- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2007

Looking for a small economical vehicle that can tackle most any task associated with large minivans? Take a look at Kia’s all-new Rondo crossover.

This crossover has the outer appearance of a small sedan, but the interior is surprisingly flexible and available both with five- and seven-passenger seating. My preference is the five-passenger as it provides more storage space. Throughout both models are numerous small storage compartments.

My initial attraction to the Rondo was based on the smart, clean appearance. It looked like a vehicle that would be easy to manage and that observation was correct. It’s easy to get into the driver’s seat and when I explored the comfort of the other seats, I found the second row was also easily accessible, but getting into the third-row seats is a bit awkward.

The Rondo comes in LX and EX trim levels. The LX has body-colored door handles and body-colored side molding, plus 16-inch, six-spoke alloy wheels. It also has a tinted windshield and rear window washer/wiper, as well as front and rear towing hooks. I don’t know the purpose of these hooks, as towing is usually associated with a powerful engine.

The larger of the two engines available is the V-6, which produces 182 horsepower while the four-cylinder produces 162 horsepower.

Surprisingly, this little Rondo with the V-6 engine had good acceleration — even with three adult passengers. This vehicle comes with steering-wheel-mounted controls, power windows, door locks and heated outside mirrors, plus keyless entry with an alarm system.

Fuel economy for the four-cylinder is 21 city and 29 highway while the V-6 engine is rated at 20 city and 27 highway. As for base price, the small engine with a four-speed automatic transmission is $16,395 while the V-6 LX model with a five-speed automatic is $18,895. Add to that numerous options, such as leather, heated seats or a terrific sound system plus a sunroof, and you’re looking at more than $20,000.

One reason I believe that sales for this vehicle will be good is Kia’s track record. In a recent survey by Warrant Direct, an independent warranty specialist company that checked out 33 manufacturers, Kia was rated No. 5 with a score that came close to Toyota and Mitsubishi, beating Nissan, Lexus, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

In other words, this manufacturer is producing some good, solid, quality vehicles and that’s exactly the impression I got while giving the Rondo a good workout.

This crossover is very easy to drive, and the steering is quite responsive. I drove it over smooth roads, as well as rough, bouncy roads and the Rondo’s ride-comfort is enjoyable. Because of its size, it’s easy to maneuver and park.

A Kia engineer told me the vehicle has front-wheel drive with front and rear suspensions. It has standard front and rear anti-roll bars that are calibrated for responsive handling, while the hydraulic power assisted rack-and-pinion steering effort and feel are tuned accordingly.

As for safety, it has six standard air bags and full-length side curtain air bags with protection for all three seating rows. It also features electronic stability control and a tire-pressure monitoring system. The front seats have height-adjustable seat belts with pretensioners and an energy-absorbing steering column.

Kia’s warranty is also notable: 10-year/100,000-mile limited power train and five-year, or 60,000-mile with a roadside assistance plan. Kia Rondo, the new kid on the block, will be getting a lot of attention.

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