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The world of SUVs seems to have no limit to how many different classes it can have. There are subcompact SUVs that come in varying sizes, compact SUVs, midsize two-row SUVs, midsize three-row SUVs

, full-size three-row SUVs, and the list goes on.

However, for minivans, there only seems to be room for one size. The four minivans on the market today are all almost identical in size. If there’s a market for SUVs in any size in the U.S., and foreign markets have smaller vans with sliding doors and thee-row seating. So, why is there no room in the U.S. market for smaller minivans? 

Kia asked that question in the mid-2000s. The result was a Kia SUV called the Rondo.

The Kia Rondo boasted a third row that was too small for children

The Kia Rondo was an Americanized version of the Kia Carens. It was actually the second generation of the Carens, which originally came out in 1999, but not in the U.S. For our purposes, the second-gen Kia Carens is the only one that matters.

The Kia Rondo debuted at the 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show. This was in the era of the Mazda5, another minivan that was smaller than the segment average. The Rondo wasn’t quite a hatchback, wasn’t quite an SUV, and, frankly, wasn’t quite a minivan. It was so close to being a compact minivan, but it had hinged rear doors rather than sliding doors.

The Rondo came standard with two-row seating for five, but it was available with a tiny third row of seats, increasing its seating capacity to seven. Called the Rondo7, the three-row Rondo had way-back seats that were tiny, even for children. There were also no LATCH anchors in the third row, which means you couldn’t use them for child car seats except for boosters that only require a regular seatbelt.

How long did the Kia Rondo last?

The Kia Rondo was a short-lived compact minivan. It came out in 2007, and 2010 was its final model year in the U.S. It lived on in foreign markets, and yes, it’s still available today. Today’s fourth-generation Kia Carens is essentially a stretched-out Kia Seltos, and it still seats up to seven.

The Rondo and the Mazda5 are the vehicles that signaled to manufacturers that Americans only want minivans in one size, and that’s whatever size you want to call the Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, and Toyota Sienna.

What is the most affordable way to seat 7 people today? 


The 2023 Kia Sorento Is the Best Cheapest New 3-Row SUV

The most affordable vehicle in the U.S. with three-row seating is the Volkswagen Tiguan. All FWD variants of the Tiguan have three-row seating for up to seven, and all AWD models have two-row seating. That means the most affordable three-row Tiguan starts at around $28,505.

Incidentally, a Kia SUV is one of the most affordable three-row vehicles in the U.S. The Kia Sorento is a midsize three-row SUV starting at $30,090. The Kia Carnival is the most affordable minivan (Kia calls it an MPV, but it’s a minivan) with a starting MSRP of $33,200.

So, even though the Rondo is long gone, Kia still offers multiple options for budget-friendly three-row seating.