2009 Kia Borrego
In the right place and at the right time - say Roslyn circa 1996 - the 2009 Kia Borrego,
in either six- or eight-cylinder form would have given the truck-based Chevrolet, Ford and Chrysler SUVs a solid run for their money. Might have lapped them, in fact when you consider that today’s test Kia, priced from $26,000-$35,000 is only about $5,000 more than the ‘96 Explorer was back then. Compared to competitors now, the Borrego comes up short. Its bumpy ride doesn’t match up to smoother Explorers
, and as advanced and safety-inherent as it is, the Borrego’s technology comes after other automakers began producing even safer SUVs. The gas numbers aren’t in its favor either, but even as we continue fill our vehicles to the tune of $65 to $100 per pop, we still have to ask what happens to families that need to carry parents and four or five kids, or kids and friends on a regular basis? The folks at Kia hope the Borrego will fill that niche.
What’s to Like
It is a solid car, safety enhanced by three rows of airbags. It has rear-seat entertainment and real low-range towing power good to nearly two and a half tons. Plus, it’s versatile and comfortable in a way the earlier American SUVs reached only as the market began a slide.
What’s not to like
Simple: the timing. Tom Loveless, Kia Vice President of Sales, acknowledged at the Borrego’s introduction in Washington State that the big new Borrego is “the elephant in the room” at a time when “$4 gasoline plus the SUV segment doesn’t add up.”
DriverSide Driving Impressions
No point in waffling here. It is one stiff ride, even a bit twitchy on the highway, somewhat tippy in high-speed highway lane changes and overly bouncy on rough roads. We used to put up with this in our SUVs - before we realized that almost none of us ever put them into low-range or even tested the off-road capabilities that came with our big, boxy rides. Like any high-rider, vision is excellent in all directions. Its independent rear suspension, which does leap past truck-based SUVs into today’s world, is a bit of a problem in its stiffness. It’s as if it was designed to carry heavier loads than even a full set of seven occupants. Kia stretched the frame of its very capable and affordable Sorento
and made available the 32-valve V-8, which is a tuned down engine from the Hyundai Genesis
. Longer means smoother on the highways, but it’s a bit less functional if you actually do go off road. The six-cylinder seems to be the best deal, for the money it gives you more than enough power. And if you don’t really need four-wheel drive, you’ll save on gas by opting for rear-wheel drive only.
Engine and Drivetrain
The V-8 puts out 337 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque - nice acceleration and tug for a heavy vehicle. And if you need a tow capacity of almost four tons, go for it. It is linked to a six-speed manumatic transmission that affords a nice transition between serene, virtually transparent shifts in basic driving, but allows for up- and downshifts as directed by human hand. The V-6 is a 276 horsepower, 3.8-liter engine with a five-speed automatic transmission and 5,000 pounds of tow capability.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
There are lots of standard features on all models including roof rails, skid plates, a Sirius radio system with AM/FM/CD, MP3 and a six speaker audio system and a storage compartment beneath the rear floor. However, adding options can be not only be confusing but expensive. As you climb the ladder from luxury and premium packages - required at $1,200-$1,800, the thousands add up. It gets even pricier If you go looking for items such as rear camera display and navigation at $1,500 each, a whomping upgraded sound system from Infinity with an in-dash 6-CD changer and 10 speakers or a rear seat entertainment package with video jack and 115-volt outlet.
Key Technology Evaluation
We’d argue that Kia and its kin, Hyundai, forced manufacturers around the globe to offer standard, full-length side curtain airbags for all three rows. They also pushed myriad standard safety features, including ABS and electronic stability control. The Borrego also adds Downhill Assist Control (DAC) and Hill Assist Control (HAC), for stability on either side of the steep slopes.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
While there are no official numbers as of yet, depending on engine and drive train choices, the Borrego V-6 will deliver between 16 miles per gallon city and 21 highway, while the V-8's comparable figures range from 15 miles per gallon city and 22 highway. It is worth noting that the 22 miles per gallon from the V-8 assumes two-wheel drive and is at the top of its class.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
Interior fit and finish are superb. The perforated leather seats seem hard at first, but on longer drives their support is appreciated. While the third row is tight, but nobody wants to buy a rig as big as what is sometimes referred to as the Chevy Subdivision. Fortunately, the second-row seat slides forward amply for smooth access to the third row. And the second and third rows fold flat for added cargo space.
No one is going to exhalt, “My God, there treads a Borrego!” And yet, its design mixes old and new, with distinct diamond-cut headlamps and lower fog lights, along with accented wheel wells, and borrows from others (Nissan at the rear, Ford Edge
on the grille, black lower cladding from seemingly everywhere). Overall, the combination gives it a solid and serious stance.
How do you compete with a new model in a market where used SUVs and even new ones gather dust on lots? The Borrego comes in two models, an LX
and an EX
. Either can be purchased with the V-6 or the V-8 engine, with the upgrade bumping the base price of the LX from $26,995 to $31,745, and boosting the EX to $31,745 from a base of $28,745. Consider its major competitors, the Ford Explorer
and Chevrolet TrailBlazer
, which are priced, bottom to top, at about the same, while the Nissan Pathfinder
and Toyota 4Runner
can bring you closer to $40,000 a bit more rapidly.
What We Think
In the real estate business, the motto is location, location, location. Easy for them to say. Cars are a different matter. Timing, timing, timing, is the motto. Paddle out well in advance of actual production, catch the wave you could not see coming from a mile out, and hope it’s one you can ride with boldness and strength. This is what Kia had hoped to do until that wave became one made of four dollar gas, drowning the Borrego in a sea of bad timing.