Kia has had a couple of cracks at the compact people mover concept. The first, Carens, which nobody probably remembers was cheap and nasty. The second, the Rondo 7, launched in 2007, was moderately successful based primarily on price. This latest one however might have what it takes to go all the way, a premium product with looks to match at least it seems so.
Priced from $29,990, it comes with seven seats and a choice of petrol or diesel engines, both of them with a six speed auto. There's three models Si, SLi and Platinum (but at this stage you can't get a Platinum with a diesel engine).
Standard kit includes airconditioning, Bluetooth, rear spoiler, burglar alarm, automatic headlights, flex steer adjustable steering, reverse parking sensors, a reversing camera, multi-function computer and six speaker audio with USB/AUX inputs.
Cruise control, also standard, also comes with a speed limiter that permits the driver to set a maximum speed that the car will not exceed (handy in some situations).
The SLi with leather, climate air and larger wheels is $33,990 and the Platinum with all the fruit including sunroof, sat nav and cooled/heated seats and a heated steering wheel and larger wheels again is $38,990. Diesel powered Si and SLi are $32,490 and $36,490 respectively.
The 2.0-litre GDI direct injection petrol engine delivers 122kW of power and 213Nm of torque, with fuel consumption that is rated at 7.9 litres/100km. The 1.7-litre turbodiesel is good for 100kW and 320Nm at a rate of 6.4 litres/100km.
Both engines are a lift from parent company Hyundai's i40 sedan, but in a slightly different state of tune. They're a far cry from the previous model's 2.0-litre four cylinder engine that produced 106kW/189Nm and was paired with a four speed auto.
Kia says the new engines have been calibrated to deliver more torque for their new role. Entry level Si models can be distinguished by 16 inch alloys, mid-level SLi by 17s and top of the range Platinum 18s.
Rondo has a 58 litre tank, takes ordinary unleaded and can tow 1400kg (or 1500kg in the case of the diesel). A space saver spare is standard across the range.
It's better looking, even attractive from some angles, appearing more like a large hatch than a people mover and as such should avoid any of the stigma attached to driving a people mover. But the third row of seats are strictly for small children only, with insufficient legroom for adults.
Rondo is purpose built to accommodate 30 something couples with kids that are less than 13 years of age. If you've got teenagers in the tribe, think Carnival.
At 4525mm in length, the new Rondo is actually slightly smaller in every dimension than the car it replaces, but clever packaging creates a more useable interior. The car sits on an extended version of the Cerato platform, although not part of the Cerato family.
Boot space increases by 17 percent and the cargo area is 24mm longer and 48mm deeper, with a bumper that sits 15mm lower for easier loading, with seats that pack flat including the front passenger seat for longer loads.
But we can't help wonder why a car designed to carry seven people, with three rows of seats does not have airconditioning outlets for the third row? That's just silly. Direct competitor Toyota's Prius V suffers from exactly the same problem.
That's an interesting question. It's designed to get five stars, with a full suite of safety systems, but how do you give five stars to a vehicle with airbags that don't provide coverage for passengers in the third row of seats?
Six airbags including curtain airbags are fitted, but extend only as far as the second row passengers. It's not just about passing the test.
The driving experience is very car-like. It sits lower and a has a lower centre of gravity than an SUV, but still offers a higher driving position than a sedan with excellent all round vision.
The diesel is the pick with its extra torque and better economy, but commands a $2500 premium over the petrol engine. The thing is though that because you can't get a Platinum diesel, you can't get a diesel with satellite navigation either of any of the other extras that go with it something of an oversight.
But GPS units are relatively cheap these days so it's not a deal breaker. If there's demand, Kia might add one later but that would take the price of the car over $40,000 and into Carnival territory.
Not bad. Looks the goods and should appeal to a wider cross section of the community, especially those who need the extra seats but don't want to be seen driving a people mover.
Price: from $29,990 (petrol), from $32,490 (diesel)
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol, 122kW/213Nm, 1.7-litre diesel, 100kW/320Nm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, FWD
Thirst: 7.9L/100km (petrol), 6.4L/100km (diesel)