- The Washington Times - Friday, July 31, 2009

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

This poor economy is poor timing to introduce an all-new, three-row, seven-passenger SUV to compete with the likes of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chevy TrailBlazer and Ford Explorer. Kia, however, has to play the hand it’s been dealt as it muscles into the big boy market with its 2009 Borrego.

As buyers run from trucks toward fuel-efficient cars, Borrego’s light is shining under a bush. And it’s a shame because the Borrego is a strong contender against the long established brands. The silver lining in all this is for the confident consumer who can leverage the overall disadvantaged auto industry to buy low.

For the first time ever, Kia is using a V-8 engine. The Borrego is featured with a V-6, as well as the optional 32-valve 4.6-liter V-8. This was the powerplant in my tester. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, the V-8 generates 337 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. The engine’s torque rating is exemplary. It produces 323 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,500 rpm.

In my V-8 tester, with a curb weight of 4,621 pounds, this powerful pulling force was felt immediately under throttle. The big and forceful Borrego is smooth running as it proceeds through its six automatic shift points. With all this force under the hood, the Borrego can bring up from its behind 7,500 pounds of trailer weight.

My 4x4 tester had a base price of $32,995. Its official 2009 EPA fuel economy ratings are 15 miles per gallon city and 20 mpg highway. The Borrego runs on regular gasoline and has a fuel tank capacity of about 21 gallons.

The 4x2 Borrego starts at $26,245 and is standard equipped with the 3.8-liter V-6. This engine is coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission and has a horsepower rating of 276 at 6,000 rpm and torque rating of 267 lb.-ft. at 4,400 rpm. The V-6 towing capacity is capped at 5,000 pounds. EPA estimates on this powerplant come in at 21 mpg highway on both the 4x2 and 4x4 versions.

The Borrego is a true truck and competes with not only Ford, Chevy and Jeep, but also the Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota 4Runner. Kia’s body-on-frame sport utility vehicle has a double wishbone front suspension with shock absorbers and stabilizer bar. The coil-over springs rear multi-link suspension incorporates a damper and stabilizer bar. The Borrego is good for on-road towing and off-road adventures. This Kia SUV has a typical ground clearance of 8.5 inches. Drivers who will be doing off-roading should inquire with the dealer about skid plate protection.

The entry model Borrego has a high level of standard amenities, such as air conditioning, power windows, door locks and mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control and a six-speaker sound system with MP3.

The up-level tester came standard with dual-zone climate control, Sirius satellite, eight-way driver and four-way passenger power seats, sliding and reclining second row seats, a back-up warning system and active head restraints.

A high level of standard safety equipment is offered on the 2009 Borrego. It includes electronic stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, and six airbags. The V-8 model has seven airbags with a driver’s knee airbag.

Since it went on sale in July, Kia has sold only 1,233 Borrego units through September. But just like any portfolio, diversification is critical. Fortunately for Kia its small car sales are doing well in this economy with year-to-date sales on the Spectra alone at 58,915 through to the third quarter.

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Copyright, Motor Matters, 2008

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