Full 2009 Kia Borrego Review
What's New for 2009
A new model for 2009, the Kia Borrego is a traditional midsize SUV that seats seven passengers. It's available with either a V6 or V8 engine as well as a choice of rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.
There was a time not all that long ago when automakers couldn't crank out SUVs quickly enough. During the 1990s and into the new millennium, even companies that historically stuck to cars jumped on the SUV bandwagon, developing their own versions of utility vehicles to satisfy consumers' ravenous appetites for road-going monstrosities. But oh, how times have changed. As fuel prices continue to rise, more consumers are turning back toward smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles, and some automakers have even responded by cutting back production of their larger vehicles to focus on the small car market. But not Kia. The Korean company is betting there's still some life in the midsize SUV segment -- and the stakes are in the form of the new 2009 Kia Borrego.
Kia is hoping to lure customers to its seven-passenger, body-on-frame SUV with the promise of luxury at a value price. The Borrego is Kia's first model to offer gadgets such as voice-activated navigation, Bluetooth, keyless start and a back-up camera. Other options such as leather seating, an upgraded Infinity audio system and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system may come as a surprise to shoppers who may have previously considered Kia strictly a bare-bones brand.
But the 2009 Borrego isn't just about appearances and gizmos; it has the chops of a true sport-utility vehicle. Unlike crossovers, traditional body-on-frame SUVs are generally able to handle rougher terrain and boast higher towing capacities. Available with either a V6 or a V8 engine, the Borrego comes standard with features such as downhill brake control and hill assist control, and ground clearance is on par for the segment. Four-wheel-drive models also come with the expected two-speed transfer case. Notably, the Borrego can also tow up to a class-leading 7,500 pounds. On the downside, the Borrego seems to miss the mark when it comes to some aspects of performance and handling, and its lack of a power liftgate makes one wonder how a brand touting its advanced features could have overlooked something so relatively common.
The 2009 Kia Borrego is up against long-running, top-selling midsize standbys such as the Ford Explorer, Toyota 4Runner and Nissan Pathfinder. And on paper, the Kia looks like a worthy contender. The Borrego has a slightly lower base price than these competitors (although the V8 engine and various options can make it expensive), and offers all the necessities for an active family, such as a 60/40-folding second row and a 50/50-split third row. Its V8 boasts more horsepower than any of its other eight-cylinder rivals and still provides some of the best fuel economy in the segment. The Borrego also has the smallest turning circle, which in theory should make it a tad nimbler than the rest.
In short, those who actually need the stout capabilities of a traditional midsize SUV in the $20,000-$35,000 range might be pleasantly surprised by the 2009 Kia Borrego.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Kia Borrego midsize SUV is available in two main trim levels, LX and EX. Rear-drive Borrego LX V6 models come standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, a back-up warning system, an integrated tow hitch, air-conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, a tilt/telescoping steering column and a six-speaker audio system with CD/MP3 player, satellite radio, USB port and auxiliary jack. The EX V6 trim adds foglights, heated outside mirrors, an eight-way power driver seat, a four-way power passenger seat, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and dual-zone automatic climate control.
Borrego V8 models are also offered in the same LX and EX trim levels and are very similar in terms of equipment, but come standard with 18-inch wheels. Four-wheel-drive models are equipped similarly and also have a windshield de-icer.
In terms of options, there's a Convenience Package for LX models that adds leather seating and a power driver seat. Two additional option packages, Luxury and Premium, are available exclusively on the EX. The Luxury Package includes chrome wheels, leather upholstery, a power tilt/telescoping steering column, a memory function for the driver seat and heated front seats. The Premium Package adds running boards, a sunroof, a 10-speaker Infinity audio system, rear air-conditioning controls and a rear back-up camera. Additional options for the EX include a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and voice-activated navigation.
Powertrains and Performance
Two engine choices are available for the 2009 Kia Borrego: a 3.8-liter V6 that makes 276 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque, and a 4.6-liter V8 that produces 337 hp and 323 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are available with either rear-wheel drive or full-time four-wheel drive. All six-cylinder models are paired to a five-speed automatic transmission, while the V8s get a six-speed automatic. A fully loaded V8 sprinted from zero to 60 mph on our test track in 7.8 seconds.
Towing capacities for a properly equipped Kia Borrego are 5,000 pounds for the V6 model and a class-leading 7,500 pounds for the V8. Estimated fuel economy for the 2009 Kia Borrego ranges from 17 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined for the rear-drive V6 powertrain down to 15/20/17 mpg for a 4WD V8.
Standard on the 2009 Kia Borrego are antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, downhill brake control, hill assist control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags with rollover sensor. Borregos equipped with the V8 engine also get a driver's knee airbag standard.
Interior Design and Special Features
Materials and features inside the 2009 Kia Borrego are more luxurious than one might expect. The understated cabin is simple and refined, while a logical dash layout keeps the various controls relatively easy to use. The optional leather seats, though not on par with a Hermes handbag, are comfortable and supportive. The third-row seats are relatively easy to stow and put back into place, although cargo capacity with all seats up is a paltry 12.4 cubic feet. And the Borrego's lack of a power liftgate is disappointing, especially considering Kia's "more luxury for the money" claim.
While the V8 engine has plenty of power and adequate torque on the low end, the throttle seems slow to respond, and taller ratios in the upper gears (ostensibly to optimize fuel economy) can leave you wondering when the transmission will finally shift. And although the V8 Borrego boasts more power than its similarly equipped competitors, its peak power arrives higher in the rev band. The combination of these factors dulls the performance potential and can lead to some frustrating moments when trying to merge onto the freeway or make it uphill at cruising speed.
Like many body-on-frame SUVs, there is a disconnected feeling from the road, but this seems particularly true in the Borrego's case. We assume two factors are to blame here. The rubber mounts between the body and frame, while they help absorb some shock and keep the vehicle quiet, contribute to a somewhat sloppy feel when going over bumps and potholes. Secondly, the suspension calibrations obviously have an even greater effect on ride quality. However, to be fair, our test model was an early production unit earmarked for test purposes that may not represent the final production version.