2009 Kia Borrego EX V8
2009 Kia Borrego EX V8. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Kia Borrego, Paul Williams

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2009 Kia Borrego EX V8, by James Bergeron

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2009 Kia Borrego

Ottawa, Ontario – Generic isn’t always bad, but when a vehicle is both generic-looking and a two-and-a-half ton, V8-powered SUV, well, that’s not necessarily going to be an easy sell – at least not in these days of impending “economic downturns” and “credit crunches.”

Add to that Kia’s lingering reputation as a builder of “cheap” vehicles, and you have to feel sorry for Kia’s marketing department.

Thankfully, despite bland looks and thirsty fuel consumption, there’s plenty of good to say about Kia’s newest SUV, the second body-on-frame truck in its line-up.

2009 Kia Borrego EX V8
2009 Kia Borrego EX V8
2009 Kia Borrego EX V8
2009 Kia Borrego EX V8
2009 Kia Borrego EX V8. Click image to enlarge

Unlike several of its vehicles, the Borrego isn’t a twin to anything in Hyundai’s lineup. The engines and transmission – a 3.8-litre V6 and the 4.6-litre V8 and six-speed automatic transmission – are borrowed from the Hyundai Genesis sedan, but for the most part, the rest is all-Kia, all the time.

In that sense, the Borrego is very impressive. Have a look at the interior: the various materials aren’t the stuff of uber-luxury, but it all looks and feels solid, and certainly looks the part of a $40,000-something truck. CarTalkCanada Editor, James Bergeron, thought the Borrego’s interior was on a par with Lexus; I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s certainly a lot better that you’d expect if the last Kia you’d peered inside of was a Sephia.

The Borrego’s price starts at $36,995 for the LX V6 model. My EX V8 tester came with a base price of $43,495, which swells to $45,145 after adding the rather rich $1,650 freight charge.

The front seats are wide and comfortable, though I would have liked an angle adjustment for the headrest (a rarity in any vehicle, honestly), and my wife found the top of the backrest forced her shoulders a little too far forward. Aside from that, both of us thought the Borrego would make a good long-haul vehicle, which is high praise from my wife in particular, who has lower back issues.

In the second row, both leg- and headroom are generous, and the nearly-flat floor is a nice surprise in a rear-wheel drive-based vehicle. The seat cushions are a bit flat, however, and the bottom cushion is low and doesn’t provide much thigh support.

The standard third row is surprisingly roomy, with more headroom than you’d expect and enough legroom for average-sized adults, at least for short trips. There’s even a decent amount of toe-room under the second row seats. One beef is that only the right-hand side of the second row seat tilts and slides to allow third row access. The lever is also awkward to get at from the outside.

The Borrego’s ergonomics are a strong point, with all controls within easy reach of the driver. This truck lacks anything as nifty as adjustable pedals, but the steering column does have a power adjustment for tilt and reach. My minor complaints are that the radio volume and tuning knobs are on the small side, as are the steering wheel-mounted volume controls – operated from the backside.

2009 Kia Borrego EX V8
2009 Kia Borrego EX V8
2009 Kia Borrego EX V8
2009 Kia Borrego EX V8
2009 Kia Borrego EX V8
2009 Kia Borrego EX V8. Click image to enlarge

On smooth roads, the Borrego’s ride is faultless. Road and wind noise are well-controlled, and the all-independent suspension does a good job soaking up gentle irregularities in the pavement, though it can get floaty at higher speeds. It’s on rough roads where the Borrego’s body-on-frame truck platform comes through: the rear end tends to clomp and skip around on broken pavement.

That poor rough road performance, it turns out, wasn’t the truck’s fault. James Bergeron, who drove this vehicle after I did, discovered that the tires had been inflated to 40 psi – well over the 32 Kia recommends for the Borrego – before it was delivered to me. After adjusting the pressure, James noted a marked improvement in ride quality; see his comments here.

Handling is not something you want to explore the limits of in a vehicle like this. If you do, you’ll discover lots of body roll. This does, however, speak to a long-travel suspension that will allow you to take advantage of the Borrego’s four-wheel drive system, which has high- and low-range settings, plus an automatic setting for everyday driving. A quick spin through a convenient gravel pit revealed that ground clearance is good, but the Borrego’s stock tires let it down during my little excursion, losing all traction on the loose surface on rather modest inclines.

The Hyundai-sourced drive-train is almost as impressive here as it is in the Genesis sedan. The Borrego gets less horsepower (325 versus 368 in the Genesis); it’s no slouch in acceleration, but the motor has to work to move the truck’s 4,900 pounds (2,227 kg). The motor makes good mid- and high-range power, but a little more low-end torque wouldn’t go amiss in this truck. The Borrego is a capable vehicle all the same: it’s rated to tow 7,500 pounds (3402 kg) with the V8 engine, and 5,000 (2268 kg) in V6 form.

With the V8 engine, the Borrego’s EnerGuide fuel consumption numbers are 14.4/9.7 L/100 km (city/highway). My average worked out to 16.5 L/100 km; cool weather is at least partly to blame for the discrepancy, but this is a truck that just screams for a diesel engine, to address both the fuel consumption and low-end torque issues.

The Borrego is a solid truck with plenty to recommend it; the combination of serious off-road and towing capabilities and interior comfort are tough to find for less than my tester’s $45,145 asking price (including freight). All that’s missing is the compelling wrapper that will entice shoppers to make the trek to a Kia dealer – a place many car buyers likely have never ventured, as it is – to take a closer look. And that’s a shame, because SUV shoppers who skip the Borrego will be missing out.

Pricing: 2009 Kia Borrego EX V8

Base price: $43,495
Options: None
A/C tax: $100

Freight: $1,650
Price as tested: $45,145
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

  • Specifications: 2009 Kia Borrego

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