3. It's relaxing and roomy: Great seats with excellent lateral support, along with a comfortable driving position, make long hauls short. The second and third rows, both of which fold flat (the second row also slides forward for easier ingress and egress) offer more head- and legroom than in the Pathfinder or 4Runner. Cargo volume behind the third row (12.4 cu ft) is more than that in the 4Runner (12.1) but a few down compared with the Pathfinder's (16.4), although the Borrego does boast a larger interior volume (156.8 cu ft) than the Nissan (149.1) and the Toyota (145.3).

4. It's handsome: Inside and out, this Borrego looks sharp. Kia did a commendable job keeping the production vehicle true to its inspiration, the Mesa Concept that made its debut at the 2005 Detroit auto show. The design is bold and somewhat square, but not nearly as boxy as the shell on the new Honda Pilot. I found the interior adequately posh-as nice as the cabins in the Pathfinder and 4Runner, for instance-and the ergonomics excellent. All the controls are easy to find and use; the new nav system (a Kia first) is intuitive; and the 10-speaker Infinity sound system provides plenty of punch (and the standard USB/aux inputs are welcome touches).

5. It's a value: The Borrego starts at $26,995. For that dough, you get rear-drive, a 276-hp V-6, a five-speed automatic, three rows, curtain airbags (for all three rows), a backup warning system (a rearview camera will be available this fall), 17-in. wheels, and two new features that are especially useful when going off-road -- Downhill Brake Control (keeps the vehicle going straight and steady down steep grades) and Hill Start Assist Control (prevents the vehicle from rolling backward when pulling away from an uphill gradient). And if you do plan to go off-road, automatic Torque-on-Demand four-wheel drive costs an extra $2000. My tester, an EX V-8 4x4 ($33,745) with $750 18-in. chrome wheels, an $1800 premium package (sunroof, Infinity audio, rear A/C, runningboards), a $1500 luxury package (leather for first and second rows, heated front seats, power tilt and telescopic steering wheel), and a $1500 nav system, totaled $39,395, less than many comparably equipped V-6 crossovers.