Full 2009 Kia Rondo Review
What's New for 2009
For 2009, the Kia Rondo receives a power boost for both its available engines, with the four-cylinder seeing a fuel economy increase as well. Both trim levels can also now be had with either engine. Satellite radio and roof rails are now standard, while a navigation system and an iPod connector make their debut on the options list. Standard content within both the LX and EX trims has also been altered.
The 2009 Kia Rondo is a vehicle clearly designed with only function in mind. Such cars are usually about as endearing as your washing machine, and yet something about the Rondo makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Perhaps it's just that "Kia Rondo" is fun to say or we like that it looks like a Pokemon grafted onto the front of a construction helmet. Perhaps it's the punchy V6 engine and quick steering that inspired us to bob and roll around corners yelling, "Rondooooooo!" Perhaps it's simply that such an honest, functional car is easy to love. Whatever the reason, we think quite a few families will find the Rondo meets their diverse transportation needs as well as or better than a variety of different vehicles. The Rondo was introduced two years ago to the U.S. market. This small wagon 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 and optional features. And being a Kia, it's also priced competitively and comes with long warranty coverage. For 2009, the Rondo's engines have been upgraded. The four-cylinder now makes 175 horsepower (versus 162 last year). The optional V6 now produces 192 hp. Both increases don't come at the cost of fuel economy. The Rondo's feature content has also been upgraded, with standard satellite radio and a newly optional touchscreen navigation system and iPod integration. All of these improvements add up to an even more attractive Rondo for 2009.
The more nimble Mazda 5 is really the only vehicle similar to the Rondo, although it features only six seats and has sliding side doors. It's therefore best to consider the Rondo as an alternative vehicle: a smaller, more practical alternative to compact SUVs, and a bigger, more practical alternative to wagons like the Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix. Some minivan shoppers may also find that something Rondo-sized is all the kid-hauling vehicle they really need.
A Rondo resided in our long-term testing fleet for one year, and it was a very pleasant surprise (not to mention completely trouble-free). Even if it wasn't the epitome of cool, we found it to be a super-practical alternative to a number of the other family vehicles in our fleet (SUVs, wagons and minivans). Plus, it made us feel all warm and fuzzy. The 2009 Kia Rondo is a dark horse definitely worth a look.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Kia Rondo is a minivan-like wagon with forward-opening rear doors. Five seats are standard in the base LX, while a third row is optional in the LX and standard in the uplevel EX.
Standard on the base LX are 16-inch steel wheels, roof rails, air-conditioning, full power accessories, keyless entry, a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat and a four-speaker stereo with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB audio jack. The LX Plus package adds 16-inch alloy wheels, floor mats and heated front seats. The Rondo EX includes that equipment but substitutes 17-inch alloy wheels and adds foglamps, leather upholstery and a leather-wrapped wheel and shift knob. The EX Premium package adds a sunroof, a navigation system, a touchscreen interface and an upgraded eight-speaker stereo with a six-CD changer. An iPod adapter is optional on all Rondos.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Kia Rondo comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. It produces 175 hp and 167 pound-feet of torque in most of the country, but in California-emissions states, the SULEV-rated four-cylinder makes 167 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. A four-speed automatic is the lone transmission. EPA estimated fuel economy for this engine is 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.
Optional is a 2.7-liter V6 that produces 192 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, regardless of where you purchase it. A five-speed automatic is standard. EPA estimated fuel economy is 18/26/21 mpg.
Antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and stability control are all standard on the 2009 Kia Rondo. In government crash tests, it received a perfect five stars for frontal and side driver protection, and four stars for side rear protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Kia Rondo's easy-to-use climate controls consist of three simple knobs, while the stereo faceplate maintains a minimum of clearly marked buttons. The instruments are also big and easy to read. Materials quality is impressive for a car in the Rondo's price range, and build quality is excellent.
When sitting in the Rondo, you immediately notice the huge amount of headroom and impressive visibility afforded by the tall roof. More driver-seat adjustment would be nice for taller drivers, but most will find the front two rows spacious, with comfy seat bottoms. The available third-row seat is intended for children and requires the second row to be slid forward, which limits legroom for passengers three through five. Accessing that third row is fairly easy, though. Cargo space is cavernous with both rear rows lowered, but understandably pathetic when both are raised.
Thanks to its quick steering and punchy optional V6, the 2009 Kia Rondo can actually feel a bit sporty when puttering around town. There is a lot of body roll, but the Rondo never feels tippy. The driver sits in a commanding, almost-SUV-like position with excellent sight lines fore and aft, so negotiating through traffic or backing into a parking spot is perpetually easy.