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Families revel in Rondo

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Kia has created a sensible addition to the wagon market with their brand new “urban utility” vehicle, the 2007 Rondo. Skillfully designed, the value-added Rondo encompasses the emergent elements that modern families now want. With dynamite space efficiency, comfortable car-like handling, great fuel economy and an affordable price point, this uniquely designed hatchback/wagon has arrived right on time.

Describing the Rondo is as difficult as defining it. The Rondo is built on the same frame as the Kia Magentis yet with some modifications front and back for a compact appearance. It would be easy to say the Rondo is like a mini-van except that – even if it seems high from bottom edge to roofline – it only sits at 1,650 mm (65.0 in.) in overall height. Conventional four doors (which swing out a bit too wide) on the Rondo add to the car-like appearance.

A sporty rim along the mid-line and narrow sides on the back of the Rondo masks the hatchback style. The back flows forward to a high windshield over an attractive hood, with an inviting face that has a short grille and wide-eyed headlights.

Space efficiency inside influences the outer design; Kia meticulously blends the lines of the Rondo into an attractive package, no matter what you want to call it.

The Rondo is available as a five-seater and as a seven-seater (vehicle exterior dimensions stay the same). Each style comes with a choice of a four-cylinder, four-speed automatic transmission or a six-cylinder, five-speed automatic transmission. Both transmissions have a clutch-less manual option, labeled Steptronic by Kia, for a sportier drive as desired.

Base trim level is the LX which comes as a five-seater four-cylinder and starts at $20,000.

It boasts 16” alloy wheels, power windows, power door locks, six-way adjustable driver’s seat, an audio system and interior power outlets.

The next package up is the EX (for the five-seater four-cylinder or V6) which adds roof racks, steering wheel audio controls and upgraded sound system, cruise control, air conditioning, keyless entry and heated seats, as well as leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob.

On the seven-seater four-cylinder the EX Premium adds 17” alloy wheels with Michelin tires, sunroof and leather seats.

A fully decked out V6 Rondo seven-seater with the EX-Luxury package takes in all of the previous features plus eight-way adjustable driver’s seat and fully automatic climate control for about $28,000.

Kia’s strength is offering great value to their customers and the Rondo is no exception, especially when it comes to interior ambience. On a tight budget, Kia achieves an interior that is welcoming and inviting as well as ergonomic and functional. For instance, the five-seater Rondo with EX package that I was in has attractive deluxe cloth seats with extra cushioning for good support. There is roomy space in the front and back row where cup holders are grooved in the moldings within easy reach. The 60/40 split second seats lie flat for more storing capacity in the already spacious trunk. Handy cargo compartments are set in the trunk floor; the spare tire is mounted on the exterior below the Rondo. The hatch opens effortlessly to sweep up nice and high with plenty of access clearance.

The Kia Rondo has a list of impressive standard safety features – dual advanced front airbags, front seat-mounted airbags, and full-length curtain airbags. As well as two features I like to see which are front anti-whiplash active headrests and a weight sensor for the front passenger seat that disengages the airbag. There is the LATCH approved system for securing car seats and rear child-safety door locks (a must for parents). Priced to be competitive the Rondo still includes anti-lock braking and electronic stability control as well as traction control and electronic brake distribution systems. The Rondo comes with Kia’s five-year/100,000 km warranty.

An added advantage for the Kia Rondo is the V6 engine, the first in its class and a great match for extended highway driving. The Rondo V6 was responsive when passing on the Malahat, and smooth running over longer stretches outside of Duncan, although cabin noise increased. The set-up for manual shifting is nicely done by having the gearshift slightly up the dash on the centre pillar for easy shifting. I liked how capable the V6 felt, the added torque of 182 lb.ft @4,000 rpm compared to the 165lb.ft @4,250 rpm on the 2.4L in-line four-cylinder could make a big difference in a Rondo seven-seater at full carrying capacity.

The well-thought out placement of windows and higher seating improve visibility considerably. When I parallel parked, it was a cinch given that the maneuverability of the Rondo is so like a car. Dials and gadgets for the driver are easy to access and the instrument gauges are in plain view. It would be better if the audio control dials in the steering wheel where set further away from the grip, I unintentionally changed the radio station more than once as I was steering.

Michael Heschuk, Sales Consultant for Reg Midgley KIA, introduced me to Michelle, a customer of his who had just bought the Rondo seven-seater. Michelle has two kids, the same ages as my own, and happily let me have a look at the arrangement of seats. The second row has space on the bench even with two car seats. Pleasantly spaced for a smaller built person, the third row features a cup holder and lots of head room. The only drawback I see to the seven-seater is the loss of storage space: it shrinks to fit an attaché case – something a family of four may rarely need to worry about as the third row is a 50/50 split that folds completely flat to leave enough room for their gear or the family dog.

Kia’s Rondo puts the future right at our door step with all the creature comforts we enjoy packaged in a space conscious design that provides freedom and versatility for today’s families.

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