- The Washington Times - Friday, September 26, 2008

It’s understandable Kia would look at itself and begin to reevaluate where it stands in the U.S. market. Kia’s presence in the States began with an interesting rollout that began in the West and moved somewhat slowly across the country. They said at a recent press briefing they understand Kia automobiles may be the second or third car in a family’s garage. No wonder they are looking to change that perspective with the new Borrego.

This sport utility vehicle is obviously aimed at this objective. After spending a good amount of time driving the Borrego up through the mountains outside of Seattle, Wash., I think they have a pretty good lock on their target.

The one thing that is evident is the fact the automotive market is slowing. However, as Kia points out, the affluent suburbanite is still looking to fill a spot in their driveway with a versatile yet economical vehicle. With functionality, a roomy cabin and good fuel economy, Kia hopes folks will look toward the Borrego.

The exterior design comes from Kia’s U. S. design studio, which means it has the American market front and center. It’s an attractive and sleek design particularly for an SUV. While Kia claims they are not becoming a luxury vehicle maker, it wants to make a luxurious statement with the Borrego.

Beyond the elegant exterior styling, the Borrego is equipped with a plethora of standard features that people demand in a more up-level vehicle. Equipment such as a back-up system and a tow receiver with premium cover for a completely integrated appearance may seem minor but can make the difference in a buyer’s selection.

The surprise for me came with the two engine choices. The base model gets an, anything but basic, V-6 engine producing 276 horsepower and 267 pounds-feet of torque. Buyers can move up to the more powerful 337 horsepower V-8 that produces 323 pounds-feet of torque.

I drove both models back to back in and throughout those mountain passes and nearby freeways and found both to be quite satisfying in performance. Of course, I prefer the extra power from the big V-8.

One might think because the more powerful engine is a big V-8 producing mega-power it would naturally be economically irresponsible, particularly in the fuel department. But you would be wrong. It might be hard to comprehend but the V-8 engine gets 15 miles per gallon in the city and a quite handy 22 MPG out on the highway, surprisingly; the highway mileage is one mile per gallon better than the V-6.

The Borrego’s body on frame construction assures a rugged structure. The double wishbone front suspension and the multi-link in the rear offers a smooth ride on paved roadways and a sure-footed hold on the trails. The Borrego is equipped with full time four-wheel drive providing excellent security in any weather or surface condition.

Like many luxury vehicles, but ones costing much more, the Borrego features Electronic stability Control (ECS), anti-roll over system and hill decent all standard equipment. Other premium features are a third row curtain air bag, rear back-up camera with the screen in the rear view mirror, smart key, navigation unit and Bluetooth capability, again all features equated to more expensive luxury vehicles.

If I based my like for the new Borrego solely on the luxurious features Kia has either included as standard equipment or made available as options, I would give this Kia high marks. However, I would give the Borrego high marks for the entire package. This is a vehicle that will fit a great many active owners lifestyles.

It drives with the sureness, comfort and performance that work for a mid-sized SUV.

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