2009 Kia Borrego EX V6
2009 Kia Borrego EX V6. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Kia Borrego

Oshawa, Ontario – In any industry, timing is important. But it’s especially crucial in the automotive sector, where the huge chunk of household budget involved can be swayed in a heartbeat by external market forces. This time around, bad timing will probably be bad news for Kia, as it releases its new Borrego SUV into uncertain fuel prices and an economic cesspool. And while the Borrego does most things right, its biggest problem is that it doesn’t do enough to outshine the competition in this rapidly-declining segment.

The most noticeable item on the Borrego’s list is Kia’s first North American V8 engine, a 4.6-litre that’s a version of the powerplant used in the Hyundai Genesis, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. But there’s another choice: my tester’s 3.8-litre V6, which comes solely with a five-speed automatic. Save for a driver’s knee airbag reserved for the V8 model only, all other features are similar, and the engine choice represents a $2,500 difference: the V6 starts at $36,995, the V8 at $39,495.

That gets you the LX model in both, but each engine choice can be optioned up to the EX trim line, as mine was, at $40,995 in V6 and $43,495 in V8. All models seat seven passengers.

2009 Kia Borrego EX V6
2009 Kia Borrego EX V6
2009 Kia Borrego EX V6. Click image to enlarge

Along with a step up in interior features, the major difference between the LX and EX is in the standard four-wheel drive (a two-wheel version sold in the U.S. is not available in Canada). On the LX, it’s a part-time system: rear-wheel for dry roads, with 4WD reserved specifically for loose or slippery surfaces only. The EX uses a full-time all-wheel system that distributes torque when needed, and can be locked into 4High or 4Low if necessary, via a dial on the dash. Both systems include hill start assist and downhill brake control.

Its body-on-frame means tough truck, and with the V6, it’ll tow up to 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs), which is about mid-pack among its equivalently-engined competitors. Moving up to the V8 increases the vehicle’s towing capacity to maximum of 3,402 kg (7,500 lbs).

At 276 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque, the V6 is stronger overall than any of its competitors except for the Chevrolet Trailblazer – which gets an impressive 285 horsepower and 276 torque from a 4.2-litre inline-six – and is topped in torque otherwise only by the Nissan Pathfinder, at 288 lb-ft (but 266 horsepower). It’s a good engine and enough to haul around this heavy metal – the V6 model weighs in at 2,023 kg, or 4,460 lbs – and unless you need the V8’s towing ability, you’ll probably find that the smaller engine is more than enough. Against a published rate of 13.0 L/100 km in the city and 9.4 on the highway, I averaged 15.2 L/100 km in very cold weather. Among the V6 competition, only the 230-horsepower Suzuki Grand Vitara gets better overall EnerGuide fuel numbers.

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