Kia Rondo EX Review

Three rows of seats. It's virtually a condition of purchase for SUV buyers these days...prompting a lot of manufacturers to shoehorn a third row into vehicles that really shouldn't have one.

The Kia Rondo is a small vehicle...one that makes a lot of sense in a time of uncertain gas prices and other economic issues. With a base price of $20,195 for the uplevel EX trim, an EPA estimated 18 miles per gallon city and 26 highway and five-star driver and passenger frontal crash test ratings (as well as five stars for front seat side crash and four stars for rear seat side crash and rollover), the Rondo jumps right onto the list of intelligent choices for people looking for the alternative to SUVs, crossovers and minivans.

All but for that third seat. Points go to Kia for making it an option ($500). Yes, two people can fit back there...and kids probably won't find it uncomfortable...but the seatbacks are just too close to the tailgate for my comfort.

Past that, the Rondo beats expectations at every turn. It's quicker, quieter and nicer than you'd expect from a vehicle at this size and price point. The tester had the $1,000 Leather Package, which includes heated front seats, and the $1,200 Premium Package (a power sunroof and an Infinity AM/FM/CD Changer audio system). That, the third row seat and destination charges brought the bottom line to $23,495. Leaving off the third row gets you under 23 grand. This could be a very smart move for a lot of small families.

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