The Rondo was once as frumpy and forgettable as its manufacturer. Now, guided by the hand of the automaker’s design-focused president, Peter Schreyer, the Rondo and Kia occupy a position of strength.

The latest evidence came on 14 February at the 2013 Toronto auto show, where the 2014 Kia Rondo made its North American debut. Last shown in fall in Paris, the Rondo – marketed in Europe as the Carens – was a known entity heading into Toronto, but its presence was no less momentous.

Available in five- or seven-seat configurations, the Rondo is every bit as spacious as competitors like the Ford C-Max multi-purpose vehicle (MPV), but has significantly more style.

Ford has wagered that its C-Max, formerly only available in Europe, may win over buyers in the United States. That is a risk that Kia, at least for now, is not willing to assume.

“They don’t sell it in the US,” said Robert Staffieri, director of marketing for Kia Motors Canada, speaking with BBC Autos. “So why wouldn’t we call it the North American debut?”

Why not, indeed.