2009 Kia Borrego: Right truck, wrong time?


As fuel prices reached all-time highs late last summer, Kia found itself introducing its newest vehicle to the American market at the worst possible time. Another big SUV into a market already overcrowded, with consumer buying trends heading in different directions.

Fast forward to spring 2009, and as the U.S. prepares for vacation season amidst much lower fuel prices – but an uncertain economy – Kia once again finds itself facing challenging issues selling the new truck.

For myself, I found Borrego to be one of the best new SUVs I’ve tested in a while (admittedly, though, there have not been many new SUVs introduced lately). CUVs have clogged the collective press fleets of late so it was nice to ride in a big, stable, comfortable, rear-drive sport ute again.

Kia offers both six- and eight-cylinder engines in the new Borrego, in two- and four-wheel-drive running gear. Our tester was a 4×4 with the 3.8-liter V-6 backed by five-speed automatic transmission.

True, real frame-based SUVs have limited full range of use in urban settings, but for those still venturing out beyond the bright city lights the Kia Borrego is a perfect choice.

And this new Kia is just one more example of how far Korean automakers have come in delivering comfort, quality and value to a marketplace in real turmoil.

The 2009 Kia Borrego midsize SUV represents one of the first production offerings based off of the new design direction Kia Motors America continues to unveil through concept vehicles including the Kue, KND-4, Kee and KOUP. Given a straightforward and clean look, Borrego is intended for those who enjoy an active yet uncomplicated lifestyle.

As previously stated, Borrego is offered with a DOHC, all-aluminum 3.8-liter V-6 as well as Kia Motors’ first-ever DOHC 4.6-liter V-8 engine, also all-aluminum; both engines are more powerful than any in Kia Motors’ line to date. While the V-6 produces a competitive 276 hp and 267 lb. ft. of torque, the all-new V-8 generates a class-leading 337 hp with 323 lb. ft. of torque.


With class-leading towing of 7,500 pounds when partnered to the V-8, and 5,000 pounds with the V-6, the new midsize SUV offers unmatched capabilities for a weekend of camping or outdoor lifestyle activities. Borrego models with 4WD feature the second generation full-time Torque-on-Demand system from BorgWarner, which uses electronic sensors to monitor road conditions and distribute power to the appropriate wheels.

Combining its impressive horsepower and torque with the unique-to-Borrego and new-to-Kia Motors six-speed automatic transmission mated to the V8 engine, the midsize SUV is able to achieve best-in-class fuel economy for an engine of its kind with an EPA rating of 15/22 mpg city/highway for the V-8 with 2WD and 15/20 city/highway for the 4WD – perfect for families on the go as well as for long road trips. When the V-6 is under the hood, Borrego is able to achieve competitive fuel economy of 17/21 city/highway (2WD) and 16/21 city/highway (4WD).

Borrego’s muscular exterior sits on a front double-wishbone and rear multi-link suspension matched with coil-over springs. The front suspension integrates shock absorbers and a stabilizer bar, while the rear incorporates a damper and stabilizer bar, providing an optimal riding experience, on- or off-road. Borrego is built on a hydro-formed frame structure that increases durability and rigidity. Improved fuel efficiency because of its lighter weight is a result of the hydraulic forming process as opposed to traditional welded press forming. Its body-on-frame construction and insulated rubber mounting provide improved reduction in noise, vibration, and harshness, and help absorb vibrations from the road surface and powertrain yielding a smooth, quiet ride for driver and passengers.

Embodying a certain rugged refinement, Borrego’s aggressive, wide stance evokes an image of stability and strength while flared back headlamps, an upright grille and chiseled hood project a strong presence. LED side view mirrors and chrome accents add to its polished look. Contemporary front and rear fascias suggest modern luxury while optional 18-inch alloy wheels offer increased off-road capabilities, allowing consumers to live an energetic life in style whether it’s cruising around town or trekking through the mountains.

Built on a platform with a wheelbase of 114.0 inches, an overall length of 192.3 inches and overall width of 75.4 inches, Borrego stands wider and longer than the Chevy Trailblazer, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota 4Runner. Its wide stance allows for a roomy, comfortable interior with standard three rows of seating for up to seven adult passengers.


Available in LX and EX trims, Borrego’s spacious cabin comes well equipped with a slew of standard convenience features, including: air conditioning; power door locks, windows and mirrors; keyless entry; cruise control and an AM/FM/CD/MP3 six-speaker audio system to keep its passengers entertained and comfortable. Complementing the audio system, Borrego comes standard with USB and auxiliary input jack and is the first Kia vehicle to offer SIRIUS Satellite Radio with three months of complimentary service for hours of uninterrupted amusement .

With Borrego’s 156.8 cubic-foot interior volume, it offers more room for its seven passengers than Explorer, Pathfinder, 4Runner, Grand Cherokee and the all-new Pilot. Depending on passenger or driver requirements, Borrego comes with a sliding second row for easy ingress and egress to the third row, as well as fold-flat second and third row seats to optimize cargo space, which measures an impressive 12.4 cubic feet with all seats utilized, 97.6 cubic feet with all seats folded flat.

Borrego received a five-star crash safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Borrego ups the ante in safety, offering the same high level of standard safety equipment as all Kia Motors vehicles, including additional features exclusive to the midsize SUV. Standard equipment includes front advanced airbags, front seat mounted side airbags, full-length side-curtain airbags for all three rows and driver’s knee airbag (V-8 models only), four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic stability control, traction control, electronic brake distribution, brake assist system and a tire pressure monitoring system. Borrego’s technologies all work together to provide a technically sophisticated safety package for the driver and passengers.

A standard back-up warning system provides an audible warning using ultrasonic sensors to detect and help prevent hitting hard-to-see objects. Borrego also includes Hill Start Assist Control, which helps prevent the vehicle from rolling backward when trying to pull away from an uphill gradient, as well as Downhill Brake Control, which helps keep the vehicle moving straight and steady down steep grades. Both functions are new to Kia Motors.


Like all Kia models, Borrego is covered by a comprehensive warranty program, which offers unprecedented consumer protection. Included in this program are a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty, and a five-year/100,000-mile anti-perforation warranty. A five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan also is part of the comprehensive coverage program.

Pricing for the 2009 Kia Borrego EX 4×4 with V-6 that we tested begins at $29,995 with the final tally on ours coming to $36,295.

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About the Author

David Goodspeed
David was editor of AutoworldToday at Today Newspapers in the Dallas suburbs until its closing in 2009. He was also webmaster and photographer/videographer. He got started doing photography for the newspaper while working as a firefighter/paramedic in one of his towns, and began working for the newspaper group full-time in 1992. David entered automotive journalism in 1998 and became AutoworldToday editor in 2002. On the average, he drives some 100 new vehicles each year. He enjoys the great outdoors and as an avid fly fisherman, as is his spouse Tish. He especially enjoys nature photography and is inspired by the works of Ansel Adams.