Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Lady Driver's First-Hand Experience with the 2020 KIA Seltos, and a Revelation on the Happenings at a Media Test-Drive

Text and Photos by Arabelle Jimenez  

The KIA Seltos basks in the sun at Highlands Bali Villas pool side, with Sierra Madre Mountains in the background.

Slipping into the driver's seat of the 2020 KIA Seltos is like fitting your hand in a comfortable glove. Then, I said to myself, “Yes, I belong here... I am comfortable, and look forward to a pleasant road-trip. I love to drive, and loved cars since I was 12 years old.”  In this male-dominated industry, I find myself in the middle of adventure, just the way I like it. 

Today, I sit down and write about adventures, including my driving experiences of the latest car models. I just arrived from Aurora, and I am excited to share my story on the latest media test drive I had the privilege to join in…. and yes, we were only three lady drivers, out of the 38 motoring journalists. In my mind, we are representing the female drivers in the country, from young executives to mothers who drive their kids to school.

It was definitely fun, well-balanced, and the boldest yet, "ride and drive" activity I’ve experienced. Kia Philippines concluded another anniversary celebration last February 10 to 11, as the company invited 38 motoring journalists on a 2-day road trip to drive the stylish 2020 KIA Seltos all the way to Baler in Aurora Province. 

Ten units of the new Kia Seltos were available for thorough testing, that came in three variants -- the 2.0 LX IVT, 2.0 EX IVT, and 2.0 SX IVT. Also included were support KIA vehicles such as the Sorento, Rio, Sportage, Carnival and Forte, that carried logistics materials, and were driven by organizers with photographers in tow.

We all met up at Sentro 1771 Capitol Commons in Pasig for an early breakfast and briefing, organized by the Head of Public Relations and Events, Ms. Timmy De Leon. At the meet up, we were briefed by former race car champion and now automotive event organizer, George Ramirez on what to expect, the route we will take, and the photo logistics of this 2-day adventure.

Ten KIA Seltos units with 38 motoring media on a convoy along North Luzon Expressway.

During the pre-departure program, the new marketing slogan developed locally was also announced by Kia Philippines’ president Manny Aligada. “The Seltos is the true embodiment of Kia Philippines’ new marketing tagline, “Designed for You.” It is not just any crossover but one that has its owner’s needs in mind,” Aligada said during the briefing. “The Seltos is not the only vehicle that is “Designed for You” but the entire Kia lineup as well,” he added.

Manny Aligada, KIA Philippines President at Pantabangan Dam, Nueva Ecija..

After giving our car assignments, which was for our group, the Seltos 2.0 LX, we later learned that we will also get to drive the other two variants the following day. The driver rotation assignment really worked well for us.

For our first taste of this LX variant, which is actually the low-end among the three, I was surprised by the easy handling and maneuverability of the vehicle. I slid into the convoy easily and  drove right into Pasig and Balintawak traffic. 

Looking like a weaving convoy of good-looking crossovers, we headed up North Luzon en route to the scenic coastal province of Baler. We were expecting a route with a mix of stretches of open highway and twisty mountain roads. 

On NLEX, I discovered that the LX did not have cruise control, but it didn't matter, as our media group drove like a pack of wolves, entering on different speeds at some necessary open roads, with almost identical driving skills to keep within the same pace. It was indeed fast paced with this group of car lovers, enthusiasts, car experts, and automotive engineers, who double as motoring journalists. 

The three-hour drive to Nueva Ecija for our first stop was a breeze. Driving the Seltos was fun, and my companions in the car was a crazy bunch composed of my partner in Motourismo and Monchster Chronicles Monch Henares, with Kevin Francisco, and Lester Dizon of Power Wheels TV

Inside the Seltos, we explored the amenities such as the infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto helped us stay connected. We logged in via Bluetooth to our favorite music that goes across different genres, depending on who was driving. Those music changes from the 70's, 80's to new age (care of Kevin) seemed to work for everyone.

Highlands Bali Villas in Nueva Ecija.

Lunch was at the Highlands Bali Villas, atop a hill overlooking the Pantabangan Dam. With the event organized by the Ramirez family, we knew for sure that all our meal breaks would be held at splendid venues.

After we had our fill of the sumptuous Balinese buffet, we also had a taste of Pantabangan's beauty, which served as our backdrop for the Seltos photo opportunity.

Pantabangan Dam

Admiring all the different colors of the Seltos,  which comes in Starbright Yellow, Mars Orange, Dark Ocean Blue, Gravity Grey, and Iron Grey, the good-looking subcompact crossovers are eye-candies against the blueness of the body of water. 

Eye-candies. The KIA Seltos in five tempting colors.

We then proceeded to the more challenging part of the drive --climbing the twisties of the Sierra Madre, which zigzags from Nueva Ecija to Aurora Province. These challenging conditions allowed us to experience the pull from the Seltos’ 2.0-liter Dual CVVT-equipped motor. 

We finally reached our destination, the Costa Pacifica Beach Resort in Baler. It was a sprawling beach front property with spacious guest rooms, a swimming pool, great food and good service. 

Costa Pacifica Beach Resort, Baler.

A special program with a live band was prepared by KIA Philippines. The dinner and socials that evening was one for the books. We got to discuss and exchange our experiences with the Seltos.  This was also a good opportunity to get to know KIA Philippines executives and learn more about the company they loyally work for. 

At the socials night with Monch Henares, Manny Aligada and Alvin Uy.

That evening revealed that this was not just about selling cars, but also establishing an overall appreciation of what goes behind the hard work, and rewarding moments in an automotive corporation. And so in just one year, besides driving Kia’s newest offering, the Anniversary Drive was a celebration of Kia’s first year under Ayala-owned AC Motors with a 124 percent sales growth in 2019 brought about by new model launches namely the Soluto, Stinger, and Seltos.

Chill outdoor setup at the clubhouse in Baler.

Our second day started with an early lunch at Kubli's, a mediterranean style restaurant, tucked in the little roads of Baler. Here, we were delighted to discover that great cuisine is definitely available in this coastal town, where tourism has been thriving this past few years.

Kubli Restaurant in Sabang, Baler.

Ready to assault the twisty mountains, this time using the Seltos 2.0 SX variant, we sliced through the Sierra Madre like butter in one sweep. Having a couple of breaks at two view points, and getting  used to the ride of the Seltos at this point, I appreciate that the SX has comfortable seats with just enough space and adjustment capacity to my height. As a lady driver, I always look for comfort and a bit of height adjustments when driving, so I can see the road in full view.

Car mates Monch Henares, Lester Dizon and Kevin Francisco.

Back in Nueva Ecjia, we exchanged cars and drivers again. This time, the third variant assigned to us was an EX. It was also a good thing that Kia’s Intelligent Variable Transmission with Drive Mode Select, which is an engine-transmission combo allowed us drivers to enjoy the choice of relaxed, economical cruising or a bit of fun out on the open roads.  All of the three variants have this feature, including the rear-view driving function.

Watch video interview:

Some of us parted ways after dinner at Rainforest Kichene by Chef Vince in Pampanga. If you plan to go to this area, do check out this restaurant. Chef Vince cooks a great array of food, from paella to roast beef. His pastries and little cakes are among the best in Pampanga. 

Rainforest Kichene in Pampanga.

Getting the chance to drive the three variants of KIA Seltos in two days with driver rotations was a great idea. It was a complete, and balanced test-drive, giving me a first-hand experience with the Seltos' powerful performance that did not disappoint. While I did enjoy the feeling as both driver, and passenger in its spacious cabin, I simply realized that I just experienced the best of both worlds with the KIA Seltos.

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Golden blossoms.

The ruggedly handsome Seltos conquers the Sierra Madre mountain ranges in Aurora Province.

Watch video highlights: