CLE ELUM, Wash., In this clime of higher gasoline prices, two really dirty words are sport-utility. But that's just what Kia brought us here to test drive; its new body on frame (truck based) Borrego sport utility.
Consumers can choose from a V8 or a V6; I drove both and found the duo acceptable as sport utilities go. The V6 made 276 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a five speed automatic transmission.
I drove from the Seattle airport here which is about 90 miles east. The V6 Borrego handled well but I was driving too fast and hand trouble keeping it in the lane through curves. It never occurred to me that it was a sport-utility versus a car-based crossover vehicle. The high center of gravity created more body sway than I anticipated.
At first, I was riding in the back seat which was impressive. It could be slid forward and the seat back also reclined. However, it was awkward to take advantage of the reclining feature because the lever was on top of the seat back not on its side.
Still, the interior was nicely done. Fit and finish was really good. And the 2009 Kia Borrego was extremely quiet for a vehicle with such a high profile. I did think the suspension was a bit stiff but I was in the aft seat. Once I started driving, I found that the V6 Borrego had ample power. Plus, the suspension didn't seem anywhere near as stiff from the front seat.
The leather seats were perforated and the front set was heated. Polymers were textured and the inside of the Borrego had a nice feel. But Kia could stand to turn up the quality a notch. The Borrego is being position as a premium sport utility and though it was very nice, the interior could have been nicer.
But the interior worked just fine. The instrument layout was ergonomically correct. Everything was easy to see, easy to reach and intuitive. We didn't have to scratch our heads to figure out how to work anything. However, the Borrego had the feel of a finely executed vehicle without the deft touch that transmits the right message to drivers.
Don't get it twisted. The Borrego is chock full of stuff. It comes in either 2-wheel or 4-wheel configuration. The V6 can tow 5,000 lbs. while the V8 can tow 7,500 lbs. The V8 will cost you about $2,500 more than V6. It makes 337 horsepower and 323 pounds-feet of torque. That's on regular gasoline. The engine is mated to a six-speed transmission.
Kia said the V8 engine has an EPA rating 15/22 mpg city/highway which is the best in class for the V8 with 2WD and 15/20 city/highway for the 4WD. The V6 gets 17/21 city/highway (2WD) and 16/21 city/highway 4WD.
The Borrego's styling was muscular. It had a wide stance, aggressive chrome grille and the hood was flat-topped with a plateau stamped into each side. The top of the line EX model featured heated front seats; power tilt and telescopic steering wheel; and memory settings for the driver's seat, outside mirrors and steering wheel.
The Premium Package included a sunroof, a 10-speaker Infinity audio system, rear seat air conditioning with controls, running boards and a rear camera display for enhanced visual assistance.
It will be joined by an even more upscale Limited model in the fall. The Limited Borrego will be available only in black and will be equipped exclusively with push button start/smart key, Supervision(TM) meter cluster, power adjustable pedals, chrome accents on outside door handles and rear garnish, heated second row seats, Bluetooth(R), Limited exterior badging and floor mats.
Prices start at 26,995 for the V6 powered LX and $28,745 for EX version. I test drove a fully loaded V8 powered EX with four-wheel-drive. It was priced at slightly more than $39,000. Kia's move upstream has created trouble for the makers of premium and entry level luxury cars. Now the Korean automaker seems intent on doing the same thing to the makers of mid-size sport-utilities.