I got a lot of responses when I told people the vehicle I was driving was a Kia. Many were surprised because the last Kia they were in was a compact no-frills rental car with a four-cylinder and the Borrego is the size of a Durango and came equipped with a navigation system and leather seats. Other comments questioned the inopportune timing of the Borrego's launch. Entering the fullsize V-8 RWD SUV market in 2009 is a gamble, no doubt, and if Kia had a magical crystal ball to gaze into to see the future they might have done things differently, but so would every other automaker. Timing aside, there are a lot of things that Kia got right with the Borrego.
Like we said, it's fullsize, not quite Tahoe and Expedition scale, but almost. It's got a real frame, so towing capacity is in line with the big boys. We didn't spend any time in the fold-flat third row, but it appeared to be comparable to the rest of the segment, meaning that it was suitable for kids and the occasional short trip for grown-ups. Also like other vehicles in this segment, expect to carry either seven people or fewer people and their luggage, because after the last row of seats, you won't find much room.
The worst thing that we can say about the interior is that it was a little boring, color-wise. The fit was good, and the material quality seemed to be on par with other vehicles in its price range, nothing really to complain about here. On the other hand, we really liked the simple, intuitive climate controls. It functioned just as we thought it would without taking up too much space. The other feature that garnered a lot of positive comments was the navigation. Similar in menu to GM units, which we really liked in the past, the Kia had better resolution than the units normally found in the base GM navigation, sort of like a Cadillac or SYNC navigation system, but with a smaller screen.
On road, the Tau 4.6L V-8 was refined and provided plenty of power, but it did like to rev to do so. There's nothing wrong with that, but it just wasn't what we're used to. Overall we were pleased with the on-road ride and handling, we would go as far as to call it car-like. Off-road, we were a little apprehensive as we were warned from one of our sister publications that the tire choice and ground clearance would make us easy prey to sand. It's certainly not a trail vehicle, nor does it claim to be one, so we were gentle off-road and the Borrego returned the favor by providing a compliant ride once we got back to the main road. After commuting and taking one decent highway trip in the Borrego, average fuel mileage came in at 17.4. Not bad at all considering the power and our brisk highway cruising speed. Overall we were pleasantly surprised by the Borrego's well-rounded performance, but at $40,000, it puts itself into the ring with a very tough batch of competitors.
* Comfortable, ergonomic cabin and controls
* Power when you need it for passing and pulling up grades
* Exterior looks like an amalgam of three different SUVs
* It has a V-8, it feels like a V-8, but it doesn't sound like a V-8
2009 Kia Borrego EX 4x4
Price $39,250 (as tested)
Engine 4.6L 32-valve DOHC V-8
Horsepower 337@6,000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 323@3,500 rpm
Transmission Six-speed automatic
Suspension Independent with coilovers (f), multi-link with coils(r)
Brakes Four-wheel disc with ABS, traction control, and stability control
Wheelbase 114 in
Width 75.4 in
Max Trailer Weight 7,500 lbs
MPG 15/20 (EPA), 17.4 (as tested)