Although they’re very popular in Europe compact people movers have never really taken off in Australia where cheaper fuel and less congested streets has seen the majority of buyers needing to transport large passenger loads opt for either full-size seven-seat people movers or SUVs.
Now, with the trend towards smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles seemingly here to stay Kia’s timing in launching the latest version of its Rondo could be just right. After trying to foist the name Urban Recreational Vehicle onto us for the previous (2008) Rondo common sense has prevailed and Kia is calling the MY2014 version a compact people mover.
It’s a more stylish vehicle then previously, with a swept-back roofline tapering to a small rear lip spoiler and squared off tail that gives it a hatchback look. The front features the current Kia ‘Tiger Nose’ corporate grille flanked by sweeping headlamps.
In a clever piece of design work, although the wheelbase of the new Rondo is 50 mm longer than that of the outgoing model, it is marginally smaller in all other exterior dimensions.
Despite a 40 mm reduction in height from the previous model there’s excellent headroom in the front two rows, even with the standard sunroof in the range-topping Platinum variant. Another sensible design feature is extra-wide rear doors that improve access to the third row seats.
The second-row seats can be slid backwards and forwards on runners to juggle the amount of legroom available in all three rows. Seats can be folded in various ways, having a 60/40 split in the second row, and a 50/50 one the rear.
The seats are comfortable and Rondo can carry four adults and three children with ease. The high driving position will appeal to those who are trading across from an SUV and handling is competent without being in any way exciting. After all, this is a people mover not a sports model.
Interior stowage is very good, with large drawers under the second row foot wells and numerous spots throughout the cabin for drinks, wallets, phones, sunglasses and the various accoutrements of our modern lifestyles. With all seats in position there’s a maximum of just 103 litres of storage space and with the third-row seats folded that increases to 492 litres. Rondo can even be used as a mini van by folding the centre seats, increasing capacity to 1650 litres.
PRICES AND EQUIPMENT
The all-automatic Kia Rondo 2.0-litre petrol range starts with the Si at $29,990, then the SLi at $33,990 and Platinum for $38,990. The 1.7-litre turbodiesel spec levels are Si for $32,490 and SLi for $36,490.
Korean car makers pride themselves on high equipment levels and Kia Rondo safety gear includes front, side and curtain airbags (the latter only for the front two rows of seats); ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist; Electronic Stability Program and Vehicle Stability Management; Hill-Start Assist; reverse parking sensors; and reversing camera.
Also standard are cruise control; Bluetooth phone and audio streaming; Auxiliary and USB sockets: colour LCD touch screen (4.3-inch in the Si and SLi and a 7-inch in the Platinum); MyMusic function that enables MP3 copying; and steering wheel mounted controls.
The mid-spec SLi adds piano black grille mesh; chrome highlights; puddle lighting on the side mirrors; front parking sensors; LED daytime running lights; leather trimmed seats; powered driver’s seat; and fold-flat front passenger’s seat. Paddle shifts are standard in the SLi and Platinum models.
The flagship petrol-only Platinum variant also gets LED rear combination lamps; full-length sunroof; refrigerated glovebox; push-button start; satellite navigation with SUNA traffic information; and climate controlled front seats.
For the first time Kia Rondo now comes with the option of a turbodiesel engine in addition to an upgraded version of the previous 2.0-litre petrol. Torque is important for a relatively small vehicle that could be asked to carry up to seven occupants and the extra 24 Nm from the petrol engine (up to 213 Nm) will certainly be welcomed. With 300 Nm the diesel is unlikely to encounter any problems.
A lack of demand for the manual gearbox offered previously has led to it being dropped with all models now mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, replacing the old four-speed, and with the choice of standard and sport modes.
We’ve been able to road test both Rondo engines, the diesel during the press launch a few months ago and the petrol in our extended week-long test. Regular readers will know of my preference for diesel power and while that would be our model of choice the petrol unit handled a 200 km round trip with three adults and three 11-year-old soccer players plus gear surprisingly well.
When cruising the petrol engine pulled well enough, only being tested when it encountered some moderately steep hills. Nevertheless we’d recommend spending the extra $2500 for the diesel if you’re going to load up on a regular basis either with people or cargo. On the other hand if you’re looking for a good sized hatch with a high driving position the petrol will no doubt be all that you’ll need.
Fuel consumption is listed at 7.9 litres per 100 km from the petrol and 6.4 L/100 km with the diesel on the combined cycle. With our full load in the petrol Rondo we recorded 9.3 L/100 km on the above journey about two-thirds of which was on motorway conditions.
Handling is competent without being in any way exciting but that’s to be expected while suspension enhancements provide a more comfortable ride with reduced road noise intrusion.
New Kia Rondo joins Toyota Prius v and Fiat Freemont in adding new competition the compact Australian people mover market. The extra equipment and new transmission has come at a price with the entry-level Rondo Si $2000 more than the equivalent MY2013 model but it still offers excellent value, especially when Kia’s standard five-year, unlimited warranty is factored in.
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)