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2012 Kia Rondo (Kia)
2012 Kia Rondo (Kia)

Best of the Lot

What’s the best vehicle for seven - that’s not a minivan? Add to ...

Hi, Michael and Jeremy: We are a family of four who wants a vehicle with the option of seven seats but not a minivan or SUV. When we were in Europe this past summer, we rented a Renault Scenic (I think it was the Scenic), which was perfect but, of course, we can’t get that here. So far, we have looked into the Mazda5, Chevy Orlando and Kia Rondo. Of those, which would you say is the best choice? One restriction: the vehicle cannot be much wider than our current Honda CR-V, or it won’t fit down our driveway. – Helen, Paul, Emma and Jack in Hamilton, Ont.

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Vaughan: Quick Cato, you’re the know-it-all. How wide is a Honda CR-V?

Cato: Not as wide as a Dodge Grand Caravan, by some 180 mm or about seven inches. Too bad, because Chrysler Canada is giving away minivans – $8,000 in discounts on a well-equipped $28,000 van.

Vaughan: You’re a genius, Cato.

Cato: No news there, though in this case I had help from my Autodata research tool. If you weren’t consumed with extreme lassitude, you’d be able to dig out these numbers on the World Wide Web.

Vaughan: Now H,P,E and J are looking in the right area if they liked the Renault; yes, it is the Scenic.

The Mazda5 is the closest thing I can think of, except the 5 has sliding side doors. Isn’t that the very definition of a minivan? They’re all about not having a minivan or SUV, correct?

But so what? This Mazda is smaller and looks more like a hatchback than a big minivan, but a Ferrari it ain’t. Performance borders on the pathetic as a little four-banger is all that’s offered. While it’s good on fuel economy, it is less than thrilling to drive. And seven passengers? As I recall, the Mazda5 does six – three rows of two.

2012 Mazda5
 

Cato: Nice of you to pause for a breath.

Mazda5? Six seats, yes, though the last two are tiny. Right size? This one’s narrower than the CR-V. Power? Well, 157 horsepower isn’t great, but what the 5 lacks in oomph, it makes up for in handling – which is far better than the Rondo or the Orlando.

And let me just say one more thing: When last I checked, a $21,950 Mazda5 was being pushed with $4,000 in factory-to-dealer incentives. That’s a steal, but you gotta find a 2012. Chevy doesn’t have anything close to that kind of money on an Orlando.

2012 Chevrolet Orlando
 

Vaughan: I don’t know, Cato. General Motors, for the most part, is now making the best cars in its history, in my humble opinion. The Orlando is the exception.

This made-in-Korea cheapo just doesn’t measure up to the latest Detroit- and Oshawa-built stuff. I was so unimpressed with the test drive, I actually told Dan Akerson – GM’s CEO – that this vehicle wasn’t good enough to carry a GM badge. Rather than make a spirited defence, he seemed not to remember the Orlando.

Cato: I had exactly the same experience with GM Canada’s big boss, Kevin Williams. He looked downright stunned when I told him the Orlando isn’t competitive, not at a base price of $19,995 with almost nothing out there in discounts. The cabin ergonomics are off, the seats are soft, the handling is lumpy…

Vaughan: We get the idea, Cato.

To the Rondo. The Kia version of the fourth-generation Hyundai Tuscon/Rondo was on display at the 2012 Paris auto show. I had a long chat with Kia’s chief designer, the charming Peter Schreyer, who does a better job designing cars than talking about them. He’s far too modest. I’m sure he’s rather be left alone to work on his paintings than try to make small talk with a bunch of journos. However, he has transformed the look of Kia’s vehicles and has done a nice job on the Rondo.

They’ll be having a fit at Kia Canada as they read this because you must never, never let on that Kias and Hyundais come off the same architecture, with the same engines and the same transmissions.

Cato: Yes, but the Rondo here is not the next one, but the current one in dealer showroom. This is as homely a wagon as I’ve ever seen. Schreyer had nothing to do with it. But it is the right size and wonderfully functional.

Now here is the good and bad news. The bad news is that to get the seven-seater, our shoppers will need to buy the $25,095 version. The good news is that Kia has been sweetening 2012 Rondos with $5,500 in factory discounts to the dealer.

Vaughan, take note: while you were dropping the names of CEOs and head designers, I was delivering useful facts.

Vaughan: Actually, I’ve dropped three big names, including the great Jeremy Cato.

Now as for the cars – flip a coin. Mazda5 or Rondo – both are terrific. Orlando? Well, like Akerson, I’m trying to forget it.

*****

HOW THEY COMPARE

 

2012 Mazda5 GS

2012 Chevrolet Orlando 1LT

2012 Kia Rondo EX-Premium 7-Seater

Wheelbase (mm)

2,7502,7602,700

Length (mm)

4,5854,6654,545

Width (mm)

1,7501,8351,820

Track, front (mm)

1,6151,6351,650

Engine

2.5-litre four-cylinder2.4-litre four-cylinder1.6-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged

Output (horsepower/torque)

157/163 lb-ft174/171 lb-ft175/169 lb-ft

Drive system

Front-wheel driveFront-wheel driveFront-wheel drive

Transmission

Six-speed manualSix-speed manualFour-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

1,5511,6161,596

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

9.7 city/6.8 highway10.1 city/6.7 highway10.6 city/7.5 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$21,950$22,295$25,095

Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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