Kia Borrego surprises from many angles
It is understandable that Kia would look at itself and begin to reevaluate its position in the United States' auto market. Kia's presence here began with an interesting rollout in the West and moved across the country. The carmaker said at a recent press briefing that it understands Kia automobiles may be the second or third car in a family's garage. No wonder it is looking to change that perspective with the new Borrego. The SUV obviously is aimed at this objective. After spending a good amount of time driving the Borrego up through the mountains outside of Seattle, I think the manufacturer has a pretty good lock on the target. The one factor that is evident is the fact the automotive market is slowing. However, as Kia points out, the affluent suburbanite still is looking to fill a spot in their driveway with a versatile yet economical vehicle. With functionality, a roomy cabin and good fuel economy, Kia hopes folks will look toward the Borrego. The exterior design comes from Kia's USA design studio, which means it has the American market front and center. It is an attractive and sleek design particularly for an SUV. While Kia claims it is not becoming a luxury vehicle maker, it wants to make a luxurious statement with the Borrego.Beyond the elegant exterior styling, the Borrego is equipped with a plethora of standard features that people are demanding in a more up-level vehicle. Equipment such as a backup system and a tow receiver with premium cover for a completely integrated appearance may seem minor but can make the difference in a buyer's selection. The surprise for me came with the two engine choices. The base model gets an anything-but-basic V-6 engine producing 276 hp and 267 pounds-feet of torque. Buyers can move up to the more powerful 337 hp V-8 that produces 323 pounds-feet of torque. I drove both models back to back in and throughout mountain passes and the freeways of Seattle and found both to be quite satisfying in performance. The Borrego's body-on-frame construction assures a rugged structure. The double wishbone front suspension and the multi-link in the rear offers a smooth ride on paved roadways and a surefooted hold on the trails. The SUV is equipped with full-time, four-wheel drive providing excellent security in any weather or surface condition. Like many luxury vehicles, but ones costing much more, the Borrego features Electronic Stability Control, anti-rollover system and hill descent as standard equipment. Other premium features are a third-row curtain airbag, rear backup camera with the screen in the rear view mirror, smart key, navigation unit and Bluetooth capability, again all features equated to more expensive luxury vehicles. If I based my like for the new Borrego solely on the luxurious features that Kia has either included as standard equipment or made available as options, I would give this Kia high marks. However, I would give the Borrego high marks for the entire package. This vehicle will fit the lifestyles of a great many active owners. It drives with the sureness, comfort and performance that work for a midsize SUV.
Ron Moorhead, a nationally syndicated automotive columnist, can be reached at [email protected]