Long Term Verdict: 2009 Kia Borrego EX 4x4
Saying good-bye, twice
January 22, 2011
By Allyson Harwood
Photography by Julia LaPalme
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.
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.
5 months and 10,344 miles - Our Kia Borrego went in for its first service visit, a $168.22 oil change, full inspection, and tire rotation.
7 months and 15,119 miles - With 15,000 miles on the 2009 Kia Borrego's odometer, we took it to Car Pros Kia in Carson for its second scheduled service.
9 Months and 21,048 Miles -- Behind the wheel, the Borrego feels more like a compact SUV than a full-size," opines assistant Web producer Carlos Lago.
11 months and 25,663 miles -- "The user interface on the nav/infotainment head unit is one of the best in the business"
13 months and 28,622 miles -- Sleeper of a Super Deal
15 months and 37,312 miles -- The design of the interior has not aged well.