Kia Borrego, 2009: Weidel on Wheels

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By Jeff Weidel

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While most manufacturers are creating a sleek crossover sport utility vehicle or remodeling an existing offering, Kia has introduced the 2009 Borrego, its first truck-like sport utility vehicle. Has Kia made a mistake or is the Korean manufacturer dumb like a fox?

Time will tell, but there’s no doubt Kia is gambling traditional midsize SUVs still have appeal.

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The seven-passenger Borrego has a chance. It’s offered in attractive V6 and V8 packages, and is a solid midsize SUV with plenty of upside. It’s the largest Korean-made SUV, about a foot longer than the Kia Sorento. And it has nearly the same dimensions as the class-leading Ford Explorer.

As a Kia, the Borrego will sell at a low price (between $26,245 to $32,995), arrive equipped with modern features and amenities, have a solid interior and exterior appeal, and with the manufacturer’s 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.

Although the Borrego has some of the trendy “bells and whistles” found as options among the crossover crowd – Bluetooth, keyless ignition, back-up camera – its strength is toughness and durability. Built on a truck frame and equipped with standard features like hill assist control, downhill break control, plus additional ground clearance, the Borrego can handle the more rugged terrain sought by off-road enthusiasts. It can haul a heavy load as well – 5,000 pounds with the V6 and a class-leading 7,500 pounds by the V8.

Just because the towing is excellent doesn’t mean the performance rates the same. The 3.8-liter, V6 with 276 horsepower and five-speed automatic transmission was a sluggish in providing instantaneous power, and that can beannoying in fast-merging traffic. The 4.6-liter V8 with 337 horsepower (six-speed automatic transmission) is a more suitable choice for sheer performance, clocked at 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds.

Both EX versions of the V6 and V8 models were driven for consecutive weeks and are available with either rear-wheel drive or full-time four-wheel drive.

Don’t expect a sedan-like ride, but the Borrego’s handling was better than many truck-like SUVs that offer no feel for the road. The Borrego has clumsy steering, but idsplays solid road mannerisms and provides good braking power.

The cabin isn’t sophisticated, but that’s a compliment because it was easy to get acquainted with the instrumentation. Seats are comfortable enough to make longer trips pleasurable. The first two rows are roomy; the third row can accommodate two adults without discomfort. If the third row isn’t needed it’s easy to fold down and as easy to put back in place. There’s superior storage with the third row down, but very little when upright.

Power — 3.8-liter, V6, 276 horsepower; 4.6, V8, 337 horsepower

Mileage estimates — 15 mpg (city), 21 mpg (hwy).

Standard features — antilock 4-wheel disc brakes, brake assist, antiskid system, hill ascent/descent control,  height-adjustable driver seat w/lumbar adjustment, center console, CD/MP3 player, satellite radio, iPod adapter, rear privacy glass, roof rails, full-size spare tire.

Warranty — Powertrain, 10 years/100,000 miles; Bumper-to-bumper 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/100,000 miles; Free roadside assistance, 5 years/60,000 miles.

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