New models - Kia - Rondo - 5-dr wagon range
First drive: Rondo 7 turns Kia value up to 11
All-new Rondo 7 people-mover is first step in stairway to new-model heaven for Kia
22 Apr 2008
By PHILIP LORD
WITH the launch of the Rondo 7 people-mover last week, Kia Motors Australia (KMA) has commenced a wave of new-model releases that will culminate in five all-new passenger vehicles launched here in an 18-month period.
The UN-series Rondo 7 is a small, competitively priced people-mover with seven seats and stability control fitted standard - priced from less than $25,000.
The concept of a seven-seat, four-cylinder front-wheel drive compact people-mover is not totally new, or for that matter, one that has proven especially successful in the past.
The Holden Zafira and Mazda Premacy were two such cars that failed to ignite much interest, and Kia’s last four-cylinder people-mover, the six-seat Carens, peaked in 2001 with just 698 sales before being dropped.
However, KMA chief operating officer Peter Nochar told GoAuto last week that those previous attempts were premature, arguing that the current cost of fuel and home ownership will make more buyers take to the compact people-mover idea far more readily than in the past.
The Rondo 7 is also significantly cheaper than previous attempts – at $24,990 it becomes the cheapest MPV in Australia.
KMA has already begun to re-establish itself with its passenger car sales up 10 per cent year-to-date over 2007, with the company already quoted as saying it wants to reach a 31 per cent increase by year’s end.
This strong re-building of sales comes with the backdrop of a significant blow to overall sales in 2006, when Kia lost 4523 sales over 2005.
This was just as the Korean company decided to represent itself in Australia, taking over from importer Ateco on March 1, 2006.
However, as Mr Nochar pointed out, this was also the period when its top-selling vehicle, the Kia Pregio, was dropped from the range with no replacement forthcoming.
He added that it had been impossible, with the existing passenger car range, to restore sales numbers lost from the Pregio, which peaked at 4501 units in its last full year of sales (2005).
Kia now hopes the Rondo 7 will change that situation. Mr Nochar said that he has hopes that Kia’s conservative sales estimate of 150 Rondo 7s a month may build to double that amount.
He said there were no production constraints, and that it was simply a matter of “turning the knob” to increase production for Australia if demand warrants it.
Kia has already proven itself in the large people-mover market, given its Carnival leads the segment, currently with 30.4 per cent of year-to-date sales to the end of March.
The people-movers Kia sees as the most logical competition for the Rondo 7 include the Volkswagen Caddy Life, the Skoda Roomster and Toyota Avensis.
The Caddy is the closest in price and seating capacity at $28,990 (the Roomster is a five-seater only while the Avensis is around $10,000 more expensive than Rondo 7) but its commercial origins are very clear.
The Rondo 7 was designed specifically as a people-mover application.
The Rondo is available as a five-seater in other markets but is sold in Australia as a seven-seater only, and wears a name unique to the Australian market. Other markets use the name Rondo (except the UK, which calls it Carens).
The Rondo 7’s platform is essentially Magentis, with stampings, suspension, steering and brake components derived from the Kia sedan. The Rondo 7’s point of difference underneath is a unique floor at the tail-end.
The new Rondo 7 is fitted with a 2.0-litre ‘Theta’ four-cylinder petrol engine, which is derived from the 2.4-litre Kia Magentis powerplant.
The 2.0-litre is matched to a five-speed manual (in LX trim) or an optional manual-mode four-speed automatic (which is standard in EX and EX-L)The 2.0-litre develops 106kW of power at 6000rpm and 189Nm of torque at 4250rpm, and features continuously variable valve timing.
Combined cycle fuel consumption is quoted as 8.4L/100km for the manual and 8.6L/100km for the automatic.
Significantly, the Rondo 7 is not available with cruise control (it was not engineered for it), but KMA has requested that it be set-up for the 2.0-litre and expects to have it available before the end of the year.
The Rondo 7 is available with a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel in other markets (the same unit used in the Sportage) but this engine will not be available here until around April 2009.
While Kia could have launched with the diesel, it believes the petrol engine will be the mainstay of the Rondo 7 range.
The suspension is all-independent coil springs, with MacPherson struts at the front and multi-links at the rear.
The rear dampers are stroke-dependent, which means they are designed to avoid large suspension reactions to large bumps. The Australian-specification Rondo 7 uses a European suspension tune.
The entry-level model is the LX, which has 15-inch steel wheels (with Hankook Optimo 205/65 R15 tyres), driver’s seat height adjustment, a tilt-adjustable steering column, remote central locking with immobiliser and alarm, auto-on headlights, air-conditioning (with second row vents), CD player (with auxiliary input), heated electric door mirrors, power windows, dual front airbags, cloth interior, ABS brakes (with EBD), traction control and ESC.
From June production side curtain airbags will be available as a $1000 option on LX.
The EX model is fitted standard with a four-speed automatic, 17-inch alloy wheels (with 225/50 R17 Dunlop SP Sport tyres), front foglights, leather-clad steering wheel/gearshift, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, roof-rails with crossbars, exterior chrome highlights (grille, side mouldings and doorhandles) and upgraded interior cloth trim.
The EX Limited adds a tilt/slide sunroof, leather seats, front side airbags, full-length curtain airbags and climate-control air-conditioning.
The Rondo 7 also features Kia’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
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