Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony and Jacob Black

2014 Kia Rondo vs 2013 Mazda5
2014 Kia Rondo vs 2013 Mazda5. Click image to enlarge

The Kia Rondo and Mazda5 are two of the most underappreciated vehicles on the market. Despite an amazing use of space and each with its own unique character and advantages, neither has ever achieved widespread success in North America, Kia even going so far as to pull the Rondo off the shelf in the U.S. In Europe there are far more competitors in this MPV segment, compact six- and seven-seaters and they sell far more units because Europeans’ appreciate and need smaller, more efficient vehicles that make the most of their space in tighter cities with narrower roads.

However, for those Canadians shopping for a compact family car, there are few better propositions than these two (and Chevrolet’s Orlando): six or seven seats or generous cargo space (although the two are mutually exclusive), compact crossover efficiency and easy-driving comfortable rides. Where is the Orlando, you ask? You may recall that we tested it against the Mazda5 last year in our Four Small Family Haulers roundup and found it lacking then, and little has been done in the interim to change our minds. These MPVs may not be the fun-wagons of the automotive landscape, but we get excited by their impressive packaging that squeezes as much capability out of as small a footprint as some compact cars.

For this comparison, the big questions we had were: Does it really have enough space for six or seven? Is it convenient? Does it look cool? Is it good value? Does it handle well? Okay, maybe not sports car well, but does it at least not handle like an oversized bathtub? And of course, is it efficient?

These are both vehicles we wholeheartedly recommend because of their practicality and convenience, but which is the best?

Is it Good Value?

Let’s just deal with this bugaboo right at the beginning.

2014 Kia Rondo vs 2013 Mazda5
2014 Kia Rondo vs 2013 Mazda5. Click image to enlarge

Once again, we have a pair of competitors that are not equal in trim level or price, but when has that ever stopped us before? This Kia is the top-spec EX Luxury trim whose feature list simply blows away almost anything under $40K, while the Mazda is a generation behind in terms of interior features and powertrain even in the top GT trim, which looks Spartan and seems a class below. Kias tend to have that effect on competitors.

However, let’s take a look at what you would get at a reasonable $30K. That would get you into the top Mazda5 GT ($24,800) with five-speed automatic transmission ($1,200), Moonroof ($895) and Luxury Package ($895). Tack on Freight and A/C Tax and you’re at $29,790, barring any discounts (which I’m guessing you’ll find plenty of on the Mazda5 – at the very least, there is 0 percent financing for terms up to 72 months at the time of writing).

The Kia Rondo EX 7-seat is conveniently priced at $28,195, and with Freight and excise tax ends up at $29,960, and being a brand new model, is unlikely to have significant discounts, but also offers zero percent financing on a more limited 48-month term, but then lists a “financing fee” essentially equivalent to the interest payments (*scratches head*), though this practice is not exclusive to Kia.

Putting aside the rabbit hole of financing, we end up with two equivalently priced models, so who wins the feature battle? Yeah, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Kia would, but let’s break it down.

2013 Mazda5 vs 2014 Kia Rondo
2013 Mazda5 vs 2014 Kia Rondo. Click image to enlarge

At this price point both feature such amenities as 17-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers, satellite radio capability, A/C with auto climate control, steering wheel controls for audio and cruise, trip computer, heated leather seats, leather steering wheel and shifter, power heated side mirrors, backup sensors and automatic headlights.

The Mazda5 has a few exclusive features, such as HID xenon headlights and a power glass moonroof (those last two only available on the pricier Rondo EX Luxury).

And sliding doors.

For some people, that one feature alone is enough to tip the entire comparison in the Mazda5’s favour, but I find that’s a slightly too simplistic view of the segment. But if that’s all that matters to you, well then you’ve found your family hauler, unless you want to weigh it against the larger (full-size?) minivans.

Connect with