It's been a while since we've had a traditional ladder-frame SUV in our long-term test fleet -- and for good reason. With consumers snapping up more comfortable, civilized, and carlike crossover vehicles, interest in the truck-based SUV segment has dwindled, having been labeled by many as passé and decidedly old-fashioned. In fact, when Kia introduced our latest long-termer, the seven-seat Borrego, last year, amid record-high gas prices and small hybrid sales, we wondered if the maker had arrived to the party a bit beyond fashionably late. Still there's something to be said for traditional ladder-frame SUVs, and that something keeps sales churning for the Borrego's hearty competitors -- think 4Runner, Pathfinder, and Land Cruiser.

We ordered our Copperhead (Kia-speak for burnt orange) 2009 Kia Borrego in EX 4X4 trim, which includes a version of Hyundai's smooth and powerful Tau 4.6L V-8 mated to a six-speed automatic. Though it's the same basic engine as in our long-term Genesis, the V-8 is slightly detuned in Borrego configuration, producing 337 horses and 323 pound-feet of torque in this configuration. Three-mode, full-time 4WD, 18-inch wheels, and a host of electronic driving aids from traction and stability control to hill assist and downhill brake control are included in the package. The cabin offers dual-zone climate control, heated outside mirrors, satellite radio, USB and auxiliary jack inputs, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and three-row split-folding seating are standard equipment on our tester. The price thus far: $33,745.

After a run through the available options list, we decided on a few premium perks to spice up our Borrego. We swapped the stock 18-inch alloys for chromed wheels ($750) and added Kia's Premium Package with a sunroof, beefed-up Infinity stereo, rear seat air-conditioning, and full-length running boards ($1800). Finally, we ticked the option boxes for nav($1500) and the Luxury Package ($1500) that includes leather first- and second-row seating, heated front seats, a power tilt/telescoping steering column, and two-position driver memory settings.

We look forward to putting some serious miles on our Borrego and seeing how Kia's first serious sport/ute effort stacks up both on congested, crossover-packed freeways and the trails of which soft-roaders can only dream.


Our Car
Base price $33,745
Price as tested $39,295
Vehicle layout Front engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 4.6L/337-hp/323-lb-ft DOHC 32-valve V-8
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (dist f/r) 4876 lb (54/46%)
Wheelbase 114.0 in
Length x width x height 192.1 x 75.4 x 71.3 in
0-60 mph 7.2 sec
Quarter mile 15.5 sec @ 91.0 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 125 ft
Lateral accel 0.78 g (avg)
MT figure eight 28.3 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy econ 15/20 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.13 lb/mile
Total mileage 8914 miles
Average fuel economy 17.9 mpg