Only the name remains from generations of the Kia Rondo past. Arriving at dealerships as we speak, it’s nothing like the Rondo we’ve come to know, except for its compact, family-oriented nature and the fact that it can seat up to seven passengers. Oh, and true to the Korean tradition, it is so well equipped that the competition will have to revise its offer.
Gone is the jellybean shape that used to define the Kia Rondo, in favour of a more contemporary design. The fact that it looks like a little hatchback makes it seem younger than before, and you’d hardly guess that it’s hiding a third bench. Of course, these two rear seats are definitely less generous than those of the three main competitors, the Chevrolet Orlando, Dodge Journey and Mazda5 (which, lest we forget, accommodates only six and not seven passengers).
Indeed, the 2014 Kia Rondo’s third bench features even less leg and head room than the previous generation. By adopting a new platform (that of the European Carens), Kia reduced the overall exterior size of its Rondo, sacrificing 4 cm of height and 7 cm of width. That’s significant, but on the plus side, it also reduced the weight of the vehicle – by 50 kg, depending on the version. The designers even managed to give it, when the benches are occupied, a more generous loading capacity that before. It offers even more cargo space than the Mazda5.
The soundproofing and upgraded materials are among the improvements to the 2014 Kia Rondo’s interior. Not only is the style now innovative, but it’s more user-friendly than the sad functionality of the Mazda5. And we also give it high marks for the comfort of the front seats. Note, however, that tall drivers will want to opt for the versions offering seat adjustment for even more leg support.
Less power under the hood
With fuel consumption the primary concern, Kia has abandoned both the 192-hp V6 (2.7 litres) and the 175-hp four-cylinder (2.4 litres) for its new Rondo, instead choosing to fill the engine compartment with a four-cylinder (the 2.0-litre Nu with direct injection) that develops a mere 164 horsepower and 156 lbs-ft of torque. Is this why Kia dealerships in the U.S. (who have been giving the Rondo the cold shoulder since 2010) don’t want this new generation in their showrooms?
Once the 2014 Kia Rondo gets out on the open road, the power is decent. However, with one or two passengers on board, manoeuvres that demand more juice are difficult. Just imagine how it would be with a full passenger compartment or with a heavy load in the trunk.
Naturally, with less power under the hood, fuel consumption is significantly lower than before. We recorded a reasonable 7.5 L/100 km combined city and highway, with the automatic gearbox that has gone from six to four speeds. This transmission, with its well-selected gear ratio, should be the number one choice. Although the six-speed manual gearbox is offered again for the Rondo, unfortunately it has a friction point that is both very high and too short. Despite having three decades of experience with standard transmissions, we still managed to make our passengers nauseous.
A step backwards
If there’s one aspect of the 2014 Kia Rondo that doesn’t measure up to the previous generation, it’s the rear suspension, where the independent multi-link (like the one found on the Dodge Journey and Mazda5) has been replaced with a torsion bar suspension (like the Chevrolet Orlando). Consequently, the handling is less refined and less stable with the 16-inch wheels. Perched on (new) 18-inch wheels, our Kia Rondo proved more solid and better put together, however. Nothing exciting, but nothing unpleasant either.
There’s a small problem with the steering, too. In keeping with the current trend, the Rondo now features power steering, which comes factory standard with three modes (Comfort, Normal and Sport). Only Sport mode provides any real feedback from the road. We would have preferred a Super Sport mode for even more control.
Where the 2014 Kia Rondo threatens to steamroll the competition is with its standard equipment. Its price starts at $21,695, nearly $2,000 more than the previous generation (even more if we count the factory-standard manual gearbox).
At under $22,000, it’s right in line with the competition. However, that price includes not only air conditioning and cruise control, but also heated front seats, Bluetooth connectivity, wheel-mounted audio controls, voice recognition and even an air conditioned glove compartment! You won’t find similar equipment at this price anywhere else. And for those who are ready to fork out a few more dollars, the optional toys are equally impressive, ranging from the panoramic sunroof, to the heated steering wheel, to the ventilated driver’s seat, to the heated middle bench to the xenon headlights.
Basically, these options will bring the price tag up to $32,000, while the previous generation’s high-end version cost $29,000.