I guess that is about the best recommendation one can give.

  • avatar
    pamela1

    We have two children and just purchased the Mazda 5.  We looked around at several different manufacturers/models, read consumer reviews, researched, test drove etc.   We love our new Mazda 5.  The 2010 version does offer Electronic Stability Control.  It’s a great car to drive and offers us all we need.  We opted for the GT version and I have to say, it is quite comfortable.   I would recommend this car to any four person family – –we also love the fact that it offers the third row–which most of the competitors didn’t.  The price point was also great.  It’s quite funny that we found this vehicle–(was being shuttled back to work in a Mazda 5 while my MPV was being certified prior to selling it.   The gentleman driving me asked if I had considered the Mazda 5–until that point-I didn’t know anything about it–I think it would do wonders for Mazda if they actually marketed this vehicle).

  • avatar
    crod

    Great review, too bad it is indeed an old one! It would be great to see a comparison between the 2010 models.
    I was shopping for a daily beater that could carry the family (with and two kids 14 and 10) and be flexible enough to carry more people when needed.
    After test driving several cars from several manufacturers, the Rondo beat all of them, hands down. I got the 2010 EX V6 Luxury with Navi and it has pretty much everything the Mazda 5 has but at a much lower cost. Just the Navi on the Mazda is a $2,600 option vs $1,000 on the Rondo. The list goes on. Add to that a 5-year/100,000km bumper to bumper warranty and roadside assistance and you cannot beat the value.

    Just to give you an idea of pricing the fully loaded Rondo comes at $32,900 (CAD) vs. $35,800 for the Mazda 5 (all taxes in, 2010 vehicles with similar options like Navigation, Fog lights, etc).
    That is a $3,000 difference. If you add the Mazda extra warranty to match the KIA one, you are probably in the $4,500 range difference. Considering both vehicles will probably have very similar resale prices after 7, 8 years, the extra $4,500 is simply not worth IMHO.

    Sure in the past KIA/Hyundai had reliability issues. Exactly like Honda/Toyota/Subaru 25 years ago when trying to break into the North American market. Things changed a lot. As an example, as of today the highest rated car at Consumer Reports is the Hyundai Genesis, at 92 points out of 100.

    The Rondo is by far the smoothest and quietest car I have ever purchased (note: I have two other cars, a 2006 Porsche Cayenne and a 2008 Jeep Patriot, both loaded with all you can get). Sure both have AWD or 4×4 but again, much noisier, not as good on gas (the Porsche is a joke at 16L/100km) and cost more (Cayenne, 3 times more).

    For anyone considering a car, take a look at KIA. It will not only impress you (the fit and finish on the Rondo is WAY above average for this class) but it will save you a TON of money when compared to anything similar from vendors like Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Mazda.

  • avatar
    Fordzoo3

    I have the Mazda5. Simply put it is great and I think it will be a lot more durable than the KIA and hold it’s value better. The Mazda5 has a more sleak design. I get a combination of highway and city of 27 MGP, not too bad. The one think I like better than the KIA is the sliding door vs. the regular door on the KIA. And Mazda5, the 2010, has electronic stability and traction control. This site breaks down a complete overview of the Mazda5 2010.
    http://autos.aol.com/cars-Mazda-Mazda5-2010/overview/
    Comfortable, durable, good gas millage, handles well, no noticeable road noise, Overall a great mini van. Highly recommended.


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