2009 Kia Borrego EX – Quick Drive

By Kevin Miller


I recently spent a few days in the all-new Kia Borrego. The white SUV with gray cladding and chrome wheels wasn’t bad looking at all, though from certain angles it looked a lot like other vehicles in its class; the Ford Explorer and the Volkswagen Touareg were among the cars that came to mind when looking at the Borrego. The styling is definitely derivative from other vehicles on the market rather than being particularly unique.

The word Borrego is a Spanish one, translating to “bighorn sheep”, which should call to mind a type of wild ruggedness. Kia’s Borrego is a body-on-frame SUV, available with either a 276 HP V6 or a 337 HP V8. Either engine is available with an optional full-time four-wheel drive system with driver-selectable high and low ranges. Unfortunately for Kia, this pretty nice SUV has hit the market just when such vehicles are in low demand. The V6 4WD Borrego’s EPA fuel consumption rating of 16/21 MPG doesn’t help its case any. Because the model I drove didn’t have any sort of trip computer which provided a fuel economy display, I have no idea what type of mileage I got during the three days and about 150 miles I drove the Borrego.

I drove this car immediately after a week in a BMW X5, and the difference in handling between the two SUVs was marked. My initial impression of the Borrego was that body motions were uncontrolled; pavement undulations and curves caused the Borrego to ride in the floaty manner of a1970s American car, with plenty of body roll and incredibly light steering. Fortunately, after a few hours the handling came to feel mostly natural and predictable.

Inside, legroom was adequate for my size, and visibility out was good. Unfortunately, the climate controls and their display (including clock and outdoor temperature) were quite low on the dash, and the display was sometimes obscured by glare when it was sunny. The Borrego does feature three-zone climate control and heated front seats.

The perforated-leather upholstered seats would be comfy if not for the active headrest, which is perpetually too-far forward (no matter what height it was adjusted to), forcing my neck down at an awkward angle. Pressing my head backward against the headrest caused the inertia plate for the headrest’s active anti-whiplash function to move forward into my back. Passengers who rode with me (each of whom was shorter than my 6’4” size) didn’t have any complaints about the headrest.

The seats were otherwise comfortable, and there was plenty of room in both the second- and third rows. The second row had a padded fold-down armrest (if a passenger wasn’t riding in the middle position) as well as a nice control panel for the rear zone climate controls. In higher-end models (V8 Limited trim) the second row seats are heated. ISOFIX child seat attachment points are present at the outboard seating positions of the second row, but none are present in the third row. A reasonable amount of cargo spaces remains even with the third row seats raised.

The backs of the third row (which form the cargo floor when that row is stowed) are made from hard plastic, with no gripping properties whatsoever. With an absence of cargo hooks or organizers, any cargo put into the back of the Borrego when the third-row seats are stowed will slide around and bump into the interior trim. Going over bumps can cause the cargo to “hop”, landing with a loud noise on the hard plastic.

The Borrego EX I drove had a navigation system/touchscreen stereo which was easy to use, and included Sirius radio, and AM/FM/CD/AUX-IN, all of which could be operated through steering wheel controls. While the Borrego EX had an iPod/MP3/Aux input port, the iPod adapter didn’t work- there was an error message on the display stating “USB Drivers Not Present”.

I had intended to use the Borrego for carrying 6 people (4 adults a 3 year old and a 7 year old), on a weekend trip to a destination about 2 hours away from Seattle, which would have meant securing my daughter’s Britax Marathon car seat in the third row using the vehicle seatbelt. I test fit the seat back there and it fit without a problem. Unfortunately, the Borrego had a fault in its airbag system, rendering it unsafe to drive, so it was collected and taken for service after just three days. Our weekend getaway was taken in our traveling companions’ minivan.

Kia is marketing the Borrego as a new kind of luxury SUV. The spec sheet showed a vehicle with a lot of features given its as-equipped price. While the entry-level, two-wheel drive Borrego LX starts at 26,995, the V6-powered 4×4 EX model I drove starts at $30,745. Loaded up with $1500 navigation system, $1500 luxury package (Leather Seats & Trim, Heated Front Seats, Power Tilt and Telescopic Steering Column, 2-position Memory Setting (Driver’s Seat, Outside Mirrors, and Steering Column)), and $1800 premium package (Sunroof, Infinity® AM/FM/MP3/SIRIUS® Audio System, In-dash 6-CD Changer & 10 Speakers, Rear Air Conditioning with Full Controls, Running Boards, 18″ Alloy Wheels, Auto-dimming Rear-view Mirror) $750 for chrome 18” wheels, the Borrego EX I tested cost $36,295 after a $750 destination charge.

That seems like a lot of money for a Kia, even though at this price it does have a lot of luxury features. My initial reaction after just three days was that the Borrego was a solid vehicle dressed up with luxury features, rather than a luxurious car with nice appointments. It is a subtle distinction between those two definitions. I hope to be able to give the Borrego a more thorough review in the near future, to be able to do a more thorough evaluation of daily life with the Borrego, and to determine whether its luxury is thoroughly integrated or merely skin-deep.

COPYRIGHT Autosavant – All Rights Reserved

Author: Kevin Miller

As Autosavant’s resident Swedophile, Kevin has an acute affinity for Saabs, with a mild case of Volvo-itis as well. Aside from covering most Saab-related news for Autosavant, Kevin also reviews cars and covers industry news. His “Great Drive” series, with maps and directions included, is a reader favorite.

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  1. How many bloated, gas-guzzling, expensive SUVs do you have to review?

  2. The Borrego was the last one for me to review for the foreseeable future…

  3. Smotri, there are a number of fuel efficient car reviews available at Autosavant. The ones that come to mind were the Mini Cooper John Cooper Works, Mini Cooper Clubman, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Versa, Nissan Sentra, Subaru Forester, Pontiac Vibe, Pontiac Solstice GXP, Nissan Rogue, Scion xD, Ford Fusion, Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid, Saturn Astra, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cobalt, and Chevrolet Malibu.

    It just so happens that our testing schedules ended up with many similar vehicles this fall, while in the summer when gas was $4 per gallon, I made a specific attempt to schedule as many efficient vehicles as I could.

  4. Well, I hope so!
    I like this site for the most part, but those SUVs are, quite frankly, sickening, and symbolize to me our brainless and seemingly willful dependence on foreign oil. I don’t give other gas/diesel-powered vehicles a break, by no means, but these in particular stand out, in more ways than one.

  5. The large, gas guzzling SUVs are a dying segment anyway, but still are still a relevant part of the market nonetheless. As I said, the timing is coincidental, but I don’t think that our writers were promoting them in any way, or even praising them. Every review mentioned the poor fuel economy, but not the geopolitical implications.

    Anyway, thanks for reading and thanks for the comment.

  6. Believe it or not, there are still people in need of SUVs such as this one. If you have a large family and still require towing ability, this is much more economical than buying two vehicles.

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