The Kia Telluride Owes Its Success to Another Failed SUV

They can’t all be winners. Kia found this out more than a decade ago with its Kia Borrego. It lasted for two years and then was taken off the market. After more than a decade, Kia tried again with the Kia Telluride and got much more successful results. Car and Driver said dealers were having trouble keeping the Telluride in stock last year when it first appeared as the newest Kia SUV. Here’s a look at the histories of both and how they compare.

The failure of the Kia Borrego

Released in 2008 as a 2009 model, the Borrego was Kia’s largest SUV in the U.S. at the time and its first big, three-row SUV. It’s named after Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California.

It failed immediately due to its timing. In 2008, gas cost $4 a gallon in some places in the U.S., and the country was at the start of a recession. Buyers were turning away from truck-based SUVs in favor of more fuel-efficient crossover SUVs. The Borrego had poor fuel economy, which didn’t make it appealing to buyers.

Its two engine options had similar results. The V6 got 16 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway, while the V8 got 15 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. People in 2008 who were looking for a large, gas-guzzling SUV, didn’t want one from Kia.

The Borrego was sold in the U.S. only until 2009. Kia soon replaced the Borrego with the Kia Sorento in 2011, which featured a modern design and unibody construction. It had smaller, fuel-efficient engines and a more comfortable ride since it had front-wheel drive. With only two years of production and low sales, the Borrego is a rare vehicle today.

The 2020 Kia Telluride

The Kia Telluride arrived in 2019 as a 2020 model. While large like the Borrego, the Telluride has handling and fuel economy more like the Sorento. Kia finally once again offers something larger than the Sorento.

The Telluride also has three rows, but it provides more space for third-row passengers and more cargo space than the Sorento does. Edmunds named the Telluride as their Top-Rated SUV of 2020.

Similarities and differences

People take the Kia Telluride around during day two of the 2019 The North American International Auto Show
The Kia Telluride | TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

Though both are three-row SUVs, the Borrego could seat seven people and the Telluride seats eight. The two have different body constructions. The Borrego had a truck-like body-on-frame, and the Telluride has a more car-like unibody. The Telluride is a bit bigger at 196.9 inches in length compared to the Borrego’s 192.1 inches. The Telluride also has more cargo space with 21 cubic feet compared to the Borrego’s 12.4 cubic feet.

Their main engines are both 3.8-liter V6 engines. The Borrego got 276 hp, while the Telluride has slightly more with 291 hp. The Borrego also had a second, larger engine option – a 4.6-liter V8 with 337 hp.

The Borrego and Telluride have the same towing capacity of 5,000 pounds with the Borrego’s smaller engine, though the V8 Borrego could tow up to 7,500 pounds. The rear-wheel-drive Borrego got just 19 combined mpg, while the front-wheel-drive Telluride does better, getting 23 combined mpg.

The Borrego had a six-CD player and was compatible with iPods but not iPhones. The Telluride has an 8-inch touchscreen that’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. And, more than a decade later, the Telluride offers active safety features that weren’t around when the Borrego was developed.

Unfortunately for the Kia Borrego, it appeared several years too late to fit the needs of American buyers. Luckily for the Telluride, it is a better match for today’s buyers.