Kia's 2008 Rondo can best be classified as a crossover wagon since it looks like an SUV but is only offered in front-wheel drive, not all wheel or four wheel drive. Its primary appeal lies in its price and fuel economy.With a base price of $20,195 or $23,495 nicely equipped, the midsize Rondo gets an EPA rating of 18 city, 26 highway mpg. Not bad for a car this size with a third row seat (offering seating for seven) and powered by a 2.7L, 182-hp V6 engine.

Kia is manufacturing some dandy vehicles of late and their warranties are generous. The Rondo itself is sized between Kia's Spectra5 hatchback and their midsize Sorento, a true SUV. As such, Rondo has a car-like design and ride plus a spacious interior and flexible cargo/passenger accommodations. The latter is accomplished via a second row seat that slides fore and aft for either more passenger space or more cargo room when the third row is stowed. The front passenger seat-back can also be folded flat to allow hauling an eight foot step-ladder. However, cargo space measures a paltry 10 inches deep when the third row seats are up. This is sufficient for several grocery bags, but little else.

The interior is nicely decorated and comfy over the long haul. Step-in is an easy 15.5 inches. Elsewhere there's ample leg and headroom fore and aft and the rear doors open wide for easy ingress/egress.

Under hard acceleration, the V6 engine is a bit noisy. But at cruise it goes unnoticed. The five-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and smoothly.

Ride and handling are admirable. Rondo's suspension soaks up road imperfection nicely and mutes vibrations into the cockpit. Its turning radius is surprisingly tight for a midsize which makes parking a breeze. There is some body lean in sharp turns but nothing that is uncontrollable.

As for safety features, Rondo has earned a five star governmental safety rating for driver/passenger frontal crashes and another five for front seat side crashes. Rollover is rated at four stars.

Now that you know its price, the only options added were for leather seats ($1,000), a premium package ($1,200) that includes power sunroof and uplevel Infinity audio system, plus $500 for the third row seat.

As a commuter car, Rondo is an easy, enjoyable drive that can be pleasing at the pumps.

Although its main competition is Subaru's Outback, that car comes with all-wheel drive, a feature that would add even more appeal to the Rondo, but, the price would go up.

A lifelong resident of Lehigh County, Nick Hromiak has been writing about cars and trucks for 21 years. His love of has cars evolved into penning weekly automotive reviews. Hromiak was a long-time outdoor and automotive writer for The Free Press while under past owners. He is a member of International Motor Press Association and has been published in several national magazines and weekly newspapers.

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