In a eulogy made by well preserved pop icon Cher at her ex-husband Sonny Bono’s funeral back in 1998, the chanteuse behind hits like “I Got You Babe” had this to say, “When I was young there was this section in The Reader’s Digest and it was called ‘The Most Memorable Person I Have Ever Met.’ And for me that person is Sonny Bono. And no matter how long I live or how many people I meet the person will always be Sonny for me.”
Besides being one of the most touching and seemingly candid sentiments ever expressed by a famous person, this comment also makes a person wonder what in life they will find memorable. Beyond even friendships and great loves, what experiences have you had that you are sure will never leave you? To put it in final terms, what are the visions that are going to flash before your eyes when your time is up?
We all hope that at the end of our lives we will feel contented and be blessed with sights both beautiful and pleasant. But let’s be real here. Which vision is usually more memorable? A thousand butterflies fluttering across a meadow or the horrific carnage witnessed as you slowly drove past a car accident? You can lie to yourself and claim the butterflies were more memorable but human nature dictates that the more disturbing the image the more likely you will remember it.
In this mindset, allow me to introduce to you the most disturbing (yet undeniably practical) automotive design since the AMC Pacer menaced local freeways and city streets in the 1970’s. Feast your eyes ladies and gentlemen on the 2009 Kia Rondo-a vehicle with such an acutely atrocious hunchback that it makes you wonder how this tiny little Korean runabout manages the feat of being the least expensive 7 seat vehicle for sale today.
There is also one other thing that can be said about the Rondo that could also have been said about the Pacer. Despite the fact that it appears to have hit every branch of the proverbial ugly tree on its way down, the Rondo has a brilliantly packaged interior. This was also true of the Pacer, being that it had one of the largest interiors for its size (at the time) and a passenger door made longer than the driver’s as to ease entry into the rear seats. It might sound like a dumb idea but it actually made the Pacer surprisingly easy to get in and out of.
Even though there weren’t many Pacers left after the 1980’s came to an end (Pacer manufacturing ended in 1980), it appears that most of them had caught fire either due to engines that were notoriously prone to overheating or due to another far more disturbing reason. Rumor has it that thousands of ex-Pacer owners cruelly doused their malformed steeds with gasoline and then lit them afire with matches due to an acute case of Pacer-itis. This mental condition stems from individuals feeling intense embarrassment from having purchased a lame car. Currently this condition also affects owners of the Hummer H1, the Chrysler PT Cruiser or anything ever bearing a Pontiac logo. (This is not an actual psychological condition so please do not attempt to find it in your DSM IV Mental Condition Guidebook.)
While Kia makes a wide array of worthy yet generally dull automobiles (barring the stylish new Soul and Forte coupe), the Rondo really seemed like a truly leftfield entry into the nebulous world of “crossovers” when it was introduced in 2007. If you look at the vehicle long enough from most any angle it becomes less of an oddball automotive styling exercise and seemingly more like the result of a contest where the goal was to create a vehicle that resembled a Halloween pumpkin. It is truly a shame that the Rondo has never been sold in the color orange. Sales would no doubt have boomed during the month of October. Or maybe not.
Beyond the appearance of the Rondo there is actually a lot to recommend about this vehicle. As I mentioned earlier it seats seven (although the third row is best left to kids) and has an interior made of materials that appear sturdy enough to withstand years of abuse. It also features a dashboard designed to such a high ergonomic standard that most every control is reachable in a manner that almost feels telepathic. The outside of this “crossover” wagon may make it look like it rose out of a swamp somewhere but on the inside the Kia Rondo is as comfortable as your favorite squishy armchair.
The Rondo is also highly economical (20 mpg city/28 highway) and cheap to buy especially when compared to most other crossovers like the Honda CR-V. A fully loaded V6 powered Rondo EX with a leather interior barely tops the $20,000 mark. And that is before you take into account special Kia deals like the current $4,000 off new 2008 models. (Apparently Kia dealers still have a lot of 2008 Rondos on their lots. Hmmm. What a shocker!)
But to be honest, do you really need your Rondo to have leather, V6 and a navigation system? Most people would be best served by the frugal (and nearly as powerful) 4 cylinder LX model for a few thousand less. If you can live with the frog-like styling, this little croaking Kia could serve you well for over a decade asking very little of your wallet. (Thanks to Kia’s 10 year/100,000 mile warranty, of course.)
Further screaming deals are available on used versions of this endearing little monster. With very little effort you can find a low mileage 2007 Rondo for a lot less than $10,000. Do keep in mind, though, that whenever you buy a used Kia or Hyundai the warranty goes from 10 years down to 5 years/60,000 miles. That is part of the reason why used Korean cars can be purchased so cheaply. But even without a warranty most every Kia product nowadays rarely suffers from sort of serious mechanical trouble.
No matter what you think of the 2009 Kia Rondo once you lay eyes on it one thing is for sure-this undeniably hideous vehicle will no doubt stick in your memory just like other memorably ugly vehicles from the past. Be it an AMC Pacer, Ford Pinto or the lizard-like AMC Gremlin, no one will ever forget what these cars look like. And isn’t it better to be memorable than to be pretty?
So if one day Cher leaves her Malibu mansion and comes across a 2009 Kia Rondo in the parking lot of her plastic surgeon, what do you imagine will be her reaction? I think after that there just might be a little competition in her mind between Sonny Bono and the Rondo as to which is, in fact, the most memorable.