Although it has its limitations, the 2007 Kia Rondo is a surprisingly functional people carrier. This odd-looking cross between a minivan and a sedan gets a very nice-sounding stereo as its only cabin tech offering. Its optional third-row seat gives it room for seven, as long as they're all good friends, and the engine has enough power to move that kind of weight around.
Stylewise, the Rondo is an odd duck, and we mean that more than figuratively. The hood sticks out from the body like the bill of a duck, emphasized all the more by the high roofline. And while the large windows all around afford great visibility, the high body makes this car really hard to pin down as to what exactly it is. But the EPA classifies it as a midsize wagon, and we're happy to leave it at that.
Test the tech: Supreme Court of sound
Because our Rondo came with an Infinity audio system as part of its $1,200 Premium package, we pulled in some of our golden ears from MP3 player reviews and CNET Download.com Music. The optional Infinity audio system comprises a 315-watt amp and 10 speakers, including a centerfill and subwoofer. As the Rondo also came with an optional third-row seat, we placed our three judges in the front, middle, and back of the car. The music we tested the system with included Blonde Redhead's 23 and Ursula 1000's Ursadelica.
Judges Mike Tao, Donald Bell, and Peter Gavin line up by the Rondo.
All of our judges found the audio quality better than average. From the front seat, Peter Gavin, of Download.com Music, was impressed, but said it "could use more low end to get a warmer quality." He also enjoyed fiddling with the EQ settings as we drove along, which include the usual treble, mid, and bass levels. Mike Tao, also of Download.com Music, commented from the middle seat, "Decent highs and mids, but the subwoofer lacks the punch to deliver the deep bass."
Donald Bell, editor for CNET's MP3 player reviews, was sitting in the very back of the Rondo, right next to the subwoofer. He said, "the sound was full and balanced, and I didn't feel cheated by my seat choice. I didn't think the system was as bright and defined as some other stereos we've heard, and although the bass was very present, it sounded more dull than punchy." He thought the Infinity system produced a full, pleasant sound, but was unrefined in the highs and lows.
In the cabin
With the Leather package, the interior of the Rondo seems nice, although an abundance of hard plastics over the dashboard and doors makes it clear that the Rondo is an inexpensive car. The shifter is raised up on its own pod, minivan-style. The high roofline means tons of headroom, making both front and back seats suitable for occupants of all heights. The optional third-row seat folds down, restoring cargo space. Getting into the third row requires a little scrambling, although the middle row moves forward a bit.
The stereo display has limited characters, and it's very hard to read in bright light.
The only real tech option available in the cabin is the Infinity audio system. Our judges agreed that it made for very good quality sound, but its interface leaves something to be desired. Although it includes an in-dash six-disc changer that can read MP3 tracks, it has neither an auxiliary input nor a satellite radio option. You can get a lot of music on six MP3 CDs, but the display is limited in how much information it can show. It shows file names, rather than ID3 tagging, and cuts off the text at 15 characters. Beyond the EQ settings mentioned above, it also has several EQ presets for music genres such as rock, classical, and jazz.
There isn't anything else of note available in the Rondo. There is no navigation or Bluetooth hands-free option. And a particularly surprising omission is a rear-seat DVD option, typically found in family cars like this.
Under the hood
The Kia Rondo's 2.7-liter V-6 gives the car a surprising amount of power, and its steering feels nice and tight. However, don't expect to whip this car hard around the corners--its height gives it a teetering feeling. The V-6 engine gives it 182 horsepower, and in practice we found that a stomp on the accelerator really jams the car forward. Car and Driver was able to get the Rondo to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds. The car can also be had with a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine.
The 182 horsepower that this V-6 produces is plenty to push the Rondo along.
The bigger engine is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission, which isn't particularly exciting, while the smaller engine loses a gear, getting four-speed automatic. There is manual gear selection on the five-speed transmission, but little reason to use it. The EPA's new mileage ratings for the V-6 Rondo are 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway, down 2 mpg from the old test numbers. Our mixed city and freeway driving came in around 20 mpg. Emissions ratings aren't available yet for the Rondo.
We were impressed that the Rondo comes with a complete roster of safety gear. For road-holding, it has disc brakes all around with ABS, brake-force distribution, and stability control. It also has airbags covering the cabin, from front airbags, front seat side airbags, and curtain airbags, all standard.
Our 2007 Kia Rondo EX, the top trim level, had a base price of $20,195. Kia threw in the Leather package for $1,000, the Premium package for $1,200, and the third-row seat for $500. Along with its $600 destination charge, our Kia Rondo came out to $23,495.
There's not a whole lot of tech available with the Kia Rondo, but it does have some bright spots. We were most taken with the Infinity stereo system and the engine power. If we're going to call it a wagon, we would suggest that its closest competitor we've reviewed recently is the Subaru Forester. Although the Forester feels more rugged, it doesn't have the same passenger capacity. If you need to carry a lot of people around, and have some extra money to spend, the GMC Acadia or the Mazda CX-9 offer a little more luxury.