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Paris show: Kia set to add diesel to new Rondo

That’s better: Kia’s third-generation Rondo is likely to get a choice of petrol and diesel power when it arrives in Australia in the second quarter of 2013.

New diesel engine on the cards for fresh Rondo as Kia looks to broaden its appeal


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27 Sep 2012


KIA’S all-new Rondo compact people-mover is set to gain diesel power alongside a new four-cylinder petrol engine as the South Korean company looks to reverse the fortunes of the ugly duckling of the Kia range in Australia.

Revealed in the flesh today at the Paris motor show where it carries Carens badges for the European market, the third-generation Rondo is a ground-up rebuild for the seven-seat wagon that is now loosely based on the same platform that underpins the upcoming new Kia Cerato small car and Hyundai’s latest i30 hatch.

For Australia, where the new version of Australia’s most affordable people-mover will land in showrooms about April, the Rondo will get a fresh and more energetic 130kW 2.0-litre direct-injected petrol engine in place of the current 106kW unit of the same size.

Kia Australia also has its eyes on the more powerful of two 1.7-litre diesel engines offered in Europe – a torquey new-generation 100kW four-cylinder from Hyundai-Kia’s new U2 engine family.

Although this engine has not yet been formally confirmed for our market, Kia Australia’s product planners consider its 330Nm of torque an asset in a family wagon that will haul up to seven people and their luggage.

Kia Australia national public relations manager Kevin Hepworth confirmed at the Paris show that the diesel variant was on the Australian importer’s wish list.

Once again, the front-wheel-drive Rondo – sometimes called Rondo 7 in the current model – will be offered only with seven seats spread over three rows (a five-seater will be offered elsewhere).

It is expected to continue its mantle as Australia’s most affordable seven-seat people-mover (the current range starts at $25,990).

With fresh contemporary styling that brings it into line with other new-generation Kia models such as the Rio and Optima, Kia has much higher hopes for for the new Rondo at the box office.

Says Mr Hepworth: “Kia sells one in three people-movers in Australia with the Grand Carnival, but Rondo has been a bit of a struggle.

“We are hoping that with the new ground-up design and new powertrains, the Rondo will lift its game as well.”

The Grand Carnival has accumulated 2369 sales this year, while the Rondo found just 218 new-car buyers.

Mr Hepworth said diesel power would be an asset to Rondo, with Australian families voting with their wallets for the efficient and powerful new-generation diesel engines that can haul large loads without hurting so much at the bowser.

Even though the Grand Carnival is now the oldest vehicle in the range, the large people-mover outsells the current Rondo by about 10 to one.

Surprisingly for a vehicle that was particularly tight for passengers in the third row seat in the current generation, the new 4.5-metre-long Rondo is smaller in most external dimensions to the outgoing model, at 20mm shorter, 15mm narrower and 40mm lower.

However, Kia says cabin space is actually more generous, thanks to a 50mm longer wheelbase and cab-forward front design.

The seating is more flexible than before, with a fold-down front passenger seat to accommodate long loads, a second row seat that splits and folds 33:33:33 and a third row that splits 50:50 and folds into the floor to provide 492 litres of luggage space in five-seat mode (just 103 litres with the third row up).

The new Rondo gets a plethora of storage compartments scattered around the cabin to help make up for the lack of luggage space behind the third row, with under-seat storage boxes and a deep centre console cubby.

New chassis subframes help to more firmly locate the front MacPherson strut suspension and rear torsion-beam axle, both of which will be tuned for the local market by Kia Australia’s own development team.

Like most new Kias, the Rondo gets electric-assisted power steering that this time will come with Kia’s FlexSteer system that adjusts steering weight at the push of a button in three modes – normal, sport and comfort.

Disc brakes are 300mm on the front and 284mm on the rear, and wheels start at 16-inch and range up to 18 inch. Although steel wheels are standard on the base model in Europe, expect alloys in Australia where the current range comes in two specification levels – Si and Sli.

Kia is expecting the Rondo to get five-stars in the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) safety rating tests, with Rondo not only offering much more effective occupant protection via a high-strength body design but also new safety equipment such as lane departure warning, reversing camera and automated parking.

The new petrol engine is part of the Nu family from Hyundai-Kia, achieving peak power of 130kW at 6300rpm and maximum torque of 211Nm at a high 4850rpm.

This represents a gain of 24kW and 22Nm over the current engine.

The diesel being considered for Australia reaches its peak power of 100kW at 4000rpm and 330Nm of torque at 1900-2750rpm.

In Europe, these engines are both mated with a choice of six-speed manual and six-speed automatic – a big improvement over the current model’s five-speed manual and four-speed auto transmissions.

The petrol Rondo is said to accelerate from zero to 100k/h in 9.7 seconds and top 200km/h.

For some reason, Kia has held back on fuel-consumption figures for the engines, although it gives carbon-dioxide emissions figures for manual-equipped models – 126 grams per kilometre for the diesel and 167g/km for the petrol.

This is a hefty improvement over the current petrol model’s 206g/km, pointing to a thriftier ownership experience.

Design-wise, Rondo’s new look crafted in Germany by Kia stylists under the direction the renowned Peter Schreyer, fits like a glove in the new Kia range, with the familiar “tiger’s nose” grille up front.

LED daytime running lights are standard, along with electric handbrake, keyless start, six-speaker audio system, cruise control and puddle lights in the exterior front door handles.

An optional panoramic powered sunroof will be offered in Europe, but Australian buyers will have to wait until the launch next year to see if that feature makes it Down Under.

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