Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009 Kia Borrego EX

2009 Kia Borrego EX
Kia Borrego is good, but is there room for another SUV?
Who knew? The V-6-powered Borrego is rated to two up to 5,000 pounds, while V-8 models can handle a 7,500 pound trailer. The V-6 scampered to 60 miles per hour in just 8.1 seconds (without a boat) for this review. There's a lot of room and the optional leather interior was rated divine. It's the modern New Age family SUV.

Kia and its South Korean corporate cousin, Hyundai, continue to expand their lineups far beyond their original economy-car origins. This year we get a genuine luxury car from Hyundai, the Genesis. And from Kia, we get the largest SUV from a Korean manufacturer yet -- the all-new 2009 Borrego.

Sizewise, the Borrego is about a foot longer than the current Kia Sorento. It's about an inch shorter, and more than an inch wider, than the segment-leading Ford Explorer. The Borrego is a little bigger than the Hyundai Veracruz, and there's one other big difference: The Borrego is offered with Kia's first-ever V-8 engine, while the Veracruz comes with only a V-6.

The test Borrego came with the standard V-6, too -- a 276-horsepower, 3.8-liter engine that has so much power I'm not sure why I'd want to opt for the thirstier, more expensive V-8 unless I towed a lot. The V-6 Borrego can handle a 5,000-pound trailer, while the 337-horsepower V-8 can tow 7,500 pounds.

EPA-rated fuel mileage for the four-wheel-drive V-6 is 16 mpg city, 21 mg highway. The four-wheel-drive V-8 Borrego is rated at 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway. Regular gas is fine for either engine.

The Borrego is a traditional body-on-frame SUV, as opposed to the more carlike "crossover" SUVs, such as the Ford Flex, that are built on unibody car platforms that don't have a separate frame. Traditional SUVs are typically more rugged but ride more roughly, and that applies to the Borrego, though the ride isn't bad at all except on really rough pavement.

Inside, the front bucket seats are fine; the middle seat is roomy for two adults, passable for three. The rearmost seat will hold two adults -- thankfully, the middle seats are adjustable to a near-upright position to give a little more legroom for the back-seat passengers -- but getting in that rear seat requires some minor gymnastics. For kids, though, it's fine. And even with all three rows of seats in place, there's quite a bit of storage room in the back for groceries and such. The second and third rows fold forward for an almost flat load floor.

The Borrego comes standard with rear-wheel-drive, but the test vehicle had four-wheel-drive, including a "low range" setting for off-road use. The Borrego might not be as adept in the woods as a Jeep Wrangler, but it holds its own on tough terrain.

The base Borrego is the LX model, which starts at just less than $27,000 and comes with plenty of standard features, including air conditioning, traction control, stability control, side and side-curtain airbags, cruise control, and a good sound system. Upgrade to the EX, the test vehicle, and you get some extra features, such as dual-zone climate control, fog lights, power front seats and steering wheel-mounted stereo controls. Both models have a full-sized spare tire. Even so, interior trim was relatively Spartan and plastic-heavy, given the price.

Options on the test Borrego included bigger 18-inch tires on chromed wheels ($750), an $1,800 premium package that added a sunroof, an upgraded 10-speaker Infinity sound system, running boards and rear air conditioning, a navigation system ($1,500), and a $1,500 luxury package that added leather upholstery for the first and second rows of seats. With shipping, the total was $36,295, roughly on par with the competition.

This is a very, very tough part of the market, not only because there are lots of excellent midsized SUVs, but because of slow sales, so there are some rather astounding discounts being offered. Have you priced a Dodge Durango lately?

The Kia Borrego compares very well with more established models on the market, but it doesn't really offer much that's new. Price tends to drive this segment of the market, and Kia might have to discount the Borrego more than the company wants to for it to get some initial traction.

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