People moving cars have been around for some time now, one can thank Toyota for kickstarting that one. Every major manufacturer has had a shot at one, some more successful than others. Kia has had the Rondo (also once known as Carens) playing in this game and it’s just copped an update. A Wheel Thing gets flexy with the 2.0L petrol seven seater auto with Platinum spec.
The Driven Heart
The Rondo comes with a choice of two donks, a 2.0L petrol and 1.7L diesel. The petrol pips the diesel for outright power, with 122kW (6500rpm) versus 100kW (4000rpm) whereas the diesel has a much more useful amount of torque, with 320 metres of Mr Newton’s best torques from 1750 to 2500 revs whilst the petrol has a comparatively paltry 213Nm at 4700rpm. Both are bolted to a six speed auto with sports mode and paddle shifts. There’s a 58 litre fuel tank and a weight of between 1580 to 1650 kilograms to be pulled along via the front wheel drive.
Kia has undertaken a revamp of its smaller car range of recent times; based, as they are, on parent company Hyundai’s offerings and the Rondo has a distinct family look with the other Kia offerings. There’s curves aplenty, Sorento style tail lights and cornering lamps in the front corners, deeper set headlights with the design running up and into the fenders, a crease and scallop in the passenger doors draw the eye to the rear. The front windscreen is angled back whilst the almost upright rear door gives a crossover between a wagon and hatch appearance. Being a little less tall (40mm)but with a longer wheelbase (50mm) than the previous model, combined with some smart exterior design makes the Rondo look more compact, belying its 4525mm overall length. The Rondo rolls on 225/45 Kumho tyres that wrap attractively styled dark grey painted five spoke alloys of 18 inch diameter. Safety is catered for with a reverse camera standard across the three level range as are front and rear parking sensors.
The Office Space
The Rondo Platinum has the full roof sunroof and glass yet doesn’t compromise on head room; there’s two switches to operate it just above and to the left of the driver’s head. The interior itself is the now typical Kia high level quality; plastics are smooth to the touch, it’s a blend of black and light grey for the colour scheme, the leather covered seats for the driver and passenger have ducts for cooling and heating whilst the family flexibility comes in the middle row of seats (yup, it’s a seven seater) being three separate and individually moveable entities, providing room for passengers of varying heights plus will fold flat to provide 1650 litres of space. The rear seats are of the simple and effective pullstrap design to raise them from their storage spot whilst a cargo blind is also hidden under the shelf when not used. The seats themselves are comfortable if not completely wrap around supportive and the driver’s seat is fully electrically adjustable. Bright white LEDs can be found in the front and rear.
Interior safety is guaranteed with curtain airbags, pelvis and thorax bags, speed sensing central locking and the Isofix child seat mounting system. Interior room isn’t massive, being a Cerato sized chariot
Ahead of the driver is Kia’s tidy looking dash, complete with a clear and ergonomic look. In the centre is a LCD information screen bracketed by the fuel/speedo and tacho, above the steering wheel complete with cruise, radio and Bluetooth buttons, the wheel itself is smooth and comfortable to the hand.
Self explanatory buttons for the red dot matrix screen dual zone air conditioning sit below the 7 inch touchscreen, with navigation, USB and auxiliary sound inputs whilst the airvents have a chrome style surround. It’s a cool and classy interior all “rond” with push button start/stop the final piece.
On The Road
The Rondo’s Achilles’ heel is the petrol engine. Fuel consumption finished on 9.4L per 100 kays largely due to the need to rev it to extract anything useful from it. It’s mostly lifeless below 3500 and, attached to the auto, goes nowhere until the revs have built. When wound up, though, the roadholding is excellent, with a wide footprint and all four wheels pushed to the corners, the 2750mm wheelbase and 225 Kumho tyres allows plenty of grip. The steering, however, has other ideas, with the electric assistance seeming to wander the nose around, the rear follows. Not by a huge margin, to be sure, but enough to warrant constant correction. The suspension, struts at the front and torsion beam at the rear, is taut, with a little less travel at the tail and a seemingly tighter feel to cope with the expected weight of passengers. Overall it’s unfazed by the usual assortment of speedhumps but did exhibit a couple of jumps sideways with the appropriate angle of entry whilst the short suspension travel and 18 inch tyres transmits the bumpthump into the cabin. The steering itself was direct, with a bare hint of numbness dead centre, whilst the three mode steering was best left in Sport.
The transmission is a smooth shifter but not to the point the changes aren’t noticeable; the ‘box also holds gears longer coming down hills but does respond just that bit crisper when shifting manually.
The brakes are decent, hauling up the tonne and a half well, with a well modulated brake feel.
Straight up, as a people mover, I’d say the diesel would be the better bet, with the extra torque making day to day driving a safer prospect, not to mention fuel economy. It’s roomy enough for two adults and two kids but would struggle with seven, not to mention where would the luggage go. The detail touches, such as the LED interior lights and the colour & fit and finish of the trim help, as does the not unreasonable ride quality. However as a seven seater the Rondo misses the mark somewhat, hamstrung by size, and in the case of the 2.0L petrol engine, a lack of ultimate flexibility. It’s Priced at $38990 + ORCs for the Platinum, which is a touch pricey but there is a fair bit of kit as a tradeoff, so the decision would have to be made as to how much you want to pay for how much you get on the inside.
For details of the Rondo range: http://www.kia.com.au/showroom/rondo