The Power to Surprise — Kia's advertising tagline — is fitting for this Korean automaker. It has evolved from a purveyor of bargain-basement specials only appealing to those with no other financial choice into a full-line automaker sporting competitive vehicles backed by one of the industry's best warranties.
This advertising motto is not, however, right for the 2007 Kia Rondo EX V6, a high-waisted wagon-style crossover with seven-seat capability. After 12 months and 20,000 miles in our fleet of long-term test cars, we've found that the Kia Rondo's strength lies in its utility, predictability and reliability — in other words, its utter lack of surprises.
Why We Bought It
It's all a matter of philosophy. As Vehicle Testing Assistant Mike Magrath wrote in our blog for long-term test cars: "Kia's philosophy is pretty simple, and pretty appealing: reasonably priced, well-built cars with a long warranty. Recently, the recipe made for an enjoyable year in our long-term Kia Sedona minivan, so we decided to have a go in the Korean brand's brand-new people mover."
It's no secret that around these parts we like our minivans. Their unassuming nature, high seating position and space to spare ensure the keys are constantly in someone's pocket. For some of us with large families they're a near necessity. Of course, they're not perfect. They're big and, compared to wagons, they're thirsty. And a recognition of the minivan's enduring appeal led Kia straight toward the kind of vehicle that has been unfashionable for more than a generation — the family station wagon. The Rondo might have some pretense of crossover character with its passenger-car components packed in a faintly SUV-style body, but it is a wagon in every way. And since no wagon without wood paneling has been successful in capturing the attention of this nation since your parents were kids, we thought we'd give the Rondo a try.
If Kia was banking on a cultural swing to rational vehicle choices, we were all too happy to play along.
It's hard for us to use the A-word when talking about cars, but we're forced to do it for the 2007 Kia Rondo. It is one of the most trustworthy, dependable appliances we've ever had in our long-term fleet. Not one unscheduled service. Not a single warning light. Just a year of uninterrupted service.
While we were glad there were no warning lights, a maintenance reminder light would have been helpful. Surely at least one of our service appointments was belated due to a lack of warning.
Despite excellent visibility afforded by an enormous greenhouse, parking the Rondo (especially in Reverse), can be a formidable task because it surprisingly measures 179 inches overall. Associate Editor Josh Sadlier became all too familiar with the Rondo's length: "I was creeping back, stopping, creeping back, stopping, cree-CRASH! After a 0.5-mph impact with that weird wooden cabinet thing in my garage, there went the window on the Rondo's liftgate — right before my unbelieving eyes. I really, really wanted to get away."
Underestimating the Rondo's length and backing into a cabinet cost Josh Sadlier his dignity and cost us $389.57 to repair. Rondo rear windows are not a common part and one had to be ordered, thus keeping the otherwise faithful Kia out of service for three days.
On the inside of the Rondo's cabin, the theme is the same: uncluttered functionality. "Its controls are simple. You turn it on and go. You want FM, punch the FM button. CD, the CD button. Flip on the lights, put it in D and go. It's just so straightforward and honest," wrote Senior Copy Editor Doug Lloyd.
Total Body Repair Costs: $350
Additional Maintenance Costs: $389.57
Warranty Repairs: None
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: None
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: None
Days Out of Service: 3
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Performance and Fuel Economy
In 12 months we put 22,192 miles on our V6-powered 2007 Kia Rondo. The 182-horsepower V6 was a $1,000 option over the base Rondo and came with a five-speed automatic in place of the four-speed that's standard with the four-cylinder. This combination is rated at 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway by the EPA. Our best tank came to 27.2 mpg, just a hair over the EPA's highway average. While 25 and 26 mpg tanks were frequent, there was only that one in the 27s. More common were tanks in the 18-20 mpg range as evidenced by our overall average of 19.5 mpg.
But then again, it may have something to do with our driving. "Kicking down two gears summons power that is completely unnecessary and will put you into the triple digits before you can curse someone else's mother," wrote Photo Editor Kurt Niebuhr. While this V6's 182 hp might seem meek by today's standards, it was enough to propel the Rondo to the end of the quarter-mile in 17.0 seconds at 82.2 mph. "Engine sounds sporty without being thrashy," came the report from one of our test-track drivers.
At 3,706 pounds and wearing 225/50R17 Michelin MXV4 all-season tires, the Rondo didn't seem likely to burn down our test facility during handling tests. Its 0.75g performance on the skid pad is on par with our expectations, as is its 63.3-mph speed through the slalom. Our test driver noted: "pronounced body roll," "quick steering" and "predictable nature."
In the real world, the combination of such compliant suspension tuning with all-season tires delivers a comfortable ride with balanced handling and dependable traction in all kinds of weather. When you're driving around with six people from the friends-and-family category, this is the kind of performance you want.
Best Fuel Economy: 27.2 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 15.3 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 19.5 mpg
At the end of its service cycle, our 2007 Kia Rondo had 22,192 miles, which is not quite double that of the average family's yearly accumulation. The mileage is in part to blame for the nearly $8,000 depreciation ($7,868) from a vehicle that only started at $21,000. That $7,868 figure represents a mighty third of the original price, even though we only used up one quarter of the 100,000-mile warranty.
While still quite high, the depreciation figure becomes less shocking when researching the True Market Value (TMV®) of the Rondo's closest (only?) competitor, the Mazda 5. With similar mileage, equipment and condition, the TMV for a used Mazda 5 is approximately $15,000 — a $7,000 hit to the original equipped price of 22 large. It could very well be that the Kia name isn't hurting resale value here, but instead the price reflects the fact that there's an extremely limited market for a car that is solely utilitarian.
True Market Value at service end: $14,627
Depreciation: $7,868 or 34% of original paid price
Final Odometer Reading: 22,192
Our 2007 Kia Rondo EX V6 was the unsung hero of our long-term test fleet this last year. It carried us to work. It safely and swiftly brought our children to school and soccer games. While it never wowed, it also never failed — and it never disappointed. Senior Copy Editor Doug Lloyd wrote, "It's just sort of a very good blah kind of vehicle. And there happens to be a very large audience of people who want exactly that."
Of course, a Rondo owner (a self-admitted car enthusiast) took particular offense to this remark and perfectly summed up the Rondo's brand of dependable, comfortable utility: "It is everything that my family needs, and no more. That last part is important. For its intended role, this vehicle carries no excess of anything — weight, length, fuel consumption — like so many other vehicles that families use to ferry themselves around." — by bgw on January 3, 2008 6:08 AM
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.