First Drive: 2009 Kia Borrego  kia first drives
2009 Kia Borrego. Click image to enlarge
Manufacturer’s web site
Kia Motors Canada

Review and photos by Paul Williams

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2009 Kia Borrego

Banff, Alberta – Following its North American debut in Detroit earlier this year and its Canadian debut last February in Toronto, the 2009 Kia Borrego (the name is Spanish for “big horned sheep”) is now making its way to Kia dealerships across the country.

An all-new vehicle billed by Kia as a mid-size SUV, “with the capacity and features to compete in the large-SUV segment,” the seven passenger Borrego joins the Sportage and Sorento in Kia’s SUV/CUV model lineup.

Starting at $36,995 for the entry-level model, the Borrego is a body-on-frame vehicle (like the Sorrento) that offers numerous desirable standard features, superior off-road manners and substantial towing capability at a bargain price. There is a choice of two engine/transmission combinations — V6 and V8 — along with LX or EX (luxury) trim levels, but even the LX models are very well equipped. Direct competitors are the Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Honda Pilot, among others.

First Drive: 2009 Kia Borrego  kia first drives
2009 Kia Borrego. Click image to enlarge

All Borrego models are equipped with four-wheel drive with high and low ranges, although the trim level or engine choice determines whether you receive a part-time, manually activated system or the full-time “torque on demand” system from BorgWarner. The latter has sensors at each wheel that detect road conditions and distribute torque accordingly.

Powered by an all-aluminum, 3.8-litre V6 engine making 276 horsepower at 6,000 r.p.m. and 267 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 r.p.m., the $36,995 LX V6 features a five-speed automatic transmission and a 5,000 pound towing capacity. Standard equipment includes cloth interior, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, hill ascent control, downhill assist, six airbags with side curtains for all three rows of seats, and seat belt pretensioners with active head restraints.

As you would expect, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, doors, locks are standard, but somewhat unexpected standard features include heated seats, a rear backup sensor, Sirius satellite radio (with three months prepaid), windshield wiper de-icer, heated mirrors, roof rails, 17-inch alloy wheels and a Class Four trailer hitch. Also standard are underbody skid plates, and tinted privacy glass.

First Drive: 2009 Kia Borrego  kia first drives
2009 Kia Borrego. Click image to enlarge

The $40,995 EX-V6 Luxury supplies the more sophisticated four-wheel drive system, along with a six-speed automatic transmission. Dual automatic climate control, leather seats and trim, power driver’s seat, auto dimming rearview mirror with compass, electric tilt/telescope steering wheel, driver seat integrated memory system (seat, mirror, steering column), interior and exterior chrome and metal trim, integrated side step, tilt and sliding sunroof, 18-inch alloy wheels and fog lights raise the specification and value of this model.

With 337-hp at 6,000 r.p.m. and 323 lb.ft torque at 3,500 r.p.m., an all-aluminum, 4.6-litre V8 engine, new to Kia, raises the Borrego’s towing capacity to 7,500 pounds and is also mated to the six-speed automatic transmission. The $39,495 LX V8 adds a driver knee airbag to the list of standard equipment that otherwise matches the LX V6. Likewise, the $43,495 EX-V8 Luxury follows the specification of the LX-V6 Luxury.

Fuel economy ratings for the V6 models are 13.0/9.4 L/100 km, city/highway, and for the V8 models are 14.4/9.4 L/100 km, city/highway.

The Borrego is larger in all dimensions than the Sorrento, which is a five-passenger vehicle. The extra size translates to a spacious interior with plenty of legroom for all occupants, even those in the third row.

First Drive: 2009 Kia Borrego  kia first drives
2009 Kia Borrego; photo by Brad Horn. Click image to enlarge

The interior design, like the exterior, is pleasant and functional. The red illumination of the instrument panel is easy to read during the day, and in my opinion is superior at night. Seating for the driver and passenger is comfortable and supportive; controls are neatly arranged and easy to operate. The audio system, with steering wheel-mounted controls on the EX models, produces a good quality sound, and an auxiliary input and USB port is standard across the line.

The ride is generally firm and comfortable, but the rear multilink suspension can be unforgiving on broken pavement. Wind noise at highway speeds is low, and the cabin is well insulated from exterior noise. Steering is light, but with good road feel, and the turning circle is commendably short at approximately 11-metres (36.5 feet). Cargo capacity with the third row seat folded is large and useful, but with the seatbacks up, there’s room for only two pieces of luggage (not unexpected in vehicles of this type).

We did have occasion to take the Borrego off-road at its Canadian launch location near Banff, Alberta. On the rugged trails near Kananaskis, the Borrego demonstrated its ability to easily handle moderately rugged terrain, and gave the impression that extreme off-road manoeuvres were within its capability. Certainly, the Borrego will get an adventurous family to its cottage, and will do it (within reason) towing a substantial load.

First Drive: 2009 Kia Borrego  kia first drives
First Drive: 2009 Kia Borrego  kia first drives
2009 Kia Borrego. Click image to enlarge

Criticisms are few, but there are some puzzling omissions to the otherwise impressive list of standard features. I’m sure I won’t be the only writer wondering about the availability of a navigation system (or lack thereof), and the option of a power liftgate would surely be appreciated by potential Borrego buyers as well. And there’s no hands-free type link (Bluetooth) for your cell phone, which is becoming more common even in compact cars. The long reach over the rear bumper to raise the third row seats became particularly evident after the muddy off-road session, as this action will certainly soil your clothes. Some vehicles in this class offer power seat backs, but an extended handle on the back of each seat would suffice.

Recommending the Kia Borrego is its very competitive price, long list of desirable standard features (even in LX trim), rugged off-road ability, spacious interior, class-leading towing capacity and the fine build quality throughout. Whether you’ll achieve the stated fuel consumption figures remains to be seen, as vehicles of this type are notoriously thirsty, especially in city driving. However, a fuel efficient driving style is sure to help, and unless you need the V8 for towing a large trailer, the V6 will likely suffice.

We are entering Kia’s tenth year in Canada, and the Korean maker’s vehicles continue to evolve significantly from one generation to the next. But what Kia could use, in my opinion, is a bit more character and identity. After ten years, you might ask, what exactly is a Kia? What does the brand represent? The Borrego is a conservatively styled vehicle designed to appeal to active families, and in this it is well executed. We look forward to the more radical Kia Soul to inject some personality and distinctiveness to the Kia nameplate.

Manufacturer’s web site
Kia Motors Canada




About Paul Williams

Paul Williams is an Ottawa-based freelance automotive writer and senior writer for Autos. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).