Kia is known for delivering a lot of car for a little price. When I jumped into the boxy cuteness of the 2009 Borrego, I was ready to be pleasantly surprised by its value-added price tag. Surprise! It's not that much less expensive than many three-row SUVs. Bummer!

The Borrego is comfy, and it's a real pleasure to drive. I liked it as much as I'd expected to, but I continued to wish for that shockingly low price to appear. No dice; the numbers stayed the same throughout the duration of my test drive.

The Borrego's impeccable handling in four-wheel drive really impressed me from the beginning. My street in the spring is a sloppy, muddy mess, with some quicksand thrown in for good measure. When I drove the Borrego down my street, I started wondering if the mud had all dried up. A peek out the window assured me that the mess was still there; the Borrego just made it feel as though it was gone. The much fancier, pricier vehicles I had tested in the weeks prior to the Borrego didn't handle the road nearly as well. With the Borrego, no worries and - seemingly - no mud!

My test car had a V-8 engine, so I had no problems with power. I did have a problem with the Borrego's gas mileage. It gets an EPA-estimated 15/20 mpg city/highway. It's quite the gas-guzzler.

The Borrego also had fully integrated rocker panels plus running boards. Considering the mud factor in my life, this is really important to me. The integrated rocker panels meant that my clean clothes didn't brush against some mud clinging just below the doorways, and the running boards made it easy for everyone to get into the SUV. Plus, it helped to cut down on my family's laundry a smidge because we weren't getting muddy every time we got in or out of the car.

I adored the Borrego's third row from a utilitarian perspective. Since I only have two kids we didn't need a third row, but it's comforting to know there'd be room for more in this SUV if needed.

Exterior

As a fan of box-like vehicles, I found the Borrego to be adorable. It looks kind of like a Land Rover Range Rover Sport mixed with a Ford Explorer; a little luxury and a little ruggedness might just provide a perfect combination for some moms.

The Borrego definitely has a sporty look, especially with its chrome grille and wide, chunky headlights accented by cool-looking fog lights. I was thrown off by the Borrego's large front bumper and part of the lower grille that's made of black-colored plastic, not chrome. It was jarring to my eye. There's some room for improvement on this.

From the lower body panels to the running boards to the turn-signal indicators, gray-colored plastic runs across all of it. In the back, the Borrego gets a little boring. I know, I know - I was the one who said I liked boxy cars. But the rear just takes boxy a little too far, even for me.

I was also disappointed that the Borrego didn't come with an automatic liftgate. With all the other user-friendly features, I thought a key-fob button would lift the gate. Nope, it just unlocked it. Argh! You mean I actually have to touch the big, heavy, dirty liftgate to open and close it? No thank you!

One feature that I liked was the rear window that opens independent of the liftgate. I'm always thinking about my family dog, Harry, and I know this feature would be a favorite of his.

SENSE AND STYLE

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent

Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Some

Interior

Once again, Kia gets points for simplicity. I adored a little compartment within the center console that housed a USB input and an MP3 jack. How about that? There's no digging around trying to find the ports you use most, just plug in and go. I like a car that doesn't try to play games.

The eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat has ample lumbar support. To get the heated front seats you have to purchase the Luxury Package ($1,500), which my test car had, so I was riding in comfort. My passengers couldn't complain either.

In the second row, the seats are wide and flat. No bulky bolsters to get in the way of my boys' booster seats. The Latch connectors were easy to locate despite being hidden from view, and there's enough room for a rear-facing infant-safety seat. The fold-down center armrest with built-in cupholders is convenient, and it provided enough room for both kids to rest their arms - and drinks - without touching each other. Thank goodness!

There also are seatback pockets nestled behind both front seats for easy storage of all the extras. One of my favorite things about the Borrego is the flat floor in the second row. It's fabulous! There's no hump, just plenty of space for me to maneuver during the few instances that I had to get back there.

We found it easy to get to the third row because the 60/40-split second row collapses forward independently, and the seatbacks fold down in one swift motion. The only problem is if you happen to have two child-safety seats in the second row you'd have to remove one before collapsing the seat forward.

The cargo area is ample - borderline huge - with the third row folded flat. However, if you travel with the third row in use most of the time, you might want to invest in a trailer to carry your groceries. The space remaining in the cargo area when the third row is up is enough to accommodate about six grocery bags side by side. Add any more items to the cargo area and you'll be stacking your grocery bags on top of one another and hoping you remembered to put the eggs on top. Clearly, things got complicated when I had to make the smaller cargo space work.

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample

Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample with third row down; puny with third row up

Safety

The Kia Borrego comes with several standard safety features, including antilock brakes, stability control and traction control. It also has front- and side-impact airbags for the first row. Side curtain airbags protect passengers in all three rows.

This SUV also has a couple of extras you don't always see: downhill brake control and hill assist control. Downhill brake control will help in off-roading adventures when you're climbing your way down steeply angled pitches.

One of my favorite features is the backup camera. The image is displayed in the auto-dimming rearview mirror. This feature isn't offered on the lower trim levels; it's available on the EX trims and standard on the top-of-the-line LTD.

FAMILY LIFESTAGE

In Diapers: Yes, but you'll run into gear-storage problems if you plan on using all three rows.

In School: The second and third rows are wide and flat, which means booster seats fit easily.

Teens: The Borrego is tough-looking, so your teen might be OK being seen in it with you. I said might.