When you load up on your car for a road trip, the excitement is not always in the destination but in the journey itself. And so Kia Philippines wanted to prove this by having people experience the open roads of the Philippines’ 7,107 islands with its automobiles. The company started that journey in the island of Palawan, driving from the city of Puerto Princesa to the beautiful beaches of El Nido and back to the cleanest city in the country two years ago. Now for the summer of 2016, Kia together with its all-new Sportage, latest seven-seater Carnival, the hip Soul, spacious Sorento and sporty new Forte five-door hatch, took us to the beautiful province of Negros.
Our objective is to drive 300 kilometers from Bacolod to Dumaguete via San Carlos and 250 kilometers back to Bacolod via Kabangkalan. We arrive at the Kia Bacolod dealership for a hearty lunch of Bacolod Chicken and a drivers’ briefing by four-time Philippine Go-kart champion and two-time Formula Three champion Pepon Marave, together with his team of only four to lead 15 of us media journalists and 11 automobiles for a fun driving adventure.
First assigned to me was the gas-fed V6 (with variable valve timing) CVVT Carnival that we immediately took off to the local highways at a relatively quick pace to make time for our arrival at Dumaguete for dinner. With a full load of gear and seven passengers, the ride was quite comfortable and quiet. It never bottomed on the uneven highway and off-road detours that had repaired bridges, and the roads of Guihulngan City that was the most-hard hit in the province by the 2012 earthquake. Listening to 1980s, 1990s and chill-out music on Infinity speakers was truly a stress reliever. Climbing to the mountains of San Carlos, their version of Baguio lined with pine trees and a full-sized lion greeting us, the Carnival provided a good view of the beautiful sights with its broad size windows and twin sunroofs. Handling was a handful but the 3.3L GDI lambda engine powered the Carnival through the zigzag roads with ease. Overtaking with its six-speed automatic transmission (AT) was challenging because of the Carnival’s size and full load, but once engine speed reaches 5,400 revolutions per minute, you feel a slight jolt on the seat as the engine wails to 6,500 rpm, with CVVT kicking in. Could use bigger brakes though. After five hours driving across picturesque mountain scenery and coastal roads along waters, we reached the “friendliest city of the Visayas,” Dumaguete.
Head turner in Forte
While in Dumaguete, we enjoyed its beautiful tourists spots like Sumilon Bluewater Island that was just an hour away by boat ride from the port. The private resort offered plenty of amenities like kayaking in a natural made lagoon, wall climbing, infinity pool with jacuzzi, diving, snorkeling or just relaxing on the sand bar. Just when we were settling down enjoying the afternoon, we headed back, this time having merienda of suman with chocolate syrup, mangoes, watermelon and the famous sansrival on the boat. No wonder, I’m overweight! We still got the chance to drive around the city in late afternoon with the eye catching red Forte hatchback. Seemed to be in a class in its own with its sporty looks, 2.0-liter four-cylinder 164-PS (161-hp) engine mated to a six-speed AT with paddle shifters, we got stares and heads were turning as we toured around the historic Silliman University that was established by the American Protestants in 1901. And you can’t miss out the “I Love Dumaguete” sign by the boulevard.
Time has never been on your side when having fun but we needed to head back to Bacolod City for the flight to Manila. So traversing the 250-kilometer route via Kabangkalan on Kia’s fourth-generation GT-line Sportage proved it was the ideal ride with its 2.0-liter engine that cranked out 144 PS (141 hp) at 4,000 rpm with a whopping 400 Newton-meters of torque at 1,750-2,750 rpm. It is mated to a six-speed all-wheel drive system for surefootedness on the road. Inside, the Sportage has that European feel and what also impressed me were its safety features like airbags at the front and sides, and the blind-spot detection warning. How cool is that!
Switching to the Picanto
Roads were not as bad in San Carlos, the scheduled stop for the exchange of drivers and cars. And the Picanto was a surprise drive for me. At first, I was reluctant to drive the Picanto with its 1.2-liter engine and its small dimensions. But once you step inside the Picanto, it actually felt spacious. Suspension feel was solid and it was composed on the dips and jumps. Steering provided good feedback when taking the twisties, and the 87-PS (86-hp) engine comes to life at 4,000 rpm that provided good acceleration and speed for passing maneuvers.
Back again in the crowded roads of Bacolod City, all cars arrived safe and sound ahead of schedule, and the Picanto felt right at home with its short wheelbase and four-speed AT. Our journey ended with a delicious Illongo meal at Ading’s Pla Pla restaurant, serving fresh oysters, grilled marlin, kilawin na tanigge, sweet chili shrimps plus their famous crispy pata and chicken inasal. Was I stuffed! Kia Philippines president Genia Domingo and marketing head Nenuka Guba did a remarkable job on planning this adventure. What a way to have More Fun in the Philippines – the Kia way! Looking forward to the next journey!