Kia has gained sales in the U.S. for each of the last 14 years. Their latest vehicle, the Borrego midsize SUV, should be their crowning achievement. But expensive gas (lower for the moment) and declining industry sales will make it a harder sell, which is really too bad. It's a nice SUV, if that's what you're looking for.
With fine sedans like the Optima and cleverly practical minivans like the Rondo, Kia offers a lot more these days besides tiny gas-sipping Rios. The Borrego offers the company's first V8 and six speed automatic in a 4,600 pound package. It's a new world.
The Borrego fits right into the midsize SUV club and even stands a little longer and wider than some competitors. You can be sure that all those rivals have been studied carefully, because nothing is missing or feels out of place in this seven-passenger hauler.
Pick the well-equipped LX, premium level EX, or super premium Limited. The LX and EX come in two- or four-wheel drive, and you can select either the 3.8-liter, 276-horsepower V6 or that new 4.6-liter V8, which exceeds the competition with 337 horsepower and 323 lb.-ft. of torque. The V6 has a five-speed automatic while the V8 receives Kia's first 6-speed automatic.
The Limited, available only in black monotone exterior and black interior, comes exclusively with the V8.
Fuel economy with the V8 is only 1-2 mpg worse that that of the V6; the EPA's green vehicle numbers drop only slightly. My V6-equipped EX, four-wheel-drive tester, in Spicy Red, was rated at 16 City, 21 Highway, although I averaged 15.1 mpg for my test week. The Green Vehicle Guide numbers gave it a 6 for Air Pollution and a 4 for Greenhouse Gas typical scores for a large vehicle.
With the optional Luxury Package, my car had leather-covered heated seats and memory for the driver seat, mirrors and steering column. The optional Premium Package added a sunroof, fine 10-speaker audio system upgrade, 18-inch wheels and tires, and running boards.
All Borregos boast air conditioning, keyless entry, cruise control, a six-speaker audio system and power windows, locks and mirrors. You get a USB and AUX input jack too, and SIRIUS satellite radio is available for the first time.
The EX adds an eight-way power driver's seat, four-way adjustment for the passenger's spot, dual-zone automatic climate control, a trip computer, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and leather on the steering wheel and shift knob.
The Limited features a push button start/smart key, upgraded instruments, power adjustable pedals, chrome door handle accents, heated second row seats, and the Luxury and Premium packages standard. It's the ultimate Kia.
Even though it uses a traditional truck-style body-on-frame construction, the Borrego employs a double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension and stabilizer bars front and rear. That makes it easy and pleasant to drive despite its considerable weight.
The Borrego is certainly roomy. It boasts 156.8 cubic feet of interior space and nearly 100 cubic feet for cargo if you drop the second- and third-row seats. Your friends will be requesting your help when they move.
The new Kia passed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) crash tests with a top level five-star rating. The entire alphabet soup of safety acronyms is present on all Borregos too, including antilock brakes (ABS) with electronic stability control (ECS), traction control system (TCS), electronic brake distribution (EBD), brake assist system (BAS) and a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). Got that? There'll be a test later.
There's also a standard backup warning system that beeps to warn you of hard-to-see objects. San Franciscans be aware: the Borrego has the Hill Start Assist Control, which prevents the car from rolling backwards when starting out on a hill. The Downhill Brake Control system helps keep the vehicle moving straight and steady down steep grades. These last two features are new to Kia.
One thing remains a big selling point for the brand, a sensational warranty. That means 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain coverage, five-year, 60,000-mile limited basic warranty, and a five-year anti-perforation warranty (less of an issue in sunny California, agreed). You also get five years of free roadside assistance.
Prices for the Borrego LX with the V6 and two-wheel drive begin at $26,995, moving up in levels to the EX with the V8 and four-wheel drive at $32,745, and at the very top, the new Limited model pushes just past $40,000. My EX with V6 and four-wheel drive came to $36,295.
Before I drove it, I wasn't sure the Borrego would feel worth its price, but it is completely competitive. It does not seem like an economy ride in the least.