The Kia Citra II Rondo feels like an MPV but is a nifty vehicle around town and country.
IT might just be us, but whenever we have a car to test drive, Anthony (a co-test driver and my other half) and I will inevitably ask this question: “So, where shall we go?”
We had a Kia Citra II Rondo at hand and we were deliberating where to take it for a day out. We considered that being at the height of the monsoon, we shouldn’t drive too far away for fear of traffic jams during heavy rain, floods, or, worse, landslides. So Fraser’s Hill and Bukit Tinggi, where we have taken cars out on a few occasions, were out of the question, as were Port Dickson and Malacca.
So where did we go? Well, it was not the right season (the river could be at flood water level), and not even the right time (daytime), but we headed for Kuala Selangor where I hoped to check out the famed firefly sites at either Kampung Kuantan or Kampung Bukit Belimbing.
The route we took offered a good combination of highway as well as winding trunk and feeder roads, and traversed urban landscape and gently rolling scenic countryside.
efore this, we had taken the Rondo out and about on normal routines and found it to be a nifty mover in the urban jungle. We were doing this outing just to check out how it would handle on longer trips.
Built on the same platform as the Kia Optima executive sedan, the Rondo shares the latter’s engine, transmission and chassis components, plus the electronically-controlled Sportmatic™ transmission. Its four-cylinder 2.0-litre DOHC CVVT engine delivers 145 horsepower and 189 Newton-metres of torque.
It is front-wheel drive with power steering, standard front and rear anti-roll bars, and independent rear and front suspension (comprising McPherson struts at the front and multi-link and coil springs at the rear).
The first thing that struck us about the Rondo was the amount of space available inside, although it looked quite compact when seen from outside. It sits relatively higher and feels neither like a car nor a sport utility vehicle. Naza Kia calls it a CUV (crossover utility vehicle), but it felt more like an MPV, and you will feel this as soon as you get in it.
The Rondo has got good headroom and the rear seats can be folded flat easily (we did have quite a struggle to get this done, but I guess practice will make perfect) to provide ample storage space. The second row seats can also fold right down, giving the same amount of space as a panel van of the same size. However, legroom is reduced down the line and there will be no boot space if all the three rows of seats are used.
“This would make a great vehicle for my fishing trips,” opined the hubby who had already spotted the roof rack. “Of course, I would only be able to take four passengers as I would need the rear two seats for the bags and ice box.”
The Rondo is available in two variants, the standard EX and the upgraded EXS. Features of the EX include body-coloured door handles, body-coloured side mouldings and black front grille crossbars packaged with 15-inch alloy wheels fitted with Goodyear Eagle NCT5 tyres, power windows and door locks. The EXS, which was our test drive vehicle, features, among others, a climate controlled-air conditioning system, an adjustable roof rack, steering-wheel audio control, 16-inch alloy wheels and Goodyear Eagle NCT5 tyres.
Switches/controls for lights, wipers, tuner/CD and so on are all within easy reach, plus there’s a Trip Computer that offers information on fuel consumption, distance to empty, average speed and running time.
Lest I forget, there is also an abundance of handy storage cubbies for sunglasses, mobile phones, CDs etc, and multiple cup holders are located in every row.
Chew Boon Loong, our motoring enthusiast friend, did give it a once-over and commented that it could do with a USB-drive and that the dashboard looked a tad plasticky. Trust him to point out details like these!
Safetywise, the Rondo claims a five-star frontal crash rating from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the United States and has two air-bags up front, four-channel four wheel anti-lock braking system with electronic brake force distribution, an energy-absorbing steering wheel and side impact door beams.
All in, it was a nice vehicle to drive, responded well in all situations and had reasonable power.
It was nimble and zippy off the mark, with the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering giving good feedback. We did not test if fully loaded but it had no problems on the hills and handled very much like a saloon car on the flat.
On town driving, we averaged about 10.5km to the litre, but that was pushing it. We think that on a steady, long distance cruise, one can up this a couple of kilometres per litre.
It is a good vehicle for running around town and, bearing in mind that passengers at the back must be belted down these days, will be a handy second car for those times when you need to take the extended family for an outing. If for the latter alone, it’s great value for money, with on-the-road price for the EX at RM84,888 and EXS at RM88,888 (both private registration).
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