Full 2008 Kia Rondo Review
What's New for 2008
Other than the addition of an auxiliary audio jack, there are no changes for the 2008 Kia Rondo.
The term "minivan" doesn't make a whole lot of sense anymore. As long as a full-size SUV and weighing more than 2 tons, today's typical minivan is more "maxi" than "mini." But if you've ever traveled abroad to Europe or Japan, you've likely noticed the existence of "mini minivans" such as the 2008 Kia Rondo.
Actually called MPVs (for Multipurpose Vehicles) in other markets, vehicles like the Rondo have a footprint similar to a compact sedan's but have a taller, boxier design that allows them to seat up to seven. Granted, a few of those passengers -- specifically those relegated to the third-row seat -- best be mini-sized as well. But for most families with a bunch of little ones, that's probably not a problem.
The Rondo was introduced last year to the U.S. market. It boasts a number of desirable attributes, including a choice of four-cylinder or V6 power, a surprisingly versatile and high-quality interior and many standard or optional features. And, being a Kia, it's also priced competitively and comes with long warranty coverage.
The closest rival to the Rondo would be the Mazda 5. The Kia is slightly taller and wider than the Mazda, and it offers a choice of inline-4 or V6 power, whereas the 5 can only be had with a four. The 5 does offer minivan-style sliding rear doors, however. In terms of more traditional competitors, one could also consider the Chevrolet HHR, the Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix platform mates and the Scion xB. All share a space-efficient tall, boxy design, but only the Kia and Mazda offer a third-row seat option.
If getting low-priced, seven-passenger seating and a nimble size are your highest priorities, you should seriously consider the bargain-priced 2008 Kia Rondo. It outsells the Mazda by a considerable margin and is proof that you don't need a massive minivan or SUV for daily tasks. The vehicle's only major weakness is that compared to most crossovers, it's not snazzy or sexy -- something that owners of traditional minivans are likely all too familiar with.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Kia Rondo comes in three trims: LX, LX with air-conditioning and EX. The base LX features 16-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat and a CD player with an auxiliary input jack. The LX with air-conditioning adds (obviously) air-conditioning as well as roof rails and color-keyed sideview mirrors. EX versions add 17-inch wheels, upgraded exterior trim and upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, lighted vanity mirrors and an MP3-capable audio system with additional speakers and steering-wheel-mounted controls.
Options include a third row of seating and a few options packages. The LX Convenience Package includes keyless entry and cruise control. The EX's Leather Package adds heated leather seats, while the Premium Package includes an upgraded Infinity sound system and a sunroof.
Powertrains and Performance
All Kia Rondos are front-wheel drive and are equipped with either a four- or six-cylinder engine. Four-cylinder versions come with a 2.4-liter inline-4 (162 horsepower and 164 pound-feet of torque) paired to a four-speed automatic transmission. The V6 displaces 2.7 liters, makes 182 hp and 182 lb-ft of torque and is matched to a five-speed automatic transmission. Both transmissions allow manual-style shifting if the driver so chooses.
Although the option of a V6 will appeal to many buyers, the Rondo's V6 is smaller and less powerful than those in many of the vehicles the Rondo might be compared to. Still, performance is smooth and brisk enough, with a 0-60-mph time of 8.7 seconds. As speeds climb, the V6's peppy performance drops off as it runs out of steam when high-speed passing and merging are called for. Overall, performance is satisfactory and freeway cruising is relatively unstressed.
The 2008 fuel economy estimates stand at 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway for the inline-4, with the V6 virtually the same at 18/26 mpg, respectively. For the 1-mpg difference in the city, we'd suggest taking the V6 and enjoying its superior performance and cruising abilities.
Antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, full-length side-curtain airbags and stability control are all standard on the 2008 Kia Rondo. In government testing, the Rondo earned a perfect five stars in frontal impacts for both driver and passenger. In side-impact testing, the Kia received five and four stars for front and rear passengers, respectively.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Rondo's cabin is impressive in terms of build and materials quality, especially at this price point. It's also very versatile thanks to plenty of storage compartments and the option of seven-passenger seating, the latter a rarity in the compact wagon/crossover segment. It's true that the third-row seat is mostly for small children, though adults less than 6 feet tall might be surprised to find that they can sit in the "way back" for short jaunts without suffering from any significant discomfort. Accessing the third row is easy thanks to a second-row seat that easily slides forward.
Carrying cargo is a cinch, thanks to the split second-row seats that fold flat into the floor. The optional third row is also split and also folds flat, giving the Rondo a flat floor when it's time to haul some cargo.
Thanks to quick steering, the 2008 Kia Rondo can feel somewhat sporty on a twisty road. Although there can be noticeable body roll when cornering, the Rondo squats low to the ground and never seems tippy. The driver sits in a commanding position with excellent sight lines fore and aft, so negotiating through traffic or backing up into a parking spot is nearly as easy as it would be in a passenger car.
At higher cornering speeds, the tires feel a bit overwhelmed by the car's 3,700-pound mass, but never to the point that control is threatened. The Rondo doesn't handle quite as nimbly as the Mazda 5, but it's easy and intuitive to drive.
Read our Kia Rondo Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test