Until now, the Mazda 5 has had the compact minivan segment all to itself. Granted, it has always been a piece of the market that's been like mayonnaise on french fries--loved by Europeans but laughed at by most Americans. With gasoline prices so unpredictable, however, this gamble may pay off, and getting into a new segment early is a surprising change from the derivative, predictable products that make up the rest of Kia's lineup. We're all for it. While the Mazda 5 is offered exclusively with six seats, the Rondo is available with seating for either five or seven passengers. Either seating configuration is a worthy alternative, because the Rondo is both affordably priced and cheap at the gas pump. Efficient--but hardly speedy--propulsion comes from either a four-cylinder or a V-6, bolted to your choice of a four- or five-speed automatic transmission. As with other Kia sport-utility vehicles and crossovers, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, and six air bags are standard.
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