COAL: 2009 Kia Rondo, Korean Renault (Or What Americans Don’t Want)

Rondo 1

In 2005, I was blessed to travel to Majorca, Spain with my father, my now ex-wife and my at the time two children, ages 5 and 3, to visit family friends who had invited us to stay with them at their rural farmhouse.  Given that we had luggage and car seats, my dad decided to rent a large vehicle, a Renault Espace, until our hosts said that you quite literally will not be able to navigate the roads and you’ll need to rent something smaller.  We rented a 2005 Renault Scenic 1.9 TDI and it was a tremendous car in every way, and I remember lamenting that we could not get such a well designed, and no-nonsense car in America.


The Renault was perfect for the task, which was to carry 5 Americans with luggage and car seats while navigating narrow roads.  The design included a sharply sloping hood and large windows for good visibility, wheels pushed toward the corners for maximum passenger comfort, and a multi-function back seat that was adjustable fore and aft to maximize both passenger and cargo space.  And because we were in Europe, it had a stick shift and a turbo diesel engine!

Majorca RoadsNarrow rural roads, lined by walls, and narrow town streets lined by houses in Alaro, Majorca

Well all trips come to an end, and soon we were on our way back to the States, and a few years later, to a divorce.  In 2010, I found myself a single dad of three children, ages 10, 8 and 4, and the owner of a 2007 VW Passat.  While the Passat had a huge back seat, and I loved to drive it, I had no legal seat for any friend of my kids, and the car seat was making the back seat a touch uncomfortable for my eight year old daughter stuck in the middle seat.  So I went looking for a car that would have three rows of seating and fit my needs.  My ultimate goal was to keep my payments of $284 a month the same, but quickly found that every three row car on the market was both big and expensive.


Then I mentioned this challenge to a Canadian buddy (most Americans had never heard of a Rondo) and he said what about a Rondo?  I said I love ’em, I think they’re attractive, but I need three rows.  He said they have three rows!  I said in that little package, no way!  So I decided to go check it out.

Sure enough, at the Kia dealer, I discovered one of the best designed cars I’d ever seen!  Not only did it have three rows, but at 5’10”, I could fit comfortably, if just, into the third row!  The second row moved about 8″ inches fore and aft, just like the Renault, and most of all the ride and engine felt like a european car!

RondoRenaultInteriorsSwitch the Renault to Round Gauges and You’d Think You’re in the Same Car!

The seating position was upright with a commanding view.  The steering was quick and precise.  The 2.4 liter 4-cylinder had 174 horsepower and jumped off the line.  The gauges were straightforward and the climate control system was the simple adjustable dials I like.  The only disappointment was that there was no availability for a stick shift, and further that the 4-cylinder only received a 4-speed auto.  The performance of the transmission, however, was exemplary!

Rondo 2

So it was time to make a deal.  I wanted a base model with the only option being the third row, but they didn’t have one.  The closest they had was a denim blue LX base + alloy wheels & heated seats.  After $2,000 off of sticker, I paid $18,400 for a brand new, seven passenger vehicle with a great warranty.  Even though it was November of 2009 when I bought it, I couldn’t buy a 2010 model but had to take a 2009, as the Rondo had been discontinued in the US due to lackluster sales and 2009 was the final model year.

Rondo 3

The Kia was a very reliable car over the years, and pretty fun to drive.  We used to joke as a family about its cute and fun to drive nature, and we called it the Rondooooooooo!  Even the horn sounded happy.  The only major weakness of the car was the gas mileage.  I tended to get only 18 mpg or 19 mpg out of the 2.4 liter 4-cylinder.

thule bag

Over time, our family started to grow.  First I was remarried, then we had our fourth child, and the addition of a Thule luggage bag for the roof couldn’t completely compensate for the growth.  About 3.5 years into owning the Rondo, we took a trip to Rhode Island, where we rented a minivan and the space in the minivan was just incredible.  Upon returning home to the Baltimore airport, all 6 of us piled into the Rondo, and put all our luggage on the roof, and the drive home was the first time I didn’t completely enjoy driving the Rondo.  We had all gained weight, and it was a windy day, and with the weight of the luggage on the roof, the Rondo just didn’t fell as safe and solid as it had in the past.  I knew then I wouldn’t have it for ever.

Speaking of cars Americans didn’t want…

About a year later, the Rondo needed some brake work, and so I popped over to Carmax to see what the Rondo was worth. Carmax put $8,000 on the car, and I only owed about $4,500.  I decided I wasn’t going to do much better than that, and since we were a two (2) tall-wagon, seven-passenger car family, our other car being a 2009 Cadillac SRX, I decided to stop going against the grain, and I traded the Rondo in on a 2014 Camry SE just like everybody else.