High gas prices have taken a big toll on the sales of traditional body-on-frame SUVs. But, while many of their former fans have downsized and moved onto lighter crossover vehicles, there are still some who crave tough, trailer towing, sport-UTEs. And for that crowd, Kia designed their new Borrego perfectly. With a full frame, and strong V6 and V8 powertrains, the Borrego can go where crossovers fear to tread. But, with ever uncertain gas prices, is the Borrego filling a niche that may soon not exist? 

With most new utilities tending to be more efficient, and less adventuresome, car-based crossovers, Kia’s 2009 Borrego is a head-scratcher indeed.  This seven-passenger body-on-framer is as traditional an SUV as they come. Using an eight cross-member frame, the mid-size Borrego has a 114-inch wheelbase, with an overall length of 192.1 inches. That’s a foot longer than a Kia Sorrento and just shy of a Ford Explorer.

To match its frame, Borrego touts a rugged and truck-like appearance. Above a two-tone bumper sits a wide three-bar grille bordered by large, flared-back headlamps. The hulking back-end features an expansive rear glass, wraparound brake lights, and standard tow-hitch.

Hulking power comes from an engine lineup shared with the new Hyundai Genesis sedan, a 3.8-liter V6 yielding 276 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque; or our truck’s 4.6-liter V8 rated at 337 horsepower and 323 pound-feet of torque. Towing capacity is 7,500 pounds. The V6 mates to a 5-speed automatic transmission, while the V8 joins a 6-speed automatic.  Either will feed an available full-time four-wheel drive system featuring Downhill Brake Control and Hill Start Assist.

On the straight, our 4,600 pound Borrego V8 hustled from 0 to 60 in 7.4 seconds, and completed the quarter-mile run in 15.7 seconds at 91 miles-per-hour.  It was a little sluggish off the line, but once it got rolling, momentum takes took over.

The Borrego is supported by a familiar double-wishbone front suspension, but the rear is a multi-link independent setup, still somewhat novel for a body-on-frame SUV. Electronic stability control and traction control are standard.

The IRS contributed greatly to the Borrego’s competent handling abilities. Understeer is manageable, as weight transfers are remarkably smooth. Indeed, body motions are well controlled even when bumps wanted to throw you off. Steering is light on feedback but its resistance level was good. Stopping power comes from 4-wheel ABS disc brakes. Our average stop was slightly long at 135 feet from 60, but straight as an arrow.

Off the beaten path, the Borrego operates like a true adventure machine. With 8-1/2 inches of ground clearance, trail-ready approach and departure angles, and standard skid-plates, this SUV comes well-outfitted to tackle the wild.

The Borrego may be rugged on the outside, but within, it exhibits a polished and citified, three-row cabin. The chunky dashboard houses straightforward gauges and well-organized switchgear.  The leather-wrapped steering wheel has audio and cruise controls. Materials, however, don’t quite match Kia’s luxury claims. Our uplevel Borrego EX had supportive front bucket seats with power for both sides. Seat heat and leather are optional.

The 60/40 split second row has an armrest, available climate controls, and good room for three.  The smaller section tilts and slides for quick access to the two-person split third row that is truly suitable for adults. That’s just as welcomed and unusual as the hard surface cargo floor provided by folding the second- and third-row seats.

More expected are Government Fuel Economy ratings for our Borrego V8 4X4 of 15 city/20 highway on regular gas.  We managed a respectable 18.9 miles-per-gallon in normal driving. Our Borrego’s Energy Impact Score is a thirsty 20.1 Barrels of Oil Consumed per year, with a high Carbon Footprint of 10.8 tons of CO2 emitted per year.

Pricing for the Borrego starts are $26,995 for an LX V6, and $31,745 for an EX V8, with a 100,000 mile powertrain warranty. But, with rivals offering discounts of 25-40% or more, even those reasonable sounding numbers may not counter current buyer resistance to body-on-frame SUVs.

So, we don’t know if the Kia Borrego has a future or not. It’s a sound new product in every way. It’s just, right now, it may not be a product that anyone wants. But, if it has staying power, and what goes around comes around, the utility market just might come around to loving the Kia Borrego.


  • Engine: 4.6-Liter V8
  • Horsepower: 337
  • Torque: 323 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 7.4 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 15.7 Seconds @ 91 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 135 Feet
  • EPA: 15 MPG City/ 20 MPG Highway
  • Mixed Loop: 18.9 MPG
  • Energy Impact: 20.1 Barrels Oil/Yr
  • CO2 Emissions: 10.8 Tons/Yr