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Kia Borrego Americanized by Koreans

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The China Business gearhead at large takes the Borrego LX (the Philippine market’s Kia Mohave) for a spin around Orlando’s famous theme parks

Every Filipino has at least one relative who has migrated to the US.

After years of residing Stateside, living Joe’s lifestyle, these adobos become Americanized. Not to mention their offspring, some of whom have totally forgotten their roots.

But what does it take to be “Americanized”? Sociologists would likely have a different answer but I take it to mean that one does not just stay and adapt but, more importantly, love the American lifestyle. The big, brawny, at times exaggerated Yankee lifestyle.

Just like people, goods and services adjust themselves to cater to a particular culture, like the spicy McDonalds burgers in Thailand. Can it be done with cars? Sure can, sure did. What we have is an “American” SUV manufactured by Korean conglomerates in an attempt to sell cars to the world’s second largest vehicle market (China is No. 1).

Mind you, being American already takes away from the Asian vehicle tradition of being practical and efficient.

Worldwide, Kia recently achieved all the goals a car company could wish for. Awards, local and foreign, are given them from time to time. Plus, brand loyalty now exists! In America, Kia is everywhere. If it takes too long before you see one pop out while you’re on the road, you’ll still be bombarded by the Kia brand through tri-media.

And Kia has sponsored everything in the NBA! It will only take a while before people totally forget Kia’s substandard history. (Does anyone still remember the droopy Kia Pride?)

Before I even get into the gearhead details, let me say this: The Kia Borrego is a Korean car that has gained everyone’s respect (unlike the Kia Pride of yore).

Let’s start with the basics. The Borrego’s production started in 2009 and it was almost exclusively sold in the USA. Kia offers two variants, each with two engine and transmission options. Plus, further options with regards technology features.

The main difference between product lineups in America and the ones in the Philippines is that US dealerships give you the option to customize your Kia, while maintaining a single variant name.

In the Philippines, to be able to acquire extras, you are forced to choose a higher variant that, most of the time, au- tomatically has a bigger engine (called a premium pricing strategy, which car companies implement in the Philippine market).

Big and Spartan
I was able to drive the Borrego’s LX version around Or- lando’s famous theme parks. Its basic trims: a 3.8L V6 engine, 6-speed automatic, 17-inch rims, minor roof rails, rear parking sensors, and an integrated tow hitch.

Unlike its close American SUV competitors, it has no real outstanding high-tech or safety features (for one, because it was a rental car). The higher version, the EX trim, adds modern items such as power front seats and dual-zone automatic climate control.

The 4.6 V8 versions of both the LX and the EX offer a few extra items, such as an upgraded audio system by Infinity (600W, 10 speakers), 18-inch rims, leather seating, a rear-seat entertainment system, and a navigation system.

Did the engine sizes scare you? Too much of a gas guzzler, you say? Trust me. Americans need these for their freeway and cross-country visits. Even at a massive 4,800 pounds, with 375 horses (V8 option), this machine can pull—and push—heavy objects.

Now imagine you and the Borrego on our incredible Philippine streets. Well, the Borrego deals with obstacles and makes them obsolete. Neither flood nor broken asphalt can stop you from reaching your destination with ease.

Marketing Gimmick?
The vehicle exterior is relatively plain. Nothing protrudes, which may be the singular thing the American market demands. With a somewhat low and wide stance, vehicle stability is enhanced.

Inside, the overall quality of materials is more than the average Philippine standard. For the most part, the layout of controls and instrumentation is straightforward and easy to use.

The driver’s seat and steering wheel automatically adjusts every time you hinge yourself up on the seat. Both the LX and EX feature three rows of seating, giving it a seven-person capacity. The seats were relatively easy to stow and put back in place.

In terms of cargo space, this SUV’s third row could accommodate up to 10 pieces of luggage—as I personally experienced. Although if all the seats are up and in use, the cargo space, literally, disappears.

However, no matter how macho the Borrego may be to us Filipinos, Kia claims that it has exceptional on-road refinement. It may sound like a marketing move Kia Motors America wants to push on their American customers as they look to fill a niche (It’s for those who feel the need for a ‘softer’ full-size American SUV).

In the past, some competitors have come up with their own versions of SUVs on steroids: The Hummer’s soldier effect or the Cadillac Escalade’s Pimp persona.

The Borrego drive was new to me. In my 23 years of existence and seven years of hitting the road, I’ve never handled any vehicle that produced more horsepower than the 3.8V6 LX! It served our family of four perfectly during the week around central Florida.

A version of the Borrego is actually sold in the Philippines as the Kia Mohave. The difference? The outrageous price! Compared to the US price of US$26,245 (LX 3.8L) or approximately 1.1 million in Philippine pesos, the Mohave’s Philippine SRP is a whopping 2.7 million pesos. (Oh, come on!)

Could it be the automaker’s belief that they have to double prices since these types of vehicles will rarely purchased? It certainly feels that way in what we call the Premium Mid-size to Full-size Car Segment, to which Asian rivals Pajero, Pilot, Prado, CX-9, and Veracruz belong.

Overall, the Borrego has definitely been Americanized. But, honestly speaking, not to the extent that it can be loved by most American drivers. Meaning, if there are other choices available, Americans may just put the Borrego at the end of their list and treat it as the ‘cheaper option’ versus other favorites, such as the Ford Expedition and the Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban.

Print ed: 08/11

 

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