Exterior Design: ***
Not quite as large as a minivan yet bigger than a station wagon or tall hatchpact, the Rondo appears down the lines as a shrunken space wagon. The only angle we found somewhat odd was a direct side view. Fancy headlamps and wheels add style to economy.
Interior Design: ****
Space surrounds you in Rondo. Pawing around the better than average interior materials revealed more mystery compartments and fuzzy cubby holes than the Winchester Mystery House. Rear seat adjustment tracks and optional third row seating for kidlets makes Rondo a flexible and comfy people mover. Kia new car smell is oddly similar to that experienced sliding on a new KBC motorcycle helmet.
The engine was somewhat slacking in early punch torque expected from a V-6. The power is there, but not so aggressive that the steering wheel puts up a fight. Smooth delivery got things going where they needed to and without drama. Passing gear power came on like a lamb yet went out more lion like.
While a slightly vague pedal feeling didn't help stop a distant quality in the brake feedback department, the brakes got the job done. Slowing Rondo down from high speeds down off ramps or quick stops in random city driving was uneventful. 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS and traction control comes as standard issue.
The Rondo fared well for a mini space wagon with suspension was obviously geared towards multiple human comfort over taut steering response. Over chuckhole filled city streets or at highway speed the ride was what you would expect from such a vehicle.
Rondo handled emergency maneuvers around random events with refreshing predictability. A tight turning radius made parking lot navigation and parallel parking turnarounds an easy task. Traction control kicks in if you push too hard, and causes an odd wha'happen sensation.
The five-speed Rondo gearbox shifted automatically without excess hunting or random searching. The key feature of this slushbox is the 10-Year 100K warranty. Worry not about shifting gears in Rondo!
The Rondo EX tester was equipped with an optional Infinity AM/FM/CDC six-speaker system. This a huge leap forward from a Kia we drove last year that featured a cassette player! We were honestly too busy chowing down to fully test the system at peak levels, but it sounded fine on FM setting. Aux input jack for iPods and Cowon Mp3 players is coming for 2008.
Price is a key consideration, as Rondo is currently the value leader in the small in North America seven passenger mini-space wagon class. Even fully equipped the Rondo hovers around the 20K range. Multi-person vehicular function and a certain amount of fun can be had on the cheap. Nearest competitor features a sliding door, but no V-6.
We got the feeling Rondo is better equipped to carry toys than have too many built-in. Included multiple compartments and trap doors would be perfect for storing toys. Damping control on grab handles and glovebox door was a nice touch. We're not quite sure if the fuzzy lining inside the sunglasses holder qualifies as a toy or not.
This Rondo had the optional third row split seating which folds flat for hatchback-type trunk action. Beyond the third row the rear seats also fold down giving Rondo 31.7 cubic feet with third row and 35 without. The third row looked entertaining, but we couldn't get anyone to actually sit back there. Roof rack features an adjustable track system.
We had a good time driving Rondo about, and so did everyone that rode around with us. Decent power and respectable mileage add up to functional mini-space wagon satisfaction at a reasonable price.