Kia can make a pretty good argument that its handsome little Rondo is truly in a class of its own. After all, it was named top small car (over $18,000) by TV’s Motoring 2007 experts.
The Rondo is built on the same platform and uses the same drivetrain as the Magentis sedan. With conventional swing-out doors and a big rear hatch, it is more car-like than a minivan. With low ride height and step-in, it provides easy access to the second and third rows, making it more people friendly than an SUV.
The Urban Utility vehicle, as Kia calls it, comes in five- or seven-passenger configurations and competes against the Mazda5, Toyota Matrix, Chevrolet HHR and Dodge Caliber. Kia claims the Rondo has the edge on three fronts — safety, space and value.
It comes with a 162 horsepower, 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine with more power than most of its rivals. But it also offers a 182 hp, 2.7-litre V6, which none of its rivals offer. The four-cylinder is matched with a four-speed automatic transmission and the V6 gets a standard five-speed.
While the overall look is fairly conventional, the Rondo has a very stylish rear — hard to accomplish in such a boxy shape.
The interior is a treat, with style and thoughtful touches everywhere. Worthy of note is the centre stack and numerous storage nooks and crannies throughout. Materials appear high quality while fit and finish is a match for some luxury car. A combination of orange lighting and charcoal trim furthers the upscale impression.
Front seats are wide and comfortable, there’s ample knee room in row two and available third row pews are suitable for small folk. With the third row in place, there’s precious little storage room behind, but with it folded flat into the floor, you get a wide, flat, well-finished cargo area complete with some small secure storage spaces beneath. In five-passenger layout there are more and larger hidden storage areas under the cargo floor. The backs of both front seats and the second row seats fold flat.
The Rondo rides and handles like a car and is exceptionally quiet in terms of wind and road noise.
Market data suggests 25 per cent of Canadians will choose a “compact” as their next vehicle purchase. Many should put the Rondo is on the shopping list.