2007 Kia Rondo EX V6 Luxury
2007 Kia Rondo EX V6 Luxury. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Laurance Yap

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It’s interesting, sometimes, what cars draw a lot of attention. You expect a flashy sports car to draw admiring stares; you expect a big SUV to get its fair share of admonishing glances as well as thumbs-up from enthusiasts of bling. What you don’t expect, usually, is that a refrigerator-white mini-minivan from value-priced Kia to be such a magnet for attention.

But it is. I drove the company’s new Rondo to Montreal and back last weekend and every time I stopped, someone stopped to ask questions (What is that? How does it drive? How much is it?). People passing me on the highway gave it long, disquietingly longing stares. You could even see the normally tres-cool crowds on Sainte-Catherine mouth: “Ah oui, c’est le nouveau Kia.”

Who would have thunk it?

Based on the same platform that underpins the Kia Magentis (and the Hyundai Sonata), the Rondo drives pretty much like a mid-size sedan with a higher seating position. Power comes from Kia’s familiar 162-hp inline four or a 2.7-litre V6, which produces 185 hp – not very impressive given what some import V6s are producing these days.

2007 Kia Rondo EX V6 Luxury
2007 Kia Rondo EX V6 Luxury. Click image to enlarge

But the numbers only tell part of the story: with its small displacement and 60-degree bank angle, this is one of the smoothest V6s out there and the Rondo’s standard-fit five-speed automatic makes the most of its powerband. Indeed, unless the car is completely loaded with passengers and stuff, it always feels lively, responding quickly to throttle inputs and having plenty of power to pass on two-lane roads. Should you want more involvement, you can slide the shifter to the right and change gears manually.

The Rondo’s handling capability comes as a bit of a surprise. Most Korean models on the market ride well but feel pretty soft and wooly in corners, squealing their tires in protest when you try and drive a bit more energetically. Perhaps because it’s sold in the European market as well – where decent driving dynamics are essential – the Rondo has a precise feel that belies its body format and its size. Good tires help: instead of the usual Kumhos or Hankooks, the Rondo comes with 17-inch Michelins wrapped around its five-spoke alloy wheels. While the overall balance is still very much biased towards a smooth ride, there’s plenty of grip even in poor weather conditions and the car’s major controls are pretty responsive. Compared to its closest adversary, the Mazda5, the Rondo offers more power from two more cylinders and a smoother, more refined ride; it also costs about the same, comparably equipped.

2007 Kia Rondo EX V6 Luxury
2007 Kia Rondo; photo by Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge

In terms of versatility, the two vehicles are about equally matched – just different. Inside, the seven-passenger Rondo feels shorter but wider than the Mazda, with plenty of elbow room and three seats in the middle row instead of two (though the centre-most rider will be squished in pretty tight). With all the seats up, there isn’t much space in the trunk for luggage; fold them into the floor and the Rondo makes a cavernous, but still compact five-seater with enough space for a family to go on a long road trip. Should you need more space – or should you, like me, be helping your friend Patrick move back to Toronto from Montreal – the second row folds away as well, opening enough room in which to load several pieces of furniture as well as a lot of luggage. Up front, the seats are wide and well-bolstered, surrounded by useful storage spaces such as large door pockets, two open console bins and a two-level compartment underneath the armrest.

2007 Kia Rondo EX V6 Luxury
2007 Kia Rondo EX V6 Luxury. Click image to enlarge

More than the versatility, it’s the quality of the Rondo’s interior which is impressive. While the design itself is pretty plain – my tester was grey throughout, with the only flourishes being a couple of orange trim pieces and the aggressive-looking moulding around the air vents – all of the pieces – from the plastics on the dash to the leather on the seats to the metallic trim on the radio knobs – have a quality feel, with rich, low-gloss surfaces and clean lines. Criticisms are few: the steering wheel tilts but doesn’t telescope and is a bit too far away for my liking; the radio’s sound is a bit tinny, even on the upscale EX model; only the driver’s window has auto-up and auto-down; and only the driver gets a power seat.

Beyond that, there’s little to dislike about this car. It may not be a very exciting vehicle, but for its designated market and purpose in life, the Rondo ticks all the right boxes.

2007 Kia Rondo EX V6 Luxury
2007 Kia RondoEX V6 Luxury. Click image to enlarge

It’s roomy, practical, easy to drive and a great value, with the added bonuses of being nice to look at and pretty decent to drive. As I discovered last weekend, it’s also a very comfortable long-distance cruiser, with a smooth ride, a refined engine and impressive fuel economy for something with seven seats and so much hauling capacity. I also happen to like the fact that its rear doors open conventionally – the Mazda5’s doors slide – and that for the same price as a loaded-up Toyota Matrix or Pontiac Vibe, you get a sophisticated six-cylinder engine and a five-speed automatic.

A four-cylinder, five-seater Rondo starts at far less than that, even; less than $20,000 buys you a vehicle that’s barely slower, barely less versatile (do you really need those back seats) and equally interesting. No wonder Kia thinks this vehicle is going to be their bestselling model.

Pricing: 2007 Kia Rondo EX V6 Luxury


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