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Choosing the right vehicle to suit your growing family's needs is always difficult, particularly because the car that makes the most sense is the one you least want to drive. Once, family choices were limited to a sedan and wagon, mostly of the big Holden, Ford variety, but today there's a myriad choices that can have you scratching your head trying to decide.
Most families today opt for a big four-wheel drive wagon or an SUV, but they really aren't the best bet for a family that extends beyond mum, dad and a couple of kids.
Kia claimed the Rondo was unique in the market, a new concept it trumpeted, but was it really so new? Not really, Holden beat it to the punch some years ago with the Zafira and if you looked a little further into the past you'd find the Daihatsu Pyzar. Like the Zafira the Rondo was based on a medium-sized passenger car platform, in Kia's case the Magentis.
It was a four-door wagon with seven seats that came in three models, the base LX, the EX and range-topping EX-L.
In the middle of the range the EX also had steering wheel-mounted audio controls, roof rails, fog lamps, 17-inch alloys, upgraded cloth seats and a four-speed automatic was standard. Although the Rondo was sold as a people-mover it wasn't a huge mothership like some peoplemovers, it was little longer than a regular hatchback, which made it easier to handle in the rough and tumble of the school run.
Despite its compact dimensions it was deceptively large inside, with the second and third rows of seats able to be slid back and forth to accommodate all passengers relatively comfortably. The only downside is that once all passengers are in and comfortable there isn't much room left to carry anything behind the third seat.
Rondo shared its engines and gearboxes with the Magentis, and the extra kaygees of a full load tends to dull the performance of the 2.0-  litre four-cylinder engine under the bonnet, and the four-speed auto, the choice of most Rondo owners, was also a limitation. Like Hyundai before it Kia was once looked upon as a cheap-and-cheerful model from Korea and not to be taken too seriously by all but the cash-strapped among us.
Kia has got its act together and its cars are no longer derided for being unreliable and lacking in durability. Rondo scrubs up quite well on the safety front, with four ticks from ANCAP, based on front airbags across all models, and side airbags on the EX and EX-L.
Compact, affordable, reliable, roomy with good fuel economy, but lacks zip when loaded to the gunnels. Even a name change from the Magna wasn’t enough; that should have happened many years ago when the name was tarnished by the auto trans fiasco way back in the 1980s. There are plenty of sound reasons for buying the last of the long line of Australian-made Mitsubishis, none more so than its price, which is already showing signs of plummeting.
The vultures were already circling the barely breathing body of the Tonsley assembly plant in Adelaide long before the 380 starting rolling off the production line.
Magna sales had slowed to an unsustainable level and there was no sign buyers had any intention of returning to the fold. There wasn’t much wrong with the idea of building another car along the lines of the Magna, but it had to be given a new name. But the 380 story didn’t end with the halting of production because there will be new cars in the market for many months, and used cars will be bought and sold for many years ahead as owners argue its merits. In its favour it was larger than the Magna and had the room for a family with good front and rear head and legroom.
Under the bonnet was a 3.8-litre single overhead camshaft V6 that delivered smooth steady power as the revs climbed.
The suspension was MacPherson Strut at the front with a stabiliser bar, and independent multi-link at the rear.
In many ways it’s a great time to go shopping for a 380 as the market watches and waits for the reaction to the closure of the Tonsley plant. Pay $14,000-$16,000 for the 380 sedan of 2005-2006; add $1500 for the LS of the same years, and $3000 for the LX. The 380 is still very much in its youth so there isn’t a lot to report, but going by the record of recent Magnas it’s fair to say the new car will be pretty reliable. Make the usual checks for minor bumps and scrapes on the body and thoroughly check for serious body damage that might have been caused by a crash. The 3.8-litre V6 has plenty of punch and will do the job for many years to come without any dramas. With a six-year warranty Mitsubishi provided plenty of cover for 380 owners, and that’s still in play with the oldest 380 still only three years old. The 380 had a solid array of safety features with dual front airbags, side airbags, and seat belt pretensioners, which all helped in a crash. Kelvin Tennant bought his 380 GT shortly after the 2005 release and he rates it by far the best car he’s ever owned.
Nick Renwick and his dad both have Mitsubishi 380s and they reckon they are the perfect cars.

Geoff Burton owns a 2005 380LX with 38,000 km on the clock, and says it is a magnificent vehicle, better than the Fairlane and Statesman he has previously owned. THE BOTTOM LINE With a six-year warranty and sliding prices the well-built and equipped 380 is a potential bargain used car buy. Mazda MX-5 totally changed the thinking in the automotive world when it was introduced to a surprised world in 1989. Even then there's a range of makes and models to choose from and you have to decide if a big model, like the Kia Grand Carnival, is needed or if you can get away with a compact model, such as the Kia Rondo. The LX came with a five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic if you were prepared to part with an extra $2000. The range-topping EX-L boasted a sunroof, leather trim, and climate control air-conditioning. That's changed, and how, with the new Rio recently voted Carsguide Car of the Year, and deservedly so. Carsguide gets very few complaints about the Rondo, which suggests there's little to be concerned about when shopping for a used example. To cash in the warranty the vehicle must have been serviced by the book, so it's important to make sure the required servicing has been done.
There’s no escaping the fact that it was the last car the company produced in Australia so in that sense it’s a rap it has to wear, but there’s more to the Mitsubishi story than one last model, and in that sense it’s a bum rap. It’s not a bad car by any measure, far from it, but it was probably too late and too little.
But just because the 380 is out of production shouldn’t suggest that it be removed from your shopping list, either as a new car buy or as a used car. It was clear something radical had to be done if there was to be any chance of keeping Tonsley going. There was nothing spectacularly wrong with the Magna, it was soundly engineered, performed well, was well built and reliable, but the name had become synonymous with the cardigan set and nothing was going to shake that perception.
The 380 was the name chosen, and the car hit Mitsubishi showrooms with an optimistic fanfare in 2005, as Mitsubishi’s management team watched and waited for the reaction of car buyers. There wasn’t a surge in sales and prices started to drop in an effort to spark showroom traffic. At its peak it would deliver 175 kW and 340 Nm into either a five-speed manual gearbox or, more likely a five-speed auto, with the auto boasting a manual shift option. Four-wheel disc brakes, assisted by ABS anti-skid and traction control electronics helped keep it on the black top. Will 380 prices freefall as owners dump them in an attempt to avoid a massive hit, or will they stand up and hold their prices against popular opinion?
The engine, gearboxes and driveline are all well proven and have given little drama in the past.
The interior trim of Magnas generally stood up well over time and there’s no reason to think the 380 will be any worse.
Because it’s awkward to get to the three spark plugs at the rear of the engine those cylinders have expensive platinum plugs that require replacing at 90,000 km and some owners get a surprise when they receive the bill from their mechanic.
It also had an agile, responsive chassis with good steering, powerful disc brakes all round with anti-skid and traction control electronics to empower the driver with the capability to dodge a crash.
Right from the very first time he drove a 380 he was impressed with the feeling of stability that the car imparts to a driver.
It is a very comfortable car, and is quite good on fuel, handles well and has responsive performance.
Prior to that most car makers felt that ever stricter safety regulations meant it was all but impossible to make a car safe unless it had a roof. Also check for the usual signs of dodgy crash repairs, mismatching paint, drooping doors, wobbly panel gaps. By the time it hit the road in 2005 the Mitsubishi name was already on the nose with buyers and there was little the 380 could do to rescue the situation. From then it was really only a matter of time before Mitsubishi’s Japanese bosses ran out of patience and hit the big red button on the production line.
It had a clear family connection to the Magna, which mustn’t have helped, and it really did disappear into the background on the road. But it was well put together and the cheap-look of the plastics could have been corrected with a more subtle texture without too much trouble.
Finally in 2007 the company unveiled the Series III, which was destined to be the last act in the company’s local manufacturing play.
The likelihood is that there will be some serious bargains out there with used car prices likely to take a significant tumble.

Plenty of 380s went into fleet use so be cautious when buying cars that have been driven by people who don’t care much about their ride. The plugs in the three cylinders at the front of the engine are regular plugs that aren’t as expensive, but require replacement more often. The build quality is much better than both the VE Commodore and the BF Falcon, they say, and they are so smooth, quiet and comfortable, yet incredibly sporty to drive. If it had any faults they would be a lack of mudflaps, a blind spot on the rear passenger side when reversing and no grab handle for the front seat passenger.
An approved aftermarket LPG injection kit for the 380 costs around $4200, so given the government rebate of $2000 the extra $2200 the owner needs to cover can be recovered in around 18 months by an average motorist. On the road it’s quiet, the engine oozes power and the transmission is smooth and shifts seamlessly. Its great road grip, near-neutral balance and pin-sharp steering provide exactly the type of car that appeals to keen drivers. Kelvin also uses it to tow a pop-top caravan and says it makes light work of it even on steep hills. The slightest hint by the driver to the steering wheel seems to be all that's needed - there really is a feeling the MX-5 is responding to the driver's mind not just their hands and feet. Owners just love to take them for a quick blast along their favourite stretch of road on a sunny Sunday morning.The Mazda MX-5 was launched in Australia in October 1989 and remained almost unchanged in its body until March 1998, when a near-new car was introduced. At the same time, an increase in boot space made the MX-5 a more practical car, one that could be used by a couple on holiday jaunts with a bit of careful packing.A facelift in October 2000 saw the rounded grille replaced by what Mazda calls a five-point grille to bring it into line with the styling theme of the rest of the Mazda family at the time. It was slightly larger than before, though weight increases were kept to a minimum.With a couple of updates along the way this model is still current on the new market. A new model is imminent and expected in the first half of 2015.Many drive with the top down even if the weather is threatening, well aware the soft-top only takes seconds to close, something that can be done when stopped at a red traffic light. You should have a supple body though, because a fair bit of upper body twisting and shoulder strength is needed.A folding hardtop roof made things much simpler when introduced in September 2006. It not only works neatly, but adds a minimum of weight to the car and takes little away from luggage carrying capacity. So popular did the folding hardtop become in Australia that imports of the soft-top slowed, and ceased altogether towards the end of 2012, some of these may not have been registered until early 2013. There's a school of thought that says used soft-top MX-5s may increase in popularity due to their rarity.
That was lifted to 1.8 litres in November 1993 in a new engine that was slightly modified, with an emphasis on a wider spread of torque.
In October 2000, the engine received a new variable valve timing system to improve power and torque. Keen owners say the relative lack of engine power is actually a bonus because it gives them good reason to use the gearbox.Earlier manual gearboxes were five-speed units.
A six-speed was used in the 10th Anniversary limited edition of 1999, and became standard in the October 2000 model. The six-speed is a close-ratio unit, in fact the overall top gear ratio in both boxes is pretty much the same.
To our way of thinking the six-speed isn't quite as pleasant in its feel as the latter five-speed units.An automatic transmission with six forward ratios became an option in 2005. Sporty programming of its electronics means it's not far short of a manual in driving pleasure. But give us a 'proper' manual any day!Good design and high build quality mean the MX-5 is reliable. It's fairly easy for a good amateur mechanic to work on and spare parts are normally reasonably priced. Heavy deposits of brake dust on the callipers and the inside of the wheels may be sign of racetrack use, or simply of hard on-road driving.In early models look for stitching that's worn or broken in the soft-tops. Discolouration in the plastic rear window in early models ruins the looks, but isn't overly expensive to repair.
A glass rear window was used from 1998 and is probably the best choice for all but the MX-5 purists.Look for crash damage that's been repaired, indeed it may be very wise to call in a professional if you are in any way suspicious.
Be suspicious of water stains on the seats and trim, check under the carpets for dampness or rust as the MX-5 may have been caught with its top down in the rain.The engine should start easily, idles reasonably smoothly and not blow smoke from the exhaust under hard acceleration. The gearbox should be light and positive in its change action and not baulk or crunch even on the fastest of changes.

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