When Kia initially developed the body-on-frame Borrego, it would have made perfect sense to see it in a comparison with the Ford Explorer, Jeep Commander, and Dodge Durango, as they all were three-row, truck-based sport/utilities. But by the time the Borrego entered production in 2008 as a 2009 model, crossovers were starting to take over the SUV market, and the Borrego was too late to the party. In fact, the Explorer and Durango are now crossovers, and the Commander and Borrego have been discontinued as the market shifts away from body-on-frame SUVs.
We were impressed that Kia was dabbling in the truck-based vehicle arena, and spent more than a year testing every aspect of what the Borrego was built to do: provide transportation on-road for seven people; carry gear in a flexible, reconfigurable cabin; drive off-road; and tow.
Part of the reason crossovers have become so popular is their refinement, often in the form of a cushy ride, sporty handling, comfortable interior, and slick car engines. One of the Borrego's disadvantages in the changing automotive market is that it had all the capability, but lacked polish and refinement. On a trip to San Diego, one editor noted that the Borrego's chassis felt trucklike and that its 337-horse, 4.6-liter V-8 engine was coarse. Ride quality also felt rough and trucky, and the Kia developed an odd groan in front and a squeak in back. The overall driving experience wasn't that memorable, either. As assistant Web producer Scott Evans explained, "The Borrego is a perfectly capable but utterly unremarkable vehicle. It went 1000 miles with nary a hiccup and was a pleasant long-haul cruiser. The engine has good power and the SUV handles surprisingly well for its size. Every time I walked away from it, though, I completely forgot about the drive because it was entirely uninteresting."
The Borrego did have positive attributes. The nav system and multimedia interface got very high marks from the staff, not only for ease of use, but because the nav allows the front passenger to enter addresses while the vehicle is in motion. The Borrego's tight turning radius and great acceleration also earned praise, but its V-8 power came at a price: so-so fuel economy with a test average of 16.9 mpg.