2011 Kia Rondo Review | Toronto Star

Kia Rondo - Ontario, Canada
2011 Kia Rondo Review
By Jill McIntosh, Toronto Star
2011 Kia Rondo simply does its job
New-and-flashy is what makes the headlines, but when it comes to finding the right vehicle for the job, a model that’s been soldiering on for awhile may be the one for you.
The Kia Rondo, for instance, has been out since 2007 and hasn’t had any major overhauls since then. But depending on your needs, it can still be a great alternative to a compact SUV or even a minivan.
Each December the Wheels editor asks the auto reviewers to select the best car driven that year. Rondo was my choice for 2007, primarily because of its functionality. It’s not perfect, of course, but I’m still just as impressed with it today.
American buyers didn’t flock to it – they only seem to like liftgates when they’re attached to giant SUVs – and it’s out of Kia’s lineup there. But the 2011 is now on sale in Canada and the company confirms that it will continue here for 2012.
Two engines are available. There’s a 2.4 L four-cylinder with four-speed automatic, which ranges from $19,995 for the base LX trim ($20,995 if you want air conditioning) to $25,095 for the EX Premium.
My tester had the 2.7 L V6, which comes with a five-speed automatic.
The base trim line for the V6 is the EX, which starts at $23,895; the V6 climbs to $28,195 for the EX Luxury with a navigation system.
Both the four-cylinder and V6 start with five-seat capacity, as my tester did, and can be optioned with a third row to carry up to seven passengers.
Having crawled into those seats on another Rondo, I found it isn’t as cramped as you’d expect for a car this small. And for those who only occasionally fill up all three rows, it could easily take the place of a minivan.
On five-passenger models, the rear space includes two deep storage compartments under the cargo floor, each with its own cover. When the second-row seats are up, the cargo space is 90 cm long. Fold them, and you have a completely flat storage space that’s 170 cm long.
All models include six airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and active front head restraints, which help reduce whiplash in a collision. As well, there are power windows, locks and mirrors, USB and iPod connector, Bluetooth, and a warranty that covers pretty much everything for five years or 100,000 km.
Other than the $150 extra-charge paint colour on my car, Kia increases features by trim line rather than offering individual options.
My EX tester included air conditioning, heated mirrors, a de-icer for the windshield wipers, heated seats, cruise control and keyless entry.
Moving up to the Premium and Luxury trim lines, Kia throws in such items as automatic climate control, sunroof, leather chairs, backup camera and navigation system.
The Rondo isn’t a pretty car, but its tall roof gives it considerable headroom, while the large windows provide good all-around visibility. Despite its height, it doesn’t feel tippy around corners.
The V6 can get growly when called on for hard acceleration, but it’s a gutsy little engine that offers plenty of power when needed for passing on the highway. The bigger engine is probably a better idea if you’re planning on filling it with passengers or cargo regularly, and the difference isn’t all that much. The V6 EX is $1,100 more than the four-cylinder EX, and Natural Resources estimates that the six-cylinder adds only $126 a year in fuel costs.
The steering is light and it’s easy to manoeuvre, especially in tight parking lots, where its smaller footprint is an advantage over larger minivans and SUVs.
While its handling is smooth and responsive, it’s not a sports car and doesn’t pretend to be, and that’s what I like about it. It’s just a practical urban vehicle that does exactly what it’s supposed to do.
The interior is simple and functional as well.
Climate is handled through three large dials that have a solid, good-quality feel to them. The EX’s heated seats are operated by buttons that stay on once they’re pressed, so that if you’re running errands on icy days, you don’t have to keep hitting them each time you start the car.
The stereo is equally easy to operate, and all controls are backlit for quick identification at night.
Cross-shopping the Rondo isn’t easy, as few competitors can match that available seven-seat configuration in such a compact package. The Mazda5, redesigned for 2012, comes closest, especially since its six-passenger seating is probably more realistic in a vehicle this size. The Mazda starts at $22,995 with an optional automatic transmission, but it only comes with a four-cylinder engine.
The Rondo is one of the few “crossover” vehicles that’s really deserving of the name, able to do double duty as a car, minivan or SUV for many people.
It isn’t fancy and, frankly, it doesn’t feel all that sophisticated. Instead, it just gets the job done, and sometimes that’s all you want or need.
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