With the definition of what constitutes a crossover vehicle as clear as mud, it’s no surprise that Kia calls its Rondo a crossover utility vehicle (CUV). This despite the fact that the vehicle does not offer all-wheel-drive, and is not something you’d willingly take very far off road. That said, the Rondo—which is based on the D segment Optima sedan platform—is available with three rows of seats (two rows are standard), and has an interior at least as reconfigurable as its direct competitors (Chevy HHR, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Mazda5, etc.).
A crossover in America, the Rondo is called the Kia Carens in Europe.
“We categorize it this way because of its utility,” says Steve Kosowski, manager, Long Range Strategy and Planning, Kia Motors America (Irvine, CA). But the Rondo isn’t just a tall station wagon built on a stretched Optima floorpan. “Rondo shares some stampings and several suspension, steering and brake components, but it is unique from the rear floor area back,” says Kosowski. That’s because, unlike the Optima, the Rondo platform has to make room for a fold-flat third row seat, and boasts a multi-link rear suspension design that places as many of its components as possible within the rear wheel.
Only the damper, spring, and lower control arms are located inboard of this zone. The front suspension, like the Optima’s, is highlighted by a pair of MacPherson struts attached to a hydroformed subframe. To keep noise, vibration, and harshness levels low, the Rondo uses thicker-gauge steel in strategic areas, and has a “double-curved” floorpan that deflects sounds away from the passenger compartment.
The Rondo comes with a choice of two engines: a 162-hp, 164 lb-ft 2.4-liter inline four or a 182-hp, 187 lb-ft 2.7-liter V6. Both engines have aluminum blocks and heads, dual overhead cams, and variable valve timing, though the four gets a four-speed and the six is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. There are only two trim levels—LX or EX—and a choice of seats for five or seven. The four-cylinder LX with air conditioning starts at $17, 895, while the EX V6 starts at $20,195. Kia expects most buyers to opt for the LX and four cylinder engine.—CAS