As a last hurrah before the end of summer, Kia’sPhilippine distributor, Columbian Autocar Corporation led by its president Ginia Domingo, flew a select group of motoring media to Palawan to experience the nature-rich province aboard the latest range of the brand’s vehicles.
The roster of vehicles included the recently debuted Soul compact crossover, the Rio hatchback, the Carens MPV, Sportage compact crossover and the larger Sorento.
There we no contests, games nor challenges; just 260-kilometers of pure unadulterated driving from Puerto Princesa to the Northern paradise called El Nido. The scenic route along Puerto Princesa North Road took us through the towns of Roxas, San Vicente and Taytay.
Our driving stint started off with the very able Sportage which was felt like the most spirited among the range with its 2.0-liter 177 PS CRDI engine. We then proceeded to board the stylish Carens MPV which felt very nimble and comfortable as well, it felt good on power with its 136 PS 1.7-liter CRDI paired with a 6-speed automatic. The Carens was given the Red Dot Design Award in 2013.
We experienced the highly agricultural scenery, lush forests, winding coastal roads and made our final stop at Fuerza de Santa Isabel in Taytay. The site is locally known as ‘Kuta Santa Isabel’ and is one of the oldest standing structures in Palawan having been built in 1667 by Spanish Recollect friars in honor of Queen Isabella I. Opposite the fort was a Hollywood inspired sign by the mountainside which said Taytay in big bold letters.
After the last car change, we were off on our final stint to El Nido aboard the Sorento which was about an hour’s drive; it was a fitting vehicle as the last drive involved driving through some rough patches of roads under construction. Under the hood is a 2.2-liter CRDI rated at 197 PS; a motor that felt more than adequate to propel the large crossover while the suspension dampened the bumps and ruts along the way.
After a drive through the curvy roads damped by a light drizzle, we finally arrived at El Nido Cove to catch the final hint of ‘golden hour’ with the West Philippine Sea in the backdrop.
The next day was spent on boat, foot and fins to explore some of the many islands of El Nido enjoying the serene island life and the subterranean aquatic scenery.
Incidentally, CAC’s Chairman Emeritus Jose C. Alvarez was recently elected as the province’s Governor. The billionaire turned politician shared his vision to turn the 1,780-island province into one of the country’s top tourist destinations. Palawan is the country’s largest province and includes the disputed Spratly Islands.
On the way back we first drove the 1.4-liter gas engine powered Rio Hatchback, which felt a bit lacking in outright speed compared to the model it appears to have drawn design inspiration from: the VW Golf GTI. Thankfully the handling was top-notch thanks to the combination of grippy Continental tires and a well-configured suspension. Our final vehicle change had us drive the new Soul which was an interesting drive powered by a 1.6-liter CRDI rated at 128 PS mated to a six-speed automatic.
This trip was made most memorable not only because of the beautiful scenery but more because of the driving experience through the winding roads unknowingly carved through the mountains for true car enthusiasts to enjoy.