2017 Kia Rondo S Review – Australian Drive
Isaac Bober’s 2017 Kia Rondo S Review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict, and score.
In a nutshell: The Kia Rondo is a small car with a big interior and should be wooing those who think they need an SUV.
2017 Kia Rondo S (5 Door)
Pricing From $26,990+ORC Warranty seven years, unlimited kilometres Safety five-star ANCAP (2013 test) Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol Power 122kW at 6500rpm Torque 213Nm at 4700rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Drive front-wheel Dimensions 4525mm (L); 1805mm (W); 1610mm (H) Turning Circle 11.0m Bootspace 536L Ground Clearance 151mm Spare space saver Fuel Tank 58 litres Thirst 7.9L/100km
ODDLY, THE KIA RONDO 7 has never taken off in this country, which is odd given it offered seven seats and yet was almost small enough to fit in your back pocket. But that might be about to change.
What is it?
Late last year, Kia announced it was adding a five-seat variant to the Rondo seven-seater line-up and tweaking the model grades from three back to two, with the S ($26,990+ORC) a five-seat only model and Si ($31,490+ORC) a seven-seat only model. Platinum has been deleted.
When the new variant was announced last year, Kia Australia chief operating officer, Damien Meredith said “I think it is fair to say that Rondo has never enjoyed the positive market attention that it deserves… With the addition of the five-seat variant, some fresh styling and a specification realignment we are confident Rondo will feature on a much greater number of consideration lists.”
And, even if Meredith isn’t right about the addition of this five-seat model opening up the Rondo to more buyers, he should be. See, too many people flock to an SUV when they don’t need one, and too many ‘settle’ for a hatchback that isn’t quite big enough for them, because they couldn’t afford an SUV that was big enough. Enter the Kia Rondo S.
What’s the interior like?
In a word, roomy. And, in two words, very roomy. Starting from the boot, as is my want these days, the five-seat Rondo S offers 536 litres of boot space (the seven-seat Si offers 492 litres) which grows to 1694 litres of room with the 35:30:35 split fold rear seats folded flat.
The boot load lip is nice and low and the space is essentially a cube, making it hugely practical. Indeed, compare the Rondo five-seater with, say, a Kia Sportage, which is a popular SUV, and the Rondo wins quite convincingly when the boots are compared (536L Vs 466L), and while its only marginally bigger than the Sportage, the Rondo boasts a much bigger wheelbase, meaning there’s more room inside than the Sportage too.
And, while this isn’t technically part of this section, the ground clearance of 151mm for the Rondo, and its high-set driving position, are just shy of the Sportage’s 172mm of ground clearance. So, if you’re comparing a two-wheel drive Sportage with the Rondo then the choice isn’t based on one of room, or driving position, it just comes down to specifications levels, and that’s where the Sportage does step away from the Rondo – only just. But, at just $26,990+ORC, the Rondo costs a lot less than the Sportage. Moving on.
Climb into the back seat of the Rondo and there’s plenty of room for three adults, sure, the middle seat isn’t as comfortable as the two outboard ones, but with minimal intrusion by the transmission tunnel, there’s plenty of foot room.
The rear door openings are nice and wide and despite its higher than a normal hatchback ride height, my two kids had no problem climbing into the back, or opening the doors themselves from the inside. Sometimes the rear doors can be a little heavy, even for eight-year olds.
The Rondo also gets rear air vents (which you can’t get on an Audi Q2), but it did get a 12V outlet which will allow charging of devices for those in the back seat. There are also pockets on the backs of the front seats for storing maps… if you still carry a map. More likely they’ll be used to hold an iPad.
There are ISOFIX mounts for the two outboard seats and top tether anchors for all three seats. I installed one booster seat and there was plenty of room for both kids and me to sit in the back (the car was stationary).
The fact the rear seats are 35:30:35 split fold instead of, say, 60:40 makes this a very practical little car that offers a very flexible interior layout.
Over in the front seat(s) and there’s plenty of room for the driver and passenger, with enough adjustment that it’s easy to get comfortable whether you’re sat behind the wheel or not. Quite often these boxy, mini people-mover type vehicles can feel a little too van-like in their seating position, but that’s not the case with the Rondo. It comes off feeling just like any other crossover in that you get a slightly elevated ride height that doesn’t feel cumbersome, if that makes sense. There’s plenty of steering wheel adjustment for reach and height, and the seat offers good travel forwards and backwards.
The dashboard is well designed in that it’s both simple to use, clearly marked and, despite the sub-$30k sticker price, all the plastics and contrasting highlights feel of a good quality and feel well screwed together. Oddly, the infotainment screen is tiny (4.3-inch and colour) and doesn’t have Apple Car Play or Android Auto connectivity, or sat-nav but it’s one of the best little systems I’ve used. The buttons are small, and so you’ve got to be careful if you’re trying to scroll through track lists while driving (from the passenger seat, I hasten to add); the driver can scroll through via the steering wheel controls.
Overall, it’s a good system although there will no doubt be those who feel slightly shortchanged that the screen isn’t bigger and there’s not more functionality beyond music streaming and the radio.
What’s it like on the road?
The Kia Rondo five-seater gets the same engine and output as the seven-seat variant, and that is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine making 122kW at 6500rpm and 213Nm of torque at 4700rpm. This is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and drinks down 7.9L/100km on the combined cycle.
As the numbers suggest, this is quite a perky little machine (it weighs 1520kg without the driver) that coped very well with the family and the up and down of the Blue Mountains. The gearbox is nice and smooth when up and running with just a little bit of hesitation when stepping off the throttle and then getting back onto it.
Like other vehicles in the Kia range, the Rondo has been tuned locally for its ride and steering and the latter has come had in leaps and bounds from the old days of electric power steering. There are three modes for the steering, Normal, Comfort and Sport, but Normal is probably the only setting you’ll use as Comfort is too doughy and Sport just a little too keen for this type of vehicle.
There’s only so much you can do with a torsion beam bum in terms of being able to build a smooth handler with consistency from front to back. But, Kia’s tuning team has done a great job; bump absorption in the front and back is excellent, with very little body roll even when being pushed in corners.
Sure, the Rondo isn’t the sort of vehicle you’d buy if you’re after a ‘drivers car’ but as a family hauler it offers good response, stability and progression to its movements that many of its competitors don’t offer. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say the Rondo is a better handler than many of the hatchbacks that sell in larger numbers.
Why about the safety features?
The Rondo carries a five-star ANCAP rating based on a test conducted in 2013, which saw it realise a very high score of 36.20 out of 37. However, the ANCAP test criteria is now much tighter… The Rondo offers only a space saver spare, has driver and passenger as well as curtain airbags, impact sensing auto unlocking doors, speed sensing door locking, front and rear fog lights, static cornering lights (which mean an additional light activates when the steering wheel is turned) dusk-sensing headlights, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, hill-start assist, stability and traction controls, keyless entry, immobilizer, and alarm.
Why would you buy one?
You want a genuinely roomy hatchback crossover hybrid that lists for less than $30k. Against the likes of the new Kia Rio or Hyundai i30, the Rondo falls short because its infotainment system is a little too old-school, but it’s much roomier than both those vehicles. Indeed, its roomier than a Kia Sportage.
So, you’d buy one because you need room but don’t want a jacked-up faux off-roader, but still want a higher ride height than a hatch, and want a vehicle that’s not too big on the outside, but roomier than some bigger vehicles, on the inside. And let’s not forget the industry-leading seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty.