Back in July we sampled the seven-seater Kia Rondo, a cross between a mini Kia Carnival and slick SUV styling but with hints of a hatchback thrown in. The top-shelf Platinum model mostly impressed me, with the exception of the 2.0-litre petrol engine. Underpowered and a little too heavy at the pump, I longed for the diesel model. So to put that question to rest – EFTM has just spent a week in the Kia Rondo Sli CRDi diesel.
The 10 Minute Test Drive
Visibility is no issue in the Rondo with its large front windscreen and slightly elevated perch. There’s plenty of glass to look through including triangular glass windows behind the A-pillar. The diesel model tops out in Sli trim, one below the more luxurious Platinum package only available on petrol models.
However most of the semi-premium look and feel remains with the most obvious omissions being a panoramic glass sunroof, HID headlamps, seat heaters and larger infotainment screen.
The Rondo hardly pushes the boundaries when it comes to driving pleasure, but the ride is well insulated and quite simply comfy – likely just what most families are looking for. Enthusiastic cornering leads to almost instant understeer and squealing, but honesty who’d be pushing this kind of car to the edge?
Thankfully the 1.7l diesel engine transforms the Rondo into something really worthwhile. For me the petrol model is now a distant memory. The diesel has a largely clatter free nature combined with smooth willing acceleration. Hey I even used the paddle shifters, it must have a bit of up and go right?
Renowed for his hatred of diesel powerplants, even Trevor felt comfortable with the Rondo diesel, one of the better and more natural driving diesel’s on the market.
Ins and Outs
The 1.7-litre in-line four-cylinder diesel is good for 100kW verses the petrol’s 122kW. But it’s the torque difference that seals the deal. 320Nm arrives at 1,750-2500rpm compared to the petrol with a measly 213Nm at a very late 4,700rpm.
The Rondo provides one transmission option, a 6-speed automatic with a self-select Manu-matic mode. It’s a decidedly competent unit, and in my opinion even more so when matched to the diesel.
A claimed fuel economy figure of 6.4l / 100km seems achievable given I averaged 7.1l / 100km which was still falling at the end of our week stint. The claimed 7.9l / 100km for the petrol we tested in July would be near impossible to nail with our figure being 8.9l / 100km even with Eco mode permanently switched on.
The Sli variant sill comes packed with an array of features, some highlights include front and rear parking sensors with rear-view camera, leather-seats, LED daytime running lights, static cornering lights, leather-trim seats, rain sensing wipers, auto headlamps, cruise control, privacy glass rear of the B-pillar and a 6-speaker audio system.
You do miss out on satellite navigation with a quaint 4.3-inch LCD full colour touchscreen only available in Sli spec Rondos. It’s an unusually small screen by today’s standards with a surface area smaller than an iPhone. However the interface and look itself is surprisingly pleasing to look at and use. The reversing camera is also integrated into the tiny screen, which is a tad less than ideal.
Comfort levels remain excellent with dual-zone climate control including vents for the 2nd row. Six cup holders are spread across all three rows with 4 bottle holders on the front and rear doors. Airline style front seat back fold-up tables are joined by another 2nd row centre table and multiple accessory pockets, coat hooks, luggage net and under-floor storage compartments.
Access to the third row seats is made simple due to a clever middle row sliding walk-in device. The entire second row can be shifted forward making access easy but also giving third row passengers a little more leg room if required, unless you’re over five-feet tall.
Don’t understate the benefit of this configuration. For a family like Trevor’s where you have two littlies in car-seats, the options are a large car with the third (older) child in between, or a seven-seater where with car-seats in place on the centre row, the only access to the third row is via the rear hatch. Not ideal for any little ones, and especially hard on a larger SUV. The Rondo gives a lot of options with the seating configuration with the addition of the centre fold-down as walk-through.
Kia’s FlexSteer mode which is controlled via a steering wheel button is the best example of a gimmick I’ve seen, particularly for a car like the Rondo. Comfort, Normal and Sport modes alter steering weight and feel. This translates to light, not so light and heavy. There are no accompanying mapping changes to the transmission or engine output, Normal seems the most adequate setting.
The test car supplied had a RRP of $36,990 with $695 worth of optional metal paint. Kia has long offered a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, but that’s been blown out of the water with a new seven-year package recently announced. Also thrown in is seven years capped price servicing and seven years roadside assist. These days that’s a long period of ownership, so all of the above is fully transferable to a new owner. That is some pretty heavy-duty value right there.
For a family of five this is an impressively priced and equipped car. The added benefit of throwing a couple of the kids’ pre-teen mates in the rear is another bonus. It’s also far from a plain-looking people machine with modern flowing lines and a smart-looking front and rear end design. The diesel is almost as frugal as my now four-year old Toyota Camry Hybrid.
The Lasting Impression
The Korean’s seven year warranty is now a massive selling point, combine this with quality build standards that Kia is clearly prepared to back and you have on your hands a nice piece of workmanship with levels of functionality hard to match. If you occasionally need to move five people and two small children the Kia Rondo does so with minimal fuss and with a stack of impressive features.
The EFTM Rubber Stamp.
The Kia Rondo is a cleanly designed, functional piece of kit. We awarded the Kia Rondo Platinum petrol model an EFTM Pass Rubber Stamp Of Approval. But the frugal, more drivable CRDi diesel model tips the scales into Credit Stamp territory.