Real-life Review: 2009 Kia Rondo LX

Second in an occasional series of used car reviews

Is it a minivan? Is it a hatchback? This car can be whatever you want it to be.

Make: Kia Model: Rondo LX Year: 2009 Safety: NTSA 5-star ratings for front and side crash test.

IIHS ratings: Good

KIa Front

2009 Kia Rondo LX features a wide-eyed expression, 16′ wheels, and an impressive suite of standard features. The Rondo trim line features the LX and the EX models.

I won’t lie. Not having a car of my own at present really sucks at times, but no so much when I get a chance to borrow a friend’s car. In this case, a vacationing friend tossed me the keys and said, “I’ll be out of town for two weeks. It’s not like I’m gonna need it where I’m going.”

The interesting thing about the Kia Rondo is its shape. Not quite a minivan, not quite an SUV, but close to a hatchback. This model was popular in Europe, but never really caught on here in the U.S. Bummer. It’s a great entry in the crowded mid-size segment and a solid find for used car shoppers.

Car about town

I took the car on errands, which is taking your life into your hands where I live. The streets are pitted, narrow, and date back to the 40s. Toss in some errant out-of-town drivers, and errands become a high-risk venture.

The Kia Rondo takes some of the stress out of taking one’s life into their hands on the way to the grocery store. For one thing, interior visibility is outstanding, with the large semi- raked windshield.  Easier to see inattentive or lost tourists coming right at me. Rear window visibility was also adequate. Seeing “around” the large A-pillars was a non-issue.

The steering was responsive and the car maneuvered easily in and out of cramped parking lots. It was a breeze to parallel park which is saying a lot. Somewhere, my Driver’s Ed teacher is weeping uncontrollably to this day. I am not, nor will I ever be, a parallel parking whiz.

The Rondo made it bearable and no tears were shed.

Inside job

The interior headroom blew my mind. I’m life-size at 5′ 8″, and claustrophobic on top of that, so I welcome a car with adequate leg and head room. The Rondo had it to spare, front and back.

The model I drove had cloth seats. The driver’s seat offered outstanding lumbar support.

The interior was two-tone brown and tan. The center stack was well within my reach, and I didn’t have to take my eyes off the road to adjust the climate control or radio settings. The knobs are large and well-labeled.

Can we talk about the cup holders in the Rondo? There are 10 of them. 10. If you’re hauling kids all day, this should cut back on some of territorial squabbling that can erupt over cup holder space.

There are also enough nooks, crannies and hidey-holes to hold change and all the stuff of life.  My neighbor uses the interior storage to its full capacity, giving the car a loved and lived-in look. She had enough change in there to pay off my student loans.

The front door pockets offer plenty of space for a water bottle or commuter mug, along with a map or three (people still use those, right?)

The downside: the Rondo is not for you if you’re plastic-averse. Like most economy cars, there is hard plastic throughout the interior cabin. The interior fit and finish is excellent, however,  owing to Kia’s closer attention to quality and workmanship over the years.

The interior has held up nicely, thanks to tinted rear seat windows and loving care, even during California’s blast-furnace heat waves the past few summers.

Kia Full

2009 Kia Rondo LX, 5-door. Prices start at $7500.00. Prices may vary by location.

Under the hood

  • Engine: 2.4 liter, 4 cylinder 175 hp (162 in CA due to emissions requirements)
  • Transmission: 4-speed automatic

The engine noise was this car’s main drawback. The transmission shifted smoothly on the uphill climbs, and the Rondo accelerated with surprising vim and vigor. How do I know this? The engine told me so.

If you can live with the engine noise, this car is a sure bet otherwise. Since this is a 2009 model, Kia has made strides with their noise-dampening technology since then.

The Kia Rondo LX also features a 6-speaker sound system, with AM/FM/CD and Sirius capabilities, in addition to two USB ports. The model I drove offered power everything, and steering-wheel mounted cruise control. There is also a climate control vent for rear-seat passengers.

There is generous cargo space, (60/40 split rear seat) and the Rondo can hold 5 passengers comfortably. Optional third-row seating ups the capacity to 7.

Fuel economy is rated 20/27.

The Rondo is hard to find, given its limited success here in the US, but you should be able to find one starting the the $7500.00 range.

If you can handle the engine noise and hard plastic interior, the Kia Rondo might be what you’re looking for in a solid used car. It’s well-mannered, eager to please, reliable, and offers tons of cargo space. And cup holders. Let’s not forget the 10 cup holders.

Not quite an SUV, not quite a minivan, but a great car about town.