The Kia Sorento, their first mid-size SUV, was a good indicator of their broader, up market direction.
The 2009 Kia Borrego was recently unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show, and it has taken the ball punted onto the playing field by the Sorento and run with it.
The Borrego is a large, truck-like SUV that targets those buyers who would normally be interested in something like the Nissan Pathfinder or Chevrolet Tahoe.
Engine choices range from a base V6 option to Kia’s first production V8, which is being shared with the Hyundai Genesis and which will generate 375 horsepower.
The V8 will also give the Kia sizeable towing capabilities not seen in their other SUV’s, and the large platform also offers 7 passenger seating. All models bound for American dealerships will be equipped with full-time all wheel drive.
In terms of appearance, the Borrego isn’t particularly breathtaking, bringing to mind the blander aspects of Toyota styling. But most people aren’t buying a Kia to win a fashion show – they are buying a Kia to take advantage of low pricing and an excellent 10 year / 100 000 mile warranty.
However, the Borrego is being priced at between $25 000 and $32 000, and is being loaded up with accoutrements like navigation, stability control, and a full leather interior, all of which places it squarely in competition with European and Japanese luxury trucks.
When contrasted against the upper tier of sport utilities such as the Mercedes M class at $44 000, the Borrego might seem like something of a bargain, but the reality is most US consumers will be comparing it to vehicles like the Ford Explorer and Mazda CX-9 which typically reside in the $30 000 range.
Can Kia manage to leverage the extra equipment offered in the Borrego against the low-market expectations of buyers and still manage to uphold an image of up market value?
Will current Kia owners be interested in upgrading to a product that is positioned higher in the Kia lineup or will they abandon the brand entirely for one with a different image once they can afford it?
We won’t have the answers to these questions until the Borrego hits showrooms in 2009.