Oh Darling, you certainly live up to your name: exploring with the Kia Sonet 1.5 EX

Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdowns confined us all to our homes, dreaming of the day we could get out and explore the world again. It’s been nearly two years since the unprecedented pandemic gripped the globe and still, it’s not that easy to hop onto a plane and explore a foreign land.

Luckily, we live in a magnificent country, with gorgeous landscapes and dazzling beaches. Not your thing? Explore the myriad wildlife parks and arid deserts that South Africa has to offer. I’m not one to sit at home, so when I went on leave, I called a friend and asked her to be my travel buddy.

The brand new Kia Sonet 1.5 EX parked on my driveway was yearning for a road trip, so off we went in search of the quaint little destinations that contribute to South Africa’s charm. We settled on Darling, a farming community 82 km from Cape Town. Just after 7am, the Sonet was purring happily at the national limit, cruising on the N7 without breaking a sweat.

Darling’s museum is a must-see for anyone interested in the town’s history.

If you’ve read our review of the Sonet or own one you’ll be no stranger to the little Kia’s fine ride quality and suspension absorption. It’s remarkable that a car in this class rides with such competence and stability. Rivals such as the Vitara Brezza may offer more cornering prowess but for long distances and in-town commutes, the Sonet is the one to have.

Fuel economy is a strong point too, the trip computer indicated just 4.8L/100 km. Heading past Koeberg, the temperature gauge showed a scorching 28 degrees at 8am. Thankfully, the air-conditioning kept us cool as we headed towards Darling. A tree-lined road into the town welcomed us as residents bustled past each other.

Leaving as early as we did, making breakfast wasn’t an option and we settled on a quaint eatery called Cafe Mosaic. Unassuming in appearance, we were greeted by a kind hostess, who guided us to the sanitising station. As we turned around, she was there with a smile and a cloth to dry our hands. What the restaurant lacks in aesthetic appeal, it more than makes up for with service and hospitality.

Kia Sonet
The Kia Sonet coped admirably on the rough gravel terrain.

The food was simple, delicious and offered great value; much like the Kia, a no-nonsense, well-priced vehicle that delivers everything it promises and more.

Our tummies filled and cravings satisfied, we explored the town. The first stop was the NG Kerk. The church’s steeple stands proud, a shining beacon of hope that draws visitors and locals with its charm. Designed by Wynand Louw a highly regarded and the first Afrikaans-speaking architect the structure is a thing of beauty.

Pootling up and down Darling’s numerous dirt roads, it’s difficult not to be enamoured by its easygoing, rustig character. Small children laugh and play in the streets without a care in the world, while local businesses offer all sorts of delectable treats and gorgeous curios.

A display of a local school at the museum gives you an idea of education in the 1800s.

If you’re keen on learning about Darling’s heritage, a visit to the museum is essential. R15 nets you an all-inclusive pass into the town’s history, filled with old-world farming equipment. Housed in the former town hall, the museum tells the tale of a village founded in 1853 and named after Sir Henry Charles Darling, a British colonial governor who came to the Cape in 1851.

Several exhibits relay what it was like in its early days. A display of a local school, complete with period desks, stationery and furnishings, gives you an idea of education in the 1800s along with replicas of a church, local bar, general dealer and more.

Sadly, we had a mere few hours before heading off to Groote Post (just outside of the town) so we weren’t able to soak up everything the town had to offer.

Farming equipment and carriages are on display in the museum’s barn.

Evita Se Perron is an institution in Darling, the legendary Pieter-Dirk Uys entertains through his alter ego. The satirist/comedian has been regaling people for years, with his cheeky (often accurate) commentary on the South African landscape.

Small but charming, the West Coast town certainly lives up to its name. It needs to be on your shortlist of places to visit, even if only for a day. Darling has a rare mix; big-town practicality and small-town endearment. There’s plenty to do, much to learn and so much to enjoy.

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