Sunday, April 15, 2007

Kia Rondo

The Kia Rondo is an all-new vehicle. Kia calls it a five-door crossover utility vehicle.

The Rondo is capable of carrying seven adults. Yet it's small, just 179 inches long. That's 2.5 inches shorter than the six-passenger Mazda5. Sure, the Toyota RAV4 can seat seven, but it costs $3,000 more and offers less legroom in the third row. The Rondo gives you the size of the RAV4 at the price of the smaller Toyota Matrix; and we're not big fans of the aging Matrix.

We found the ride, handling and brakes of the Kia Rondo excellent. It's a good vehicle for long trips and zooming around town. The seats, cloth or leather, are comfortable. The driver sits relatively high and the Rondo feels like neither a car nor a sport utility, which is what a crossover is about. Besides people, it can haul lots of stuff; just flip down the back two rows of seats.

A new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine comes standard, and it's strong. It comes with a four-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode and gets an EPA-estimated 21/29 City/Highway miles per gallon.

A smooth 2.7-liter V6 with a five-speed automatic is optional. It's rated 20/27 mpg, delivers more thrust more smoothly and adds just $1,000 to the retail price, making it a bargain.

Kia is the best imitator in the business. Kia designers and engineers look closely at other vehicles, and produce a virtual composite of the best ideas. But there's no lack of originality here, because the Rondo is unique. It's the only game in town for seven-passenger transportation in a small, safe, low-cost, high-mileage package.

Kia's marketing motto is "the power to surprise," and the Korean carmaker has done so again, with the Rondo.

Model Lineup

The 2007 Kia Rondo comes in LX and EX models with a choice of four-cylinder and V6 engines.

The Rondo LX ($17,895) comes with air conditioning, remote keyless entry, cruise control, alloy wheels, a 60/40 fold-flat rear seat, and power windows, locks and mirrors. Also available, at least on paper, is a stripper model called the LX 93202 ($16,395) that comes without air conditioning, remote entry and cruise control.

The Rondo EX ($19,195) adds a higher-grade cloth interior with leather trim, 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome grille, door handles and molding, foglamps, heated mirrors, windshield de-icer, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, lights for the vanity mirrors, and a CD/MP3 six-speaker sound system. Optional is a package with a 10-speaker Infinity sound system and a sunroof ($1200).

The 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder that comes standard makes 162 horsepower and is paired with a four-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode called Sportmatic. The optional 2.7-liter dohc V6 produces 182-horsepower and comes with a five-speed Sportmatic.

The LX V6 ($18,895) and EX V6 ($20,195) are EPA-rated 20/27 mpg City/Highway, compared to 21/29 mpg with the four-cylinder, making the V6 a good value.

Safety equipment on every Rondo includes front airbags, side airbags in front, full-length airbag curtains, anti-lock disc brakes, electronic stability control, and a tire pressure monitor.

Options include the third-row seat ($500); leather interior with heated front seats for the EX ($1000); and a body kit ($995) consisting of a front spoiler, rear valance, side sill skirts, wheel arch moldings and a rear lower spoiler. Roof rails come standard, but the crossbars to make them functional are optional ($200). A cargo cover is available as a dealer accessory.

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