Review by Jeff Wilson, photos by Jonathan Yarkony and Jeff Wilson

When testing these two compact family haulers, Senior Editor Jonathan Yarkony and I were ready to place bets on how quickly the forum would be aflutter with commentary questioning our intelligence for pitting these two vehicles against one another.

“They’re not competitors!”

“Nobody would ever cross-shop these two!”

“You should’ve compared the {insert vehicle 1 here} with the {insert vehicle 2 here}.”

And given their differences on the surface, the nay-sayers may very well be right.

2014 Fiat 500L vs 2014 Kia Rondo2014 Fiat 500L vs 2014 Kia Rondo
2014 Fiat 500L vs 2014 Kia Rondo. Click image to enlarge

But let’s look at the fundamentals here. The Fiat 500L and Kia Rondo represent their respective manufacturer’s take on accommodating a small family’s worth of people and stuff in as small a footprint as is reasonable.

Each is a tall hatchback powered by a small, economical four-cylinder engine with surprisingly similar horsepower ratings (160 for the Fiat; 164 for the Kia).  And each offers an impressive amount of content for the money – a cost, that when comparably equipped, is quite similar.

It’s the differences between these two approaches that is worth considering.

Imagine two young families. Each family has two parental units who work in the downtown core of a major Canadian city.  Each family has two young children – a toddler and an infant.

2014 Fiat 500L2014 Kia Rondo
2014 Fiat 500L & 2014 Kia Rondo. Click image to enlarge

Family A chooses to call a modern abode in the suburbs home.  All of the homes on their street are freshly constructed and low maintenance.  They have small, tidy yards with a single, young tree out front and very little character.  Family A appreciates the new home’s amenities and generous living space.

Family B prefers a livelier urban lifestyle. The parents favour walking to the local artisanal bakery or coffee shop and fancy themselves foodies.  Their home is comparatively cramped and forgoes a backyard for a small concrete patio and a slab of pavement on which to park their car.  The historic house is rich with character, but rife with quirks as well.

Each family loves their respective choice that suits their tastes and needs to a T, which means that both choices, no matter how different, are the right choices for them.

Which is how we arrive at comparing the suburbanite Rondo with a chic, urban 500L. Each suits a young family’s needs, for the family whose style and tastes are best suited.

Space and Flexibility

2014 Fiat 500L vs 2014 Kia Rondo
2014 Fiat 500L vs 2014 Kia Rondo. Click image to enlarge

It should come as no surprise that the Kia offers more interior space than the Fiat.  It is, after all, nearly 28 cm longer than the 500L.  If occasionally transporting four normal-sized people plus two munchkins is a possibility, the Kia (or a Mazda5) may be as far as a buyer needs to look since the Fiat is a five-passenger-only setup, whereas the Rondo can be optioned with seven-passenger capability.

The space story doesn’t end there though.  The Fiat is slightly taller than the Kia, and offers a more upright greenhouse design.  This, when coupled with an emphasis on space for five people (rather than seven) means the 500L makes very good use of the volume it has.

With a rear-facing child seat mounted behind the front passenger seat, the Fiat provides slightly better ingress and egress for both front seat passenger and rear-facing baby.  Rear seat passengers of an adult stature will find a remarkable dearth of headroom, a product of the high-perch rear seat and compounded by the vast panoramic sunroof.

If not using the two extra seats in the third row of the Rondo, the more expansive cargo bay (at 940 L) will contain over 250 L more stuff than the little Fiat.  Even if the third row is in use, the Kia’s cargo hold is still able able to contain a compact stroller.

The greater cargo space, rear seat headroom and flexibility of being able to carry up to seven passengers makes the Kia the winner in this category.

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