By on November 1, 2013


TTAC readers seem to care not a whit for the flashy stuff. The Jaguar F-Type, possibly the most anticipated press car this year among journalists, lifestyle bloggers and other dubiously affiliated members of the media, garnered less than 50 reader comments. Meanwhile, reviews of the Chrysler minivans regularly generate hundreds. In a quest to be of greater service to our readers (and because I know that another Generation Why can scarcely be tolerated), I decided to sample something that is hopefully of genuine interest to you all: a minivan that is not available in the United States. Like the Chevrolet Orlando, the Kia Rondo is available in a number of countries that did not support the Iraq War, among them, Canada. Like the Chevrolet Orlando, it is supposedly “right-sized” for Canada, thanks to a smaller engine, a smaller physical footprint and an available manual transmission (which will be popular in Northen Quebec and nowhere else). And like the Chevrolet Orlando, it’s hard to rationalize buying one of these when you can have a Dodge Caravan for similar money. Like the Orlando and the Mazda5, the Rondo’s roots lay in a global compact car platform – in this case, the same one that underpins the Hyundai Elantra and the Kia Forte. The relationship between the products is akin to how the Volkswagen Touran is the slightly larger, MPV twin of the Volkswagen Golf. The strut suspension up front, the torsion beam out back and even the 2.0L Theta 4-cylinder and 6-speed automatic are carried over from the Hyundai/Kia corporate parts bin, and the cars don’t feel terribly different to drive.

Around town, the higher driving position and premium-feeling interior make the Rondo a decent place to spend time. Visibility is excellent, thanks to the wraparound glass throughout the greenhouse, and the CUV-esque way that you sit up high in the car. Kia’s UVO infotainment system is one of the easier ones to operate, with clear, intuitive menus and an easy to operate touchscreen. All of the controls are well laid out, though there are some odd quirks – the top model EX Luxury that we tested only has a cooled driver’s seat, but the passenger seat doesn’t get that same consideration. At a glance, the materials and design of the interior looks “premium”, but look a little deeper and the facade disappears. The lids of the many storage bids feel a bit flimsy on closer inspection, while the headliner has the “egg carton” feel of a typical economy car when pressed. Even so, I would give it the edge over the rather drab Orlando and the now-dated Mazda5 as far as interiors go. Like most of these European-style MPVs, seating in the second row is generous but the third-row is useless for anyone past puberty. With the seats up, there’s a measly 8.6 cubic feet of space, which then expands to 32.2 cubic feet once folded. With both rows down, you’re up to 65.5 cubic feet.

The Rondo’s road manners also leave something to be desired, resembling the base Elantra rather than the more sporting Elantra GT. All of the chassis and powertrain flaws present in this vehicle family are only magnified in the Rondo, though it does a good job of masking them. In a daily commute, the Rondo is basically transparent, moving along in relative silence, isolating you from most road imperfections. Handling is as you’d expect – not great. Excess bodyroll makes the Rondo feel like a Bayliner through corners, while the three-model steering system, as seen on the Elantra GT and other Hyundai/Kia products, does little to help improve driver engagement. I left it in Sport the entire time, and while it firmed up the steering a fair bit, feedback was non-existent.

Power from the 2.0L engine, with its 164 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque is adequate. On the freeway, there’s enough power to pass other cars without making it a white knuckle experience. Around town, it’s let down by poor throttle calibration and a sluggish 6-speed automatic transmission – similar to the Dodge Dart, the Rondo suffered from a perceptible lag when trying to weave and bob through urban traffic. Press the accelerator and there would be a very noticeable “One onethousand, two onethousand” gap between when your foot moved and when the car would start moving forward. When you’re trying to close a gap that might get you out of a blocked lane in congested, rush hour traffic, this kind of delay can be the difference between making it and having someone else get there first. Fuel economy in mostly city driving was 23 mpg, three mpg off of its city rating, and a rather respectable showing given that downtown Toronto’s driving conditions are far from those mandated in fuel economy tests.

The Rondo’s biggest issue isn’t its competitive set, but the Dodge Grand Caravan. In an urban metro area like Toronto, the Rondo has a lot going for it. It’s quite fuel-efficient, easy to drive in traffic (though the lag in power is a real problem) and is “right-sized”, in that it’s short enough to park easily while also narrow enough to weave its way through busy streets and tight parking garages. It has lots of premium features, from heated rear seats to a panoramic sunroof to a backup camera, that make it a very nice place to be when you’re doing errands around town. But you’ll pay for all of that too. In Canada, where vehicles are a fair bit more expensive than the United States, our tester rang up at $32,195.

But I’m not sure that’s quite good enough. Dodge has an iron grip on the Canadian minivan market for a reason. The Caravan is cheap, powerful and has enough room for multiple hockey bags, and you don’t necessarily have to fold the third row of seats to accommodate them. When it’s time for that, the Stow ‘N Go system makes it as easy as possible for a harried parent to do so. Fitting just one hockey bag in the Rondo would immediately require the folding of the third row, and then some creative maneuvering to make it fit. Oh, and there’s also the whole “sliding doors vs hinged doors” debate. For many people, the Rondo will be on the losing side of that one.

Talk of hockey bags and thriftiness may seem like a tired joke to our American audience, but Canadian readers will be able to affirm that these are the realities of life up in the Frozen North, and our auto market reflects that. Last year, Dodge sold 51,552 Grand Carvans in Canada, making it the fourth best selling vehicle in the country. Our love for small vehicles and fuel efficiency would suggest that a vehicle like the Rondo would do well here, but in 2012, just 6316 Rondos were sold, with the Mazda5 and Chevrolet Orlando not doing much better either. Canadian consumers seem to be playing against type in this particular segment, and given their unique needs and the absolute rock bottom prices one can get a Caravan for, it’s easy to understand why.

Kia provided insurance, a tank of gas and the press vehicle for one week. Thanks to for the photography.

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45 Comments on “Canada Capsule Review: 2014 Kia Rondo...”

  • avatar

    32k? OK. The little windowlette isn’t a black triangle, but glass. And there’s a nice chrome strip along the window that, on the Ford Fiesta, is/was a $600 option. And projector headlamps. Looks nice, but I wonder how well this baby resists rust.

    I really enjoyed the previous generation Rondo, even if it was a fuel hog, but honestly, I’d probably either go with the Caravan, or if I needed something smaller to fit into a tiny garage, the Note (I’m not sure if it’s available in Canada) or some other really roomy hatchback.

  • avatar


    I am constantly dumbfounded by how much new vehicles are costing….

    • 0 avatar

      And a 2014 CVP Caravan is $19113. So yeah, I can see why the Rondo isn’t a huge seller even though it’s a choice for Canadians. $32000 is an insane amount of scrilla for something like that. Add on the HST and you’re looking at about $36000 for a Rondo.

      • 0 avatar

        The base Rondo with the 3rd row comes in at $26. Still steeper than the Caravan, although it’s also got Bluetooth and heated seats at that price, something the Caravan doesn’t have.

        Also, you buy one of the cheap Caravans, you don’t get full Stow ‘N Go. I mean, I’m almost certain there’s still more space behind the second row than in the Rondo behind the front seats, but still…

    • 0 avatar

      To be fair, Derek is testing the top-of-line model. This starts under $22K.

  • avatar

    Derek, I don’t know the Canadian market well. Do young families buy their caravans before they even have children? I understand that when you have three kids to run around, the caravan is the way to go. But I suspect the Rondo’s lunch may be eaten by the likes of Honda FIt, and to a lesser extent, Cube/Soul type vehicles, which are perfect for a young family short of funds and one or two toddler kids.

  • avatar

    I need to visit Northern Quebec.

    • 0 avatar

      August is best. Blackflies are gone (still ginormous mosquitoes to deal with, though) and the days are still long.

      In January-February, you’ll get to experience what it means when the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales converge at -40. I’t’s vaguely interesting, but not enjoyable.

  • avatar

    A bit of generalizing can be misleading, Derek. You will make US readers wonder why Kia bothers. Having owned my Mazda 5 in both the US and Canada, I can tell you the entire mini-minivan segment does by comparison have traction in Canada, hence the presence of Rondo, Orlando, B-Class Benz etc. The Orlando has fared poorly mostly as it isn’t much of a looker. The Caravan definitely is the market leader, esp. outside of large cities, and fleets love them too. GM and Ford both paid a huge price in the Cdn market when they bailed on the unloved-but-useful Venture and Freestar.

    Having said that, the small CUV category dominates now in the same way it does in many parts of the world….

    The Canadian market has changed a lot in the last few years. Because of a strong economy, and the fact that small business taxes are much lower than in the US plus distinct tax breaks to business-owned vehicles, high-end luxury class (and exotic) sales are actually higher per capita in Canada than in the US. Add in copious overseas money in Toronto, Vancouver etc and you actually have quite a vibrant high-end car scene in the major centres. Plus all those small Asian cars means the tuner scene has been very strong from an early stage.

    Also, as has been written here, the Quebec market is large and yet again very different to other parts of Canada, strongly favouring very small cars like the Yaris, Versa, Fiat 500 etc.

  • avatar

    I like it. I also liked the last generation that was sold here in the US.

    But I agree there is not much about this that would give it a fighting chance against the Grand Caravan.

    About that three-mode steering: My wife’s Santa Fe has it, and other than changing the weight of the steering, I feel no difference. I’d be more in favor of drive-by-wire implements if they’d allow either direct user calibration, or a nice back-door that would allow those of us who care, a way to calibrate these things to our own taste. I’d love to tweak the steering and throttle feel, and I’d probably spend weeks, if not months dialing it “just right.”

    But the silly 3-mode switch, as it sits, is just a gimmick.

    • 0 avatar

      “I like it. I also liked the last generation that was sold here in the US.”

      Me too, especially really liking the previous generation. But the GC blows this away every which way except for maybe some nimbleness in urban driving.

      • 0 avatar

        “the GC blows this away every which way except for maybe some nimbleness in urban driving”

        Oh, and the 3-4 litre/100km. penalty that some families may not want to pay…

        • 0 avatar

          Main reason I haven’t bought one. I want a 4-cyl.

          Fortunately, one of my boys lives 45 minutes away and he has a 2013. I have no hesitancy in mooching it.

          Sometimes I even put gas in it. He’s lucky to have such a great Dad!

  • avatar

    So it’s basically just like the Dodge Journey. And just as popular.

  • avatar

    Frequent TTC reader and newb commentator. I enjoyed this review. I love to see reviews of cars we don’t get here. Keep ’em coming! Is there a Mexican writer here? I live in the LA area and I see lots of interesting cars from south of the border we don’t get here. Maybe there can be a JDM writer too? I’m revelling in the possibilities.

    • 0 avatar

      Speaking of which, I went and saw “The Counselor” this past weekend. Didn’t like it, and the movie was kind of a mess. BUT, one of the bad guys was driving around in a brand new Ranger CDTI (from Mexico I’m guessing) with Texas plates on it.

      Would there be some kind of barrier to bringing a Ranger here? Everyone on this board is always going on about the Ranger, and probably Sajeev would enjoy a new one.

      Just a thought, and something which surprised me.

    • 0 avatar

      We have someone in Europe with a Skoda review coming soon.

    • 0 avatar

      Having a writer in Mexico would be a great idea. I have seen some interesting Nissans and VWs with Mexican tags. I believe they can buy vehicles that have either NA or EU approval. As for Quebec, it is mandatory to have stripes. Not pin stripes, but the eye searing kind.

  • avatar

    What is the Canadian price for a model that has the popular features but is not loaded to the gills like yours was?

    • 0 avatar

      Try this:

      2014 LX, automatic, including delivery and destination: $25,794.

      Add sales taxes (13% in Ontario) and options/packages/accessories, whatever.

      A Grand Caravan CVP (Canada Value Package) is at least $5,000 less…

  • avatar

    “TTAC readers seem to care not a whit for the flashy stuff.”

    Hee hee… just like our old WI tourism slogan, I’m Among Friends.

  • avatar

    I might see a Rondo here in Alberta, but can’t because of all the 3500 series quad-cab 4x4s blocking the view, and that’s in the city! totally different market in the west.

  • avatar

    An “Iraq War” jab? There must just not be a whole hell of a lot going on up there where we store our extra timber.

    • 0 avatar

      ” the Kia Rondo is available in a number of countries that did not support the Iraq War”

      So I should be able to buzz down to the the People’s Republic of Madison and check ’em oot, eh?

      ‘Cause if they’re going for 30+K in Canada they’re probably around 17K here, eh?

  • avatar

    I suspect reviews of the F Type and its ilk elicit comparatively few B&B comments because the cars are rarely seen and even less frequently driven. By comparison, everybody knows somebody who drives a Chrysler Group minivan, and people tend to write about what they know.

  • avatar

    I’m mostly a lurker here but honestly TTAC is BY FAR my favorite car blog, entirely based on the serious coverage of mass market cars. I honestly don’t give a rat’s behind about $100k+ cars I’ll never be able to afford — and wouldn’t be able to justify purchasing even if I could afford them. But 3000 words on the new Mazda 3 or a rental Dodge Caravan? Sign me up.

    Anyway this car does look like a minor step up from my 6MT Mazda5 Sport, but holy hell, $32k Canadian? I paid $18k for the Mazda5 less than 3 months ago.

  • avatar

    I think the Rondo’s biggest issue is being named “Rondo”. Honestly, I couldn’t drive anything called “Rondo” with a straight face. Sounds like a magician: The Amazing Rondo!!!

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    How does the Ford C-Max do in Canada?

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      For every C-Max Ford sells in Canada they sell 25 in the U.S., where the market is a little less than nine times the size. Mazda 5 sells less than four times as often in the U.S. as it does in Canada, where Mazda’s market share is more than twice that of Mazda USA’s market share.

  • avatar

    Interesting point Derek, about flashy cars. I think the answer lies with a mix of 2 posts above by fellow commenters: a) many don’t care about cars they can’t buy and b) people, at least on this site, seem to talk of what they know.

    I for one, when on a site or reading a magazine, usually skip the adverts, I mean, reviews of high end German, English or whatever cars. I simply have little interest. It’s not like I have the money to buy, but fact is, even if I had the cash, I probably wouldn’t. I’ve driven a few over the years and yeah they’re great and all but I think many of the so called mass market cars give as much as the usual luxury suspects and are more endearing to me. Honestly, whenever I drive a BMW I’m always a little underwhelmed. I mean yeah fine, but for all that cash this is the interior I get? Keep in mind that I’m in Brazil and that here the likes of BMW charge s super duper premium of what they charge up north for us low lifes to put our paws on their wares.

    So, to answer your question. I read first economy cars, lately I have a fascination with cars like the Logan, a type of car of which the Versa is the only thing remotely similar you guys get. An article about which cars’ headlamps are better, Uno’s or Gol’s, I’m all over it. The hundredth time they do a comparo between the 3, C or A4, usually I don’t even read or read last, when I’ve read everything else and I’m bored to death.

    I guess my reading order would be (in declining order of interest):
    – economy cars, small cars, tech info;
    – muscle cars, American or French cars, old cars, unusual cars (500, Juke, Soul, GTR);
    – minivans;
    – PUs, CUVs or SUVs;
    – Japanese cars (in general, specially the run of the mill stuff);
    – and finally the glossy stuff.

    Well, one small correction, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo get a pass. I read everything about them. With high interest.

  • avatar

    The thing is, the Caravan is simply NOT a minivan. It’s a VAN. The things are enormous, feels like driving a school bus. especially in urban areas I can totally see a market for something smaller that can still seat 4+2 or 5+2. Dad, Mom, Grandparents plus rugrats. Or rugrats and rugrats friends. Certainly a far smarter proposition than all the ridiculous three row S/CUVs out there.

    • 0 avatar

      My mom refused to give up her first gen Honda Odyssey for that exact reason. It fit all for us 4 plus grandparents (or my uncle) and was small enough to parallel park in tight spots. Of course, not many other people felt that way, and the second gen grew substantially, got a V6 etc.

  • avatar

    I’m not entirely sure the hinged doors are a liability – even in sensible Canuckia, there’s still a small bit of minivan stigma.

    I mean, look at the sales numbers for the Dodge Journey – Chrysler Canada usually managed to shift slightly under 30k units a year (about a third to half of how many are sold in the US), and unless you’re shelling out close to 30 grand (to get the V6 and 3rd row), the Journey is pretty terrible. Certainly no where near as good as the Caravan.

  • avatar

    I’ve always liked small minivans – almost bought a ’95 Nissan Axxess until its skittish handling turned me off. Got a ’98 Odyssey instead – a bit bigger than the Rondo and Mazda5. I recently sat in a Rondo and found the materials to be quite high quality. I didn’t get to drive it but it looked nice – far superior to the low-grade interior of the Orlando. It’s a shame GM never brought the Opel Zafira over – would have been so much better. Same with the Honda Stream.

    Still, $26-$32k is a lot of dough for one of these. The Caravan at $19,995 is much better value, as would be a 1-2 year old crossover like a Honda CRV or Toyota RAV4. At least we have the choice.

  • avatar

    I don’t quite understand this vehicle. It’s too small for a family with more than 2 kids. Yes there are 3 seat rows, but it’s so cramped you can’t be comfortable. The trunk is barely of any use if someone sits in the 3rd row.

    We bought a used 2004 Sienna and enjoy comfort, legroom and trunk space. Our 3 kids also do.

    • 0 avatar

      As a competitor to the Caravan, it’s not exactly perfect. As a Forte wagon, it comes off a little better. As it is, don’t most families only have 1-2 kids? That third row isn’t a full-time solution, they’re auxiliary jump seats, great if you want to bring a couple of your kids’ friends along, or the grandparents (with the kids banished to the back).

      For that matter, outside of proper minivans, the 3rd rows in just about everything aren’t really sized for adults to be comfortable.

  • avatar

    I bought a 2014 Kia Rondo EX Luxury in August, and having driven it around now in both city and highway conditions for nearly 4 months … I love it ! I think the review is a bit harsh re: the steering … it feels very responsive to me in corners, and I like the option of 3 “steering modes”. The panorama sunroof is amazing … wow, it gives you a whole new perspective when driving around downtown near highrises, mountains or close to airport runways, lol. Personally, I think there’s great value in the Luxury EX. Kia loads it up with every feature out there (almost) … and if you were to take any competitors model and “add on” these various features to match what the Luxury EX has … all of a sudden, there’s very little difference in price. I find that there is a ton of storage room, depending on how many rows you fold down … it hauls 7 adults and the rear 2 positions are adequate. Not nearly as bad as referred to in this review. Engine performance is great … as much power as I’ll ever need … and fuel economy is good. All in all, it’s a nice “package”. You get MORE than you pay for with the Luxury EX … two thumbs up.

  • avatar

    I bought mine a few months ago and the car is absolutely marvellous! After getting used to the car, a lot of features start making sense like the 3 steering modes. This is not something you can feel driving the car just a few hours or a few days. It takes time to learn how to use the features combined in adequate manner: if you want to save on gas, keep the ECO mode on and the engine will work accordingly, or as Derek mention in the article, in a “sluggish way”. However if you want a more responsive car, turn it off. The point here is: you have options and the car will work based on your choice! Also, why people insist in comparing apples with oranges? GrandCaravan is NOT in the same segment. This is a compact family car (not a minibus, ops, vans) with great economy (if you want) and flexible in space or passengers (the way you want). The 3rd row is only for short trips, not intended to be used to cross the country. If you really want to make room for 7, 8 people frequently, go for bigger and don’t even think on saving on gas! And yes, the Luxury version is expensive but gives you a very nice experience of a luxury car with the most affordable price in its category. The panoramic sunroof and the satellite radio with high quality sound with subwoofer provides a delightful travel to your passagens on the 2nd and 3rd rows! It’s the best bang for your money combining luxury, onboard technology, flexibility, affordability and economy on gas. At least until Mazda5 or Chevrolet Orlando get some improvements.

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