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November 23, 2021

Business And Cents: Discovering The Merits Of The Kia K2500

Being a motoring journalist for over 23 years, I seldom get excited about driving anything new—be it a sedan, SUV, or even sportscar. But once in a while, a carmaker throws an unexpected curve ball. That’s exactly what happened when I got to drive the Kia K2500 along with five other media guys from BGC to Batangas, and back.

Now, unlike some folks, I won’t pretend to know my commercial vehicles as well as I know my cars or pickup trucks. Sure, I can talk about the theoretical, but it must be remembered that these types of vehicles are built for an entirely different audience. These people don’t care about styling or tech as much; instead, they’re after performance, flexibility, and practicality above all else.

With those traits in mind, it’s great to be reminded that Kia Philippines offers the most variants in the light truck category. All in all, there are six—three 4x2 and three 4x4 variants (not counting the body configurations available). The presence of 4x4 is interesting because they’re the only one to offer this sort of drivetrain layout locally.

Regardless of body style, there’s only one engine available, and that’s a 2.5-liter common rail direct injected turbo diesel putting out a class-leading 130 horsepower and 255 Nm of torque. This engine is then mated to a 6-speed manual.

As luck of the draw would have it, I started out with the Single Cab Dropside 4x4. This is an interesting variant to start with, and my amusement starts with my hefty climb into the cabin. As with any cab-over-engine truck, it requires strong legs to get aboard. However, the 4x4 requires even strong legs since it’s a tad higher than the comparable 4x2 models (Kia’s official spec sheet lists the minimum ground clearance to be exactly the same at 200 mm, but the 4x4s are taller by 110 mm in terms of overall height).

Once aboard, it’s pretty much what you’d expect in a workhorse. The steering wheel is mounted almost perpendicular to the dashboard, while the slot for where the 2-DIN audio system is supposed to go is just a blank plate (it does come pre-wired with an aux and USB input though). The seats are covered in easy-to-clean vinyl.

Despite the no-frills nature, there are still a couple of surprises in here. For one, the side mirrors have a split design with wide view blind spot mirrors to help with visibility. Then, the gauges, at least for the 4x4 variants, come with an on-board computer. This helps drivers keep a track of their fuel consumption. Next, the seats do offer a surprising amount of adjustment. The driver’s seat moves four ways, while the passenger bench moves in two. For those who don’t need to squeeze three aboard, the middle front seat can be folded down to reveal a central cup holder and a multi-function compartment (lidded in the 4x4). Finally, exclusive to the 4x4 is an overhead sunglass holder with map lights.

Starting up the engine, it’s apparent that Kia engineers have worked hard to give the K2500 a surprisingly smooth engine. Compared to other trucks that I’ve had the opportunity to sit and ride in, this powerplant won’t be out of place in an MPV or passenger vehicle. The clutch pedal itself is heavier than usual, but the bite point comes in quite early. It’s also quite forgiving even for those who’re rusty in dealing with three pedals.

As the convoy of white K2500s reached SLEX, the novelty of driving a truck started to wear off. Time then to evaluate it properly. Since the driver sits atop the engine, it’s much more vocal especially at highway speeds. Still, it’s not as raucous or rough as you might think; again. The first gear is low, designed perhaps to be primarily used when the truck’s fully-laden with passengers or cargo. It’s best to launch in second gear. It hits 80 km/h at less than 2,000 rpm on sixth gear (100 km/h at around 2,100 rpm). This extracts a commendable 12.65 km/L on the highway.

It also rides surprisingly well even when unladen, but as with vehicles of this kind, potholes do rattle and jar the cabin heavily when you go through them. On the flipside, it maintains its stability and tracks straight even on less than perfect roads.

More than just fuel efficiency, Kia says they’ve also improved aftersales support. Despite being a commercial vehicle, the K2500 comes with a 3-year / 110,000-kilometer warranty, free roadside assistance for three years, and at least two months’ worth of spare parts in available inventory. All in all, they claim that running the K2500 comes down to just P 1.11 per kilometer—one of the lowest, if not the lowest, in its class.

Upon reaching Tanauan in Batangas, it was time to check out the other features of the K2500, and when I mean features, how it performs as a hauler. By being one of the longest (4,825 mm), widest (1,740 mm), and tallest in its class (1,995 mm for the 4x2, 2,105 mm for the 4x4) with a wheelbase of 2,415 mm, Kia is able to fit pretty large body configurations. For example, the Kargo’s 3,050 mm x 1,740 mm x 1,665 mm body is able to fit 30 balik-bayan boxes with room to spare. The same body, fitted with seats (Karga) seats 19 people. Meanwhile, payload capacity is up to 1,235 kilograms.

Speaking about the 4x4, Kia Philippines also prepared a short off-road course to highlight the merits of the drivetrain. As far as systems go, it’s quite simple. There’s a lever with three settings: 4H, 4L, and 2L. The engagement is purely mechanical, so there’s no shift-on-fly system here. On muddy roads, having two more driven wheels could be an advantage. For companies operating in remote conditions such as mining or forestry—this could spell the difference between getting stuck or not.

Commercial vehicle customers, be it entrepreneurs or businesses have different priorities compared to private buyers of passenger cars. Dependability, durability, and customizability are very important, and these play to the strengths of the Kia K2500. With its focus on usable performance and fuel efficiency as well as flexibility in terms of body styles and even powertrain configurations, this Kia could be crucial to those who want to grow their businesses. As far as investments go, the K2500 is a sound one—one that’s capable of addressing the demands of any business.

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