Kia Rondo van review

By: Gary Worrall


Looking for a van to just as effectively move people and freight? Gary Worrall tests drives the answer from Kia

Kia Rondo van review
Kia Rondo.

 

Korean manufacturer KIA is making a serious play for the urban courier market with the release of its multi-purpose seven seater, the Rondo.

While there are possibly some better people movers out there, and also more dedicated delivery vans, the beauty of the Rondo is its ability to cope with more than one task at a time.

Small fleet operators should certainly have a close look, as they are the ones who most often need to carry both sorts of freight — people and parcels — and that is where the Rondo shines.

Visually, it has a fairly regulated design, including the semi-bonneted look that is currently big with designers as they wrestle with aesthetics, packaging and occupant protection.

Looks, however, can be deceiving, as the Rondo is actually a station wagon, with four wide-opening hinged doors and a high-lift tailgate.

This is important for commercial users, because rather than lug around the additional weight of two sliding doors, or lose the ‘access all areas’ functionality of a single slider, the Rondo offers operators the ability to enter from any direction.

Drive around a whole lot of inner city one-way streets or narrow loading docks, and suddenly this becomes a very significant feature.

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Engine

Power for the Rondo comes from a two-litre fuel injected four cylinder engine.

While it is hardly a potential Formula One powerplant, the ‘Theta’ engine is willing enough, providing 106kW of power, and 189Nm of torque — especially when the gear ratios are well-chosen, which is what KIA have achieved.

Transmission

The Kia Rondo’s power is driven through a five-speed manual or four–speed auto.

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Cab and Controls

Inside, the Rondo is equally versatile, with the option of anything from one to seven seats. The only one that is non-negotiable is the driver’s seat, and there is plenty of logic to that decision.

Where the seats are used, the head, leg and shoulder room is good, even in the third row, although accessing it can be a bit tight as you have to flatten a second row seat to create a step into the back seats.

For the most part, the dash layout is clear and sensible, with switches placed in ergonomically feasible locations, while the buttons and switches are big enough for most hands to deal with, and the dials are clear and easy to read.

The one problem in this area is the park brake release, because it does not have a normal handbrake as such.

The Rondo, like a couple of other new vehicles on the market, uses a foot pedal to apply the brake, which is located beside the clutch pedal in manual versions.

The problem arises when you go to pull out, especially if it is on a hill, because you have to select first, with the shift lever which is mounted on the front of the centre console, and then squeeze your hand between the console and the steering wheel to release the park brake.

It is mainly a problem because of the switch from left-hand-drive to right hook format for Australia and a few other markets, because it compresses everything fairly close together.

That said, with a little practice you soon get the hang of it.

Interior furnishings start with air-conditioning and an AM/FM/CD stereo, cloth trim, power windows and mirrors, and a decent grab bag of safety equipment, including front airbags, ABS brakes, traction control and ESP.

ATN tested the base LX version, as it is the combination most likely to be purchased as a daily work car.

The more upmarket EX and EX-L add leather trim, multi-speaker stereo, auto transmission and more airbags to upgrade the safety package.

Sadly, the steering wheel remains only height adjustable, not reach, although this can be compensated for by the comfortable seating position in all models, which proved to be non-tiring even over more than 1,400km of driving.

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Performance

Even with three adults and plenty of baggage on board, the Rondo had no problem keeping up with Sydney urban traffic, or later in holding its own on the New England Highway heading north to Brisbane.

The only time it struggled at all was the famous Bulli One, and had to drop from fifth to fourth about halfway up the hill.

More importantly, the fuel economy stayed constant the whole time, with an average consumption of 9.5 litres per 100km, regardless of the driving type.

The clutch and gearshift are both light enough to make city driving easy.

Holding it on the balance point at traffic lights was simple, so that you did not need the park brake arrangement.

Equally, the steering, while not razor sharp, was certainly good enough to let you know what was happening under the wheels and where the road was headed.

The level of power assistance was good, making low speed car parks a simple exercise, but without making it vague or dangerous at highway speeds.

The brakes are very good, with plenty of stopping power, and reasonable pedal feel, while the threshold for the ABS is set so that the driver has a good chance of stopping the car before the emergency aids intervene.

Equally, the traction control and ESP do a good job of allowing the driver some latitude for exuberance, before activating to regain control.

Ride and handling are capable, reinforcing the excellent all-rounder tag of the Rondo.

Again there are better handling cars out there, but it remains able to perform a multitude of functions at the same time, and without struggling.

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Verdict

If you need a full-on delivery van that carries lots of parcels and nothing else, then the Rondo is probably not for you.

Equally, if you carry passengers exclusively, there are other vehicles out there that can take up to nine passengers.

But the point is this is a vehicle that can carry seven, with a small amount of luggage, or one or two people, plus plenty of cargo, or anything in between.

For operators looking for a cheaper alternative to a traditional ‘big six’ wagon, the Rondo is the answer to their call.

 

Likes:

  • Good fuel economy, with an average consumption of 9.5 litres per 100km on most jobs
  • Clutch and gearshift are light enough to make city driving comfortable and easy
  • Versatile lay-out, with the option of anything from one to seven seats and huge load area

 

Specifications

Make/Model: Kia Rondo 7 LX

Body Style: 5-door wagon

Engine: 2.0L EFI Petrol

Gearbox: Five-Speed Manual / Opt 4-Speed Auto

Seats: 7 in three rows

Features:

  • AM/FM/CD stereo
  • Twin front airbags
  • Cloth trim
  • Fold flat seating
  • Power windows and mirrors

 

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