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Midlands Meandering with Kia

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In a sea of SUVs, it’s always refreshing to drive a sedan once in a while. Once every corporate climber’s aspirational car style, sedans have waned in popularity over the last decade as many buyers have swapped their allegiance to crossovers and SUVs. And yet, we still feel the sedan has a lot to offer, especially when it comes to weekends away and family road trips when comfort and boot space are a must. So, when Kia recently dropped off a new Pegas for us to test, we immediately headed to the Natal Midlands to put it through its paces.

We started our weekend at the Karkloof Farmers’ Market (Saturdays, 07h00 to 11h00) for a coffee and delicious breakfast before heading to one of the old favourites of the Meander, Groundcover Leather Company, founded in 1990. Their quaint little shop is even older – over 100 years – and here you will find a treasure trove of beautifully crafted leather goods, including exquisite bags, belts, wallets, satchels, and walls and walls of shoes.

Just behind Groundcover, The Barn Owl coffee shop is fronted entirely in glass panels which affords visitors beautiful views of the undulating hills of Curry’s Post while sipping on a Mkhulu cappuccino, a Macchiato or a chai latte. 

Taste buds happy, we hopped back in the Pegas and wound our way along the Curry’s Post Road and then onto Mooi River. The Pegas is powered by a 1.4-litre petrol engine that produces 69 kW of power, so it’s no boy racer car, but then it wasn’t designed to be. It purred happily along the highway and the winding Midlands roads (albeit with a tiny bit of body roll on corners) capably and, above all, comfortably. One of the biggest selling points for sedans is their roominess – both head and legroom – which the Pegas provides in spades for both front and backseat passengers. Speaking of passengers, the 7” touchscreen infotainment system boasts Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so everyone gets a chance to play their favourite tunes. The screen also doubles up as a rearview camera with rear distance park distance control to make reversing that much easier for the driver.  

A Blooming Good Reception

Hartford House has a history that stretches back to the 1870s when it was the home of the last prime minister of Old Natal. The neighbouring Summerhill Estate, which Hartford is now a part of, also has a long history and is particularly well known for producing a slew of champion racehorses. This is also what first attracted new owner Henning Pretorius to take over Summerhill Estate and Hartford House Hotel, moving his Sporthorse stud to the estate and re-opening the hotel in December 2020 after an extensive refurbishment.

As we arrived, we were welcomed in spectacular style by an avenue of cherry trees covered in frothy pink blossoms. More of these are dotted around the manor house gardens, making Hartford House a popular choice for Spring weddings. We also couldn’t resist the urge to get some pictures of the Pegas amongst the blossoms; it’s distinctively Kia “tiger nose” grille and chrome accents smiling broadly for the pictures.

As well as the cherry trees, these beautiful gardens also boast masses of roses, irises and perfectly manicured lawns. The hotel also has a charming kitchen garden with beds stuffed with herbs and vegetables, which executive chef Paul Antolik uses in his daily culinary offerings. The hotel’s four- or six-course tasting menu dinners, in particular, are the culinary highlight of any trip to the Midlands. We feasted on such delicacies as tandoori cauliflower, Midlands rump and more-ish chocolate panna cotta.

Afterwards, we wandered happily back to our room, with its gloriously soft bedding and inviting bathtub. All of the hotel’s suites (some located in the main building, most dotted around the garden as freestanding cottages) were decked out with brand new bathrooms – from the fittings to the tiles – new beds and bedding, underfloor heating and air-conditioning during the refurbishment, to bring them up to five-star status. Each one is also individually decorated, so you need multiple stays to experience them all!

After a delicious breakfast, we packed our bags into the Kia’s capacious boot (all 475 l of it) and headed through picturesque Rosetta to Nottingham Road. As well as the ability to swallow a whole family’s worth of luggage, the Pegas is also an excellent road trip car due to its extremely frugal fuel economy (about 5.7 l/ 100 km for the manual derivatives and 6.0 l for the auto) and extensive range of up to 754 km. 

A Scottish Escape

In the early 1850s, Scottish settler William Taylor acquired a piece of land near Nottingham Road and named it Fordoun after a place in his native Scotland. Over the years, it was a homestead, a winter home for a lady and lord, a dairy and finally, in 2005, the Bates family converted it into an award-winning hotel and spa. 

Arriving at Fordoun always has a sense of occasion as you wind your way through a beautiful avenue of old, established trees. At the bottom, we were once again greeted by flowers in abundance and the tranquil sounds of the water features that lead the way to the main building, with its cosy lounges, bar, and restaurant. 

The tinkling of another water feature welcomed us to our suite, with its picturesque views over the surrounding farm. As the weather had closed in – in typical Midlands style – we lit a fire, set up the Scrabble board and made some hot chocolate to while away an enjoyable afternoon until it was time to head down to dinner. Skye Bistro is another of the area’s culinary hotspots, and we toasted our luck again to be snuggling into bed with happy taste buds and tummies. 

No stay at Fordoun would be complete without a visit to their award-winning wellness spa, which boasts two pools, a floatation tank and a Rasul chamber, as well as a long list of indulgent treatments to pick from. A unique feature of this spa is its use of products made from traditional Zulu healing plants grown in Fordoun’s indigenous garden. We experienced these during our full-body massages that left us feeling wonderfully relaxed and happy. 

After waving our goodbyes to the lovely staff at Fordoun, we pointed the Pegas homewards, grateful for a wonderful weekend away and for that extra big boot for all of our Midlands Meander souvenirs, snacks and memories. 

The Kia Pegas is excellent value as a budget, family-friendly sedan, with prices ranging from R225,995 for the entry level manual to R251,995 for the auto. All Pegas models come standard with Kia’s unlimited-kilometre/five-year warranty (including Roadside Assistance) and a prepaid four-year/60,000 km service plan.

Text: Nicky Furniss | Images © Nicky Furniss & Supplied

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