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Kia’s Rondo ups the people mover ante
Is there a market for a people mover with up to seven seats that is smaller than a minivan but bigger than a compact CUV?
Kia thinks they have an answer to that question in the 2014 Rondo, which the company feels is the perfect size and configuration for Canadians.
In fact the U.S. won’t be getting the Rondo, which suits Kia Canada just fine because that means it will be easier to increase supply which Kia thinks will mushroom once consumers start to see it on the road.
The Chevrolet Orlando, Dodge Journey and Mazda5 are strong competitors in this segment, but Kia believes it will prosper thanks to engineering, styling and, most of all, content for the buck.
We are now in an age where smaller engines are putting out as much or more power as the bigger ones they replace, while running cleaner and using less fuel.
For 2014, the Rondo goes with a 2.0-litre, direct injection four-cylinder that replaces both the 2.4-litre four-cylinder and 2.7-litre V6 in the outgoing, 2012 model.
There is a six-speed manual transmission on the base model but the rest will arrive with a six-speed automatic driving the front wheels. This automatic is new and delivers faster acceleration from low speeds and greater refinement at high speed.
The 2.0-litre is also new and produces 164 hp and 156 lb/ft of torque. Fuel numbers for the 2.0-litre manual are 9.4/6.2L/100 km city/highway and 9.2/6.3L/100 km for the automatic. That compares to 10.6/7.5 for the 2.4-litre automatic and 11.5/7.7L/100 km for the 2.7-litre auto.
It is a speedy little motor. During the press introduction in Galveston, Texas, my co-driver got up to 160 km/h on a deserted stretch of road. The Rondo would have kept climbing but discretion forbade finding out “what it will do”.
Inside, standard equipment includes air conditioning, second row ventilation, power windows, heated front seats, a six speaker audio system and keyless entry with power locks.
Here is a partial list of the optional features that include: heated steering wheel, heated second row seating, ventilated driver seat, automatic dual-zone climate control, 10-way power driver’s seat with an extendable cushion optimizing thigh support, SuperVision instrument cluster, premium sound system paired with an all-new multimedia interface featuring navigation and family-friendly manual integrated side window blinds.
The Rondo interior will come equipped with black cloth with optional availability of black or black and beige two-tone high-grade leather.
In the safety department, the Rondo leaves nothing out starting with standard electronic stability control (ESC), hill-start assist control (HAC), four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist system (BAS) and electronic brake distribution.
Also standard is Kia’s advanced Vehicle Stability Management System (VSM). What it does is step in during under and over steer conditions as well as in split-traction braking situations.
Optionally available are rear parking sensors and rear-view cameras on equipped models that provide extended safety when reversing.
The Rondo follows the recently introduced Forte and Sorento by integrating FlexSteer in the electric power steering giving the driver the choice of choosing three steering modes — comfort, normal and sport. Each can be selected on the fly using a toggle switch on the right steering wheel spoke.
During our drive, I played around with it but eventually just left it in normal. I can see comfort being used on long cruises and sport speaks for itself.
While the Americans aren’t interested (yet) in the compact people movers, this is an emerging segment in Canada.
In terms of competitors, the Mazda5 is about the same size as the Rondo with the same wheelbase, but is not as tall.
I own a 2006 Mazda5 and I find having that extra room really pays off when you need it for events such as helping a kid move home from college and when there are six of you going out to an event.
Ergo, I spent a lot of time in the back seat during the press event held in Galveston.
Knee room in the Rondo is greater than the Mazda5, but I have mixed feelings about the second row windows winding all the way down. That’s because kids and dogs tend to ride back there and the second room window opening is generous indeed.
But I did like the optional retractable sunshade on the EX Luxury model I drove. I would have loved to have had that when my kids were little.
Like my Mazda5, you can squeeze two into the third row but it really is a pinch. Most of the time the third row stays folded flat and I expect the same will be true of the Rondo.
Cargo volume is 232 litres behind the rear seat and 1,840 litres with second and third row seats flat. There are 15 storage/cubbies and eight beverage holders on the inside.
Along with utility, pricing is key when it comes to Rondo and it starts at $21,695 for the base LX with manual transmission.
You’d think a manual is probably superfluous with a bulk of owners asking for the automatic and you’d be right. Kia admits they only expect two per cent of buyers to order one but it does make for a very attractive starting price.
At the other end is the EX Luxury with too many extras to list at $32,195. Kia expects only five per cent of sales with this model, but there are those who want all the bells and whistles as we are seeing in the exploding luxury compact sedan segment.
Fully 32 per cent and 26 per cent of expected sales will be the LX five-seat and seven-seat LX, $23,995 and $25,195 respectively. These sit just above the base LX in the price walk.
Next up the ladder is the EX five-seater and EX seven-seater at $26,995 and $28,195 topping out with the aforementioned EX Luxury which is also a seven seater.
Kia currently has the youngest fleet in the car business with nine new or refreshed vehicles coming in 2013 alone. Between this year and 2017, Kia has 47 new or refreshed vehicles planned.
If ever a car company was on a roll, Kia is it.
- Courtesy Metroland Media