2009 Kia Borrego review:

2009 Kia Borrego

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With a full range of modern audio sources, the stereo in the Borrego is up to date, except for the aforementioned lack of iPhone support. Not only does it play MP3 files on iPods, USB drives, and CDs, but also has satellite radio. We find the interface for navigating categories on satellite radio and MP3 folders intuitive.

We are impressed by the graphic treatment for the audio control screens.

The Infinity audio system is well above average, using 10 speakers, including a subwoofer, to produce well-defined sound. Bass is strong, without being overwhelming, while the highs are nice and distinct.

Tech options for the Borrego that we didn't have on our test model were a rear-view camera, the display of which sits in the rear-view mirror, and Bluetooth cell phone support.

Under the hood
Our 2009 Kia Borrego was powered by a 3.8-liter V-6. A 4.6-liter V-8 is also available. We initially assumed the smaller engine would be a better choice for fuel economy, but as Kia has its power trains configured, fuel economy is virtually identical. Our four-wheel-drive V-6 gets an EPA rated 16 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, while the V-8 version gets 15 mpg city and 20 mpg highway.

That extra one mpg gained from the V-6 loses you 61 horsepower and 56 pound-feet of torque (the V-6 produces 276 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque). The sacrifice hardly seems worth it, unless you take into account the $3,000 price difference between the V-6 and V8 versions.

The V-6 doesn't make much sense compared with the V-8, as the fuel economy numbers aren't very different.

The main reason why the V-6 doesn't offer greatly improved fuel economy is the automatic transmission, a five-speed on the V-6 and a six-speed on the V-8. Kia might have eked out a better highway number if it had also put the six-speed with the V-6.

As it is, during our testing, which involved plenty of highway driving, we came just under 16 mpg--a little low for our tastes.

The Borrego's all-wheel-drive system suggests that its purpose goes beyond daily commuter use, as you can put it in a low setting for the real tough stuff, or a high setting for snow and other generally slippery conditions. It also has descent control, which will modulate speed down hills with difficult surfaces.

In sum
Our 2009 Kia Borrego EX, fitted with the V-6 and four-wheel-drive, came in with a base price of $29,995. Kia offers variations and different prices for the V-6 and the V-8, and four-wheel-drive or two-wheel-drive options. Ours cost an extra $1,800 for the Premium package (which included the Infinity stereo), $1,500 for the navigation system, and $1,500 for the Luxury package, bringing in leather seats and power adjustable steering wheel. Chrome wheels added $750. With the $750 destination charge, our total came out to $36,295. Bluetooth phone support would have been an extra $350.

In rating the Borrego, we give it a slightly above average score for cabin tech; it has all the bases covered, then steps it up a bit with the stereo. For performance tech, it earns points for its off-road gear, but drops a bit because of the poor fuel economy, coming down to an average rating. And we give it an extra point because of the good electronics interface for an otherwise average design.

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