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2009 Kia Borrego EX 4x2 Review

2009 Kia Borrego (select to view enlarged photo)
2009 Kia Borrego

MORE: Compare Kia Specs and Prices - Kia Buyers Guide

2009 Kia Borrego EX 4x2

When development of the Kia Borrego started, SUVs were almighty popular and an upscale large-midsize SUV seemed like the perfect vehicle to expand the Korean automaker's range and presence in the American marketplace.

But, outside of science fiction, precognition is not real. And "volatile" hardly describes the current resource and economic climate... By the time the Borrego made its public debut last summer, gasoline was at record high price levels. And then the financial sector imploded. SUVs went from fashion items to mechanical albatrosses.

But, while the SUV may be dead as fashion item, it still has its uses. A full-size pickup is great for towing, but it leaves more than a little to be desired in secure interior space for items not being towed, or in comfort and space for more than one or two passengers. Sure, there are crew-cab pickups, but they tend to be in size XXL. For more mundane towing needs, in the under-7500 pound class, with interior space, an SUV is the way to go.

And with a towing ability of 5000 pounds with the V6 or 7500 with the V8, plus accommodations for five to seven people depending on luggage needs, the Kia Borrego fills that bill.

The Borrego, named after the Anza-Borrego desert in Southern California, is a body-on-frame truck, but not in the traditional manner. Don't look for open-channel frame rails, solid axles, or leaf springs. The boxed frame is based on that of the smaller Sorrento, but stretched. It's hydro-formed, not pressed and welded, for strength, rigidity, and lighter weight. The rigid body structure is rubber-mounted, to reduce road noise, engine and road vibrations, and harshness. The suspension is fully-independent, with double wishbones in front and a multi-link setup at the rear. With 8.5 inches of clearance and standard skid plates, the Borrego should be fine on any semi-improved dirt or gravel road, and should deal with urban and suburban road hazards easily.

Power comes from either a 3.8-liter V6 or a 4.6-liter V8. Both are sourced from Kia's parent company Hyundai. The 337-horsepower V8 is also found in the Hyundai Genesis sedan, and here is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. The 276-hp V6 is essentially three-quarters of the V8, and transmits power through a five-speed automatic. For both powertrains, two-wheel (rear) drive is standard, with full-time dual-range four-wheel drive available.

Trim levels offered are value-oriented LX, mid-range EX, both with V6 or V8, and the fully-loaded V8-only Limited, which, like the legend of a certain old Ford, comes in any color you want, as long as it's black. MSRP is highly competitive, ranging from $26,245 for a 4x2 LX through $39,995 for a 4x4 Limited.

I first drove the Borrego when it was introduced to the press in Washington state last summer. There, on the highways and back roads between Seattle and Cle Elum, in the Cascade Mountains, I had time in both V6 and V8 models, at elevations from sea level to 6,000 feet. Ride quality? Until I found out that the Borrego was a body-on-frame vehicle, I thought it was a unibody derivative of the Hyundai Veracruz. While the V8 had more power, and hence less need to shift climbing grades at altitude, the V6 was not underpowered. In either form, the Borrego is an honest and capable vehicle with good comfort and space and the expected interior versatility. A recent week at home with a 4x2 EX V8 just reinforced that.

APPEARANCE: Kia played it conservative in styling the Borrego. It's a two-box vehicle with a moderately-raked windshield and fairly simple lines with little in the way of extraneous visual gimmickry. The simply-curved front panel anchors the somewhat generic grille, trapezoidal in shape with horizontal slats, and the rectangular, faired headlights. Twin bulges on the hood and moderate fender flares, and a kick-up in the lower side window line between the C and D pillars are the only concessions to style for style's sake. The lower section of the bumpers and bodywork is dark-colored, although body color is an option. While at the long end of midsize, the Borrego is not so wide as to be difficult to dock.

COMFORT: That length is useful inside, as there really is room for seven real adult humans inside, although access to the third row requires some flexibility. Head- and leg-room are not going to be issues, even with the moveable second row all the way back. Well, unless one or both of the 60/40 split folding seatbacks are tilted to their 45-degree maximum recline. A flat floor further improves second-row comfort. Once in, the 50/50 third row is not the penalty box, although its use for passenger duty does impact luggage space. Hey, put it in the trailer... Interior design is conservative in the manner of the exterior, but tasteful and functional. Even the base 2WD LX gets power windows and mirrors and seven-passenger seating. The EX upgrade mostly allows more potential options, and my test example had the Premium Package of sunroof, Infinity audio system with AM/FM/Sirius/multi-format CD/minijack and USB input (both standard in all models), rear air conditioning, and running boards, plus the Luxury Package, with leather seating surfaces for the first two rows, heated front seats, power tilt and telescope steering wheel adjustment, and two-position memory for the driver's seat, outside mirrors, and steering column, and the navigation system. So-equipped, it was a fine entry-luxury SUV, but even without the luxo-extras the Borrego is a spacious, comfortable, and useful vehicle.

SAFETY: All Borrego models have front advanced airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, full-length (all three rows) side curtain airbags, four-wheel disc brakes with antilock, traction control, and electronic stability control, brake assist, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. V8 models also have standard driver's knee airbags.

RIDE AND HANDLING: You'd be hard-pressed to tell that the Borrego is a body-on-frame vehicle if you didn't know that before driving it. On the road, it's as smooth, quiet, and comfortable as any equivalently-sized unibody crossover. A rigid body structure rubber-mounted to the boxed, hydroformed ladder frame and fully-independent double wishbone / multilink suspension tuned for comfort but with well-matched spring and shock rates see to that.

PERFORMANCE: With the V8, power in the Borrego is smooth and effortless. Most of that power is not really needed in everyday use -- the V6 is more than merely adequate -- but when it is, whether for a quick pass on a mountain road, trailer towing, highway merging, or accident avoidance, it's readily available. With 337 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 323 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm, the 4.6-liter V8 bests the competition. A six-speed automatic transmission, with manual-shift mode, improves both acceleration and fuel economy. EPA estimates are 15 city, 22 highway; I got around 17, not too bad for a large V8 SUV. Towing is where the Borrego can shine, with a 7500 -pound capacity for the V8 or 5000 for the V6.

CONCLUSIONS: The Kia Borrego offers a new choice for people in need of a comfortable, upscale SUV.

2009 Kia Borrego EX 4x2

Base Price			$ 30,995
Price As Tested			$ 36,545
Engine Type			aluminum alloy dual overhead cam
				 32-valve V8
Engine Size			4.6 liters / 282 cu. in.
Horsepower			337 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			323 @ 3500 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		114.0 in. / 192.3 in.
Curb Weight			n/a lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		n/a
Fuel Capacity			20.6 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P265/60R18 109T Hankook RA07
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc
Suspension, front/rear		independent double wishbone
				 with coil springs /
				 independent multi-link
				 with coil springs
Ground clearance		8.5 inches
Drivetrain			longitudinal front engine,
				 rear-wheel drive (4WD optional)

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		15 / 22 / 17
0 to 60 mph				7.5  sec

Premium Package - includes:
  sunroof, Infinity AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio,
  rear AC with full controls, running boards	$ 1,800
Navigation system				$ 1,500
Luxury Package - includes:
  leather seat trim for first and second rows,
  heated front seats, power tilt and telescope
  steering column, 2-position memory for 
  driver's seat, mirrors, and steering column	$ 1,500
Destination charge				$   750