As spacious as its American desert namesake, the Mohave aims to break into the luxury SUV market. Georgia Lewis drives Kia's new release.
Kia Mohave 2008
Remember the movie Dumb and Dumber? No matter how sophisticated you think you are, the odds are good that you saw it back in 1994 as it was that year's sixth most watched movie, making an extraordinary US$247,275,374 (Dh908,242,472) at the box office worldwide. And, frankly, it was very funny. Now, do you remember the dog-shaped car that Jeff Daniels used for his mobile grooming business? The car that he and Jim Carrey end up taking on an epic road trip to Colorado? It was a big, lumbering van that looked as if it had a suspension made of plasticine. The Kia Mohave reminded me of this van, but I do not mean the car is a dog.
The Mohave's exterior was not covered in fur like the Dumb and Dumber car, nor did it have an amusing pooch face on the bonnet but it does have the same roomy, loveable, dependable look about it. And, as I discovered on a small dune as well as on the speed humps of Abu Dhabi, the suspension is pleasingly comfortable and forgiving. It has a fully independent front and rear suspension system and it works well.
My first encounter with the Mohave was at the UAE press launch where we were told that this was the Korean carmaker's first foray into the luxury SUV market - but at an affordable price. The UAE SUV market is already more crowded than a Deira traffic jam so the Mohave has got to have at least one unique selling point to stand out from the pack. At Dh135,000, it really is a competitively-priced SUV and you do get a pretty good amount of bang for your buck.
Aside from the lovely suspension, there are safety features aplenty - ABS brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution (which kept me on the road after I nearly missed an exit and cut a slightly wild move to get back on track), brake assist, stability control, traction control and air bags in the front and to the sides - which, thankfully, I did not get the chance to test out. Named, with a slight spelling alteration, after Kia's testing ground in California's Mojave Desert, there is definitely an American look to this seven-seater.
The four-bar chrome grille has a touch of the Ford and GMC SUVs about it, and inside all seven seats are pretty comfortable, meaning you really can fit in mum, dad and a tribe of five kids with relative ease. It is a nicely finished car and it does seem to be aimed squarely at reasonably affluent families with plenty of kids, or at least a couple of popular kids with a lot of friends. The thought of being a mother of five does make me shudder somewhat but it would also be a rather sound car to take on a weekend away with a load of fellow grown-ups.
Like any car that claims to carry a lot of people, there is always a sacrifice made with luggage space, but if it is you and four mates off for a weekend jaunt to Fujairah, most luggage could be easily tossed on the third row of seats. The desert moniker implies that you can take the Mohave dune-bashing and, on the launch drive, there was a rather leisurely track set up to test the car's sand capabilities. The dune was not hugely challenging - although one driver managed to get inexplicably stuck not once but four times.
With its suitably chunky tyres, four-wheel drive, low-range gearing, the Downhill Assist Control to steady the car when you are heading down a slope and Hill-Start Assist Control for when you are on the uphill climb, there is no reason why the Kia Mohave could not join a merry convoy in the desert. But like plenty of cars that are classified as off-roaders, it is highly likely that many of the Kia Mohaves sold in the UAE will not see terrain more gruelling than the school run or the Spinney's car park.
Just as well then that, for a rather chunky beast of a car, it is easy to park, thanks to the greatness that is power steering as well as a reversing camera for those awkward moments when simply looking in the rearview mirror or over one's shoulder will not cut the mustard. It is meant to be more luxurious than other Kia family cars, such as the Sorento, Sportage and Carnival and to this end, there is the option of leather seats as well as a 600W, six-stacker CD player and DVD player as standard. Every time you start the engine, the driver's seat automatically adjusts itself to the position preferred by the last driver.
As well as satellite navigation, there is a GPS system which allows you to find the direction of Mecca. Inside the doors and along the dash, there are panels of blonde wood. This reminded me of an Ikea kitchen but its obvious that it is an attempt to make the interior look a bit more plush. I'm not entirely sure that it works but it wasn't hugely offensive, either. For me, the Kia Mohave really came into its own as a means of transporting large quantities of stuff - we are talking cumbersome Ikea flat-packs (to match the wood on the dash), rolled up floor rugs, fold-up room partitions, a small cupboard, an amusing table, a microwave oven, sundry kitchen equipment and so on and so forth. All this with the rear seats folded flat and excellent access via the rear door that, unlike some other SUVS, does not require the strength of Hercules to lift up.
Of course, if you buy one of these, you can expect to get the "can you do me a favour?" call every time a friend moves house. Or, if you are one of the mums or dads that this car is clearly aimed at, surely you will tell your opportunistic friends to hire a removal van and instead spend the weekend ferrying kids from birthday parties to ballet recitals. Kia has well and truly lifted its game with the launch of the Mohave, further improving the reputation of cars to come out of Korea. Only time will tell though, whether you will see Kia Mohaves lined up alongside the ubiquitous Porsche Cayennes outside the posh schools.