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Kia Rondo, 2008: The Weekly Driver Car Review

One of the tangible, unwritten tests of a new vehicle is its initial comfort. Does a car suit a driver without a lengthy technological learning curve? There’s something to be said for an efficient, straightforward, no-nonsense car that doesn’t require intense reading to operate. Welcome the 2008 Kia Rondo.

It’s nothing new that a good share of drivers still scoff at car manufacturers from Korea. But all of misgivings should now be considered history. Kia offers affordable, safe vehicles with the car industry’s best warranty.

I recently drove the Kia Rondo for a week while visiting Missouri, logging more than 1,000 miles. There’s nothing too severe about driving in Missouri. With the exception of a few days of steady rain, the Rondo, Kia’s full-sized wagon, didn’t face anything extreme.

But during my week with the vehicle it served its purpose and provided good, steady transportation across wide open highways, back country roads and in around-town situations.

The Rondo is one of most reasonably priced wagons on the market and it’s a solid alternative to a minivan or small sport utility vehicle. It’s a wagon, for sure, but the second-year vehicle drives more like a car.

The Rondo’s direct competitor is the Mazda5 wagon, but it’s not too different than other car-based crossovers like the Toyota Matrix and Pontiac Vibe. But the Rondo has car doors and it’s not a disparaging comment to describe it is a modern-day, streamlined station wagon with an optional feature to seat seven.

The Los Angeles Times is often critical in its car reviews and it’s hard to argue with the criticisms. But it described the Rondo ideally:

“It’s about satisfying the automotive nesting instinct people feel when they’ve got kids — their own and their friends’ who need to get around with a minimum of fuss and maximum of thrift. Secure, well-constructed, nimble and versatile as a blue blazer, the Rondo does all that and leaves money left over for piano lessons.”

The Rondo comes in two trims, the LX and EX, both available with the standard inline four-cylinder engine or an optional V6. I drove the six-cylinder, with an automatic transportation for my week in Missouri.

The Rondo will never be mistaken for a speedster, but I never felt restricted when needing to accelerate. I spent several hours a day in the car and as a 6-foot, 185-pound driver, there was plenty of head and leg room.

One of the criticisms of the Rondo is its exterior design. In short, it’s non-descript — no keen lines or particular innovation. There’s nothing that makes the Rondo stand out in a crowd. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some drivers need flash in their cars, others don’t.

What the Kia Rondo provides is solid, safe transportation as a full-size wagon with an option to seat seven at an attractive price point. That’s plenty, it seems, to attract attention for reasons other than cosmetics.

Safety Features — Dual front, front seat side air bags and side curtain air bags.

Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 5 years/60,000 miles; Limited powertrain, 10 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/100,000 miles; Roadside assistance, 5 years/60,000 miles.

Gas Mileage Estimates — 19 mpg (city), 26 mpg (hwy).

Price Range — $16,395-$20,195.

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