Crossovers that ride on a car chassis are all the buzz these days, and most are SUVs.
The Kia Rondo, however, bridges the gap between SUV and mini people-mover because of its tall profile. The Mazda5 is similar. Small vans such as the Rondo and Mazda are extremely popular in Europe.
The Rondo is as sensible as a pair of practical shoes, and while it doesn't have the tough look of a faux SUV, it wins hearts with practical functionality, a wide choice of options and reasonable prices. On top of that, it has a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Kia says the Rondo is 'designed to completely change the way consumers think about the crossover segment.' In other words, while most companies are building crossover SUVs, Kia is taking a slightly different route to the same goal.
That goal is hauling five people (seven with the optional third seat) in a vehicle whose overall footprint is hardly larger than a midsize sedan.
The Rondo is built on the chassis of the Optima sedan, a solid base upon which to create a crossover. The Optima chassis is noted for its tight feel and structural integrity.
Prices begin at $16,395 with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder and top out at $20,195 for the EX with a 2.7-liter V-6. The EX has 17-inch wheels, fog lights, additional chrome trim and integrated roof bars. The test vehicle was an LX with the four-cylinder engine and an automatic transmission.
The Rondo's tall roof allows the seats to be upright like dining room chairs. That not only creates good legroom in a small space, but it also makes getting in and out easier. That's appealing to passengers of all ages, but it's especially helpful to those who aren't as limber as they used to be. The second-row seat has 40.2 inches of headroom and 38.2 inches of legroom. The optional third-row seat has 35.1 inches of headroom and 31.3 inches of legroom. The second-row seat adjusts forward and backward when the Rondo is equipped with the third seat.
The second-row seat is a 60/40 split, while the optional third row is a 50/50 split.
On the road, the Rondo's 2.4-liter engine's 162 horsepower is more than adequate. Hauling a full load of passengers may dictate the optional V-6 engine that has 182 horsepower, but my experience with the four-cylinder was very positive. It cruises comfortably at highway speeds and has good torque for pulling up hills or passing on country roads. Both powerplants are equipped with automatic transmissions that can be shifted manually. The six-cylinder gets a five-speed, whereas the four has a four-speed.
The Rondo felt comfortably secure at 70 miles per hour, and wind and road noise were not at all intrusive. The ride was firm without feeling harsh.
The front-wheel-drive Rondo utilizes independent front and rear suspensions. MacPherson struts are used in front with a multi-link rear axle in the back.
The front seat has good legroom; the center stack looks good and has easy-to-use controls. Small bins and dual cup holders were handy for maps and water bottles.
The high roof and large windshield gives a panoramic view of the road, yet the windshield doesn't feel a mile away as it does in some minivans.
Safety items include six standard airbags: front, side and full-length side-curtain on each side. Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, vehicle stability control and tire-pressure monitors are standard on all models.
Price The test van had a base price of $17,895. Options included cruise control and remote keyless entry. The sticker price was $18,880.
Warranty The standard warranty is for five years or 60,000 miles, with a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and five years or 60,000 miles for 24-hour roadside assistance.