But the Kia Borrego appears at a time when truck-based SUVs powered by thirsty V-8s have lost their luster. And though gas has fallen nearly $2 a gallon since Borrego arrived in August, a hybrid crossover probably would have been more welcome.
The V-8 is quick and quiet. No trouble scooting ahead of traffic and no commotion when you kick the pedal. But the fuel needle gets up and goes just as quickly and quietly. Not as irritating at $2.39 a gallon as at $4.39 a gallon, but how long before prices take off again? And how high?
Borrego is about the same size as Ford Explorer or Chevrolet TrailBlazer.
At first glance, those three rows of seats packed inside would seem to put capacity ahead of comfort be the trip short or long. But the cabin is surprisingly roomy. Second row offers more than ample head and knee room. And those in Row Three—adults or kids—can wiggle melon or legs. Second-row seats slide forward for to give those in back a smidge more room.
But though room is ample, we'd never want to travel any distance there. Third-row seats are directly over the rear axle. Talk about a butt battering.
Second-row seat backs lean forward and bottoms slide against the front seats to create a small aisle to row three. It's a tight squeeze though because the rear wheel wells bulge so much.
The test vehicle came with optional running boards as part of a $1,800 premium package. Getting into Row Two or having the momentum to squeeze into three would be a trick without them.
Not much room for gear or groceries behind the third row and space under the rear cargo floor hides only small items.
But those third-row seat backs may be the quickest and easiest folding in the industry. Pull a lever on the backs and either or both fold flat like that to hold vacation luggage or the week's vittles. Second-row backs also fold flat.
Ride is relatively smooth in the two front rows. No bang or bounce. The suspension minimizes body lean in corners and keeps the radials from scrubbing the pavement in turns. The test vehicle came with on-demand 4WD that goes to work when detecting slippage. A dial to the left of the steering wheel offers high or low settings for snow or off-roading, but skip the boulders. Stability control with traction control is standard, along with side-curtain air bags.
Nice touches include easy-to-see-and-use controls, a pair of drawers in the dash above the center console to store cell phones, iPods or the like, a tray in the console to keep items from bouncing around, power plugs in the dash and under the center armrest and USB/iPod/auxiliary plugs in the console.
There also are two cup- holders in the center console, two in the second-row pull-down armrest, one on each side wall in the third row and one in each of the four doors or 10 for seven people.
The navi should be programmed for rest stops.
A gripe, other than mileage, is the voice-activated controls. Our "radio off" command made the radio switch from AM to FM. Either the radio or this scribe needs to be rewired. And the front seat headrests are so large and lean so far forward to protect from whiplash they feel as if resting your neck against a football.
With Borrego, Kia sticks to its market formula: emphasizing the same features and amenities as the big names but for less money. Still a high-mileage hybrid or diesel would attract more attention.
Borrego starts about $26,000 for a base 2WD LX with V-6 up to $30,000 for a 4WD LX with V-8. The 2WD EX V-6 starts at about $28,000, the 4WD EX V-8 we tested starts at $32,995. With options it runs about $35,000, still about $5,000 less than a comparable Toyota 4Runner.
Contact Jim Mateja at firstname.lastname@example.org.