A used Kia Mohave: An unexpectedly gentle frame and electrics that don’t break down



Kia Mohave was originally developed with an eye to the U.S. market, and therefore is cut unusual for Korean SUVs. First of all, it is very big – 4,879 mm in length and 1,811 mm in height for the 2009 version. The base is a powerful spar frame and the body is all-steel, no aluminum, just a lot of plastic elements. And the indispensable V8 engine was also available for this car, but only in North America. The other regions settled for V6, diesel and atmospheric gasoline engines with a distributed injection.

The interior is Americanized, too: a lot of space, three rows, huge leather seats, huge leather steering wheel, heaps of cup holders and pseudo wood, bright dashboards.

Suspensions are independent front and rear, double wishbone. The rear axle has air suspension. The base versions were rear-wheel drive, but the bulk of the cars are still all-wheel drive. The four-wheel drive is realized through multidisk electronically controlled clutch in the transfer gearbox, where there is even a reduction gear, and the clutch has full lock-up mode.

It would seem that the ideal car, but sales in the U.S. have failed – apparently, it was still not big enough and moreover cheap, did not reach economy, and off-road abilities were not in demand. Nevertheless, Kia retained the model at the expense of sales in the home Korean market, the Middle East and South America.

The Mojave has been on the assembly line for 12 years and remains in production as of 2020 – the “new” generation differs from the original mainly in the hood, trim, bumpers and optics, technically it is the same as the old one.


February 2005. Kia KCD-II Mesa concept unveiled with key design elements of the future model.

January 2008. The model is unveiled at the North American International Auto Show as the Kia Borrego. The final design was already under the direction of Peter Schreyer, but the basic idea remained the same, with minimal use of the new corporate style.

February 2008. Sales began in Korea, already as the Kia Mohave. Diesel V6 3.0 CRDi (D6EA) 250 hp and gasoline V6 3.8L (G6DA) 276 hp, and also V8 4.6 (G8BA) 361 hp, automatic transmission 6-speed with 3.0 and 4.6L engines and 5-speed for 3.8.

May 2008. Start of sales in North America. Versions with ACP only. Diesel version only available in Canada.

May 2009. In Russia, cars assembled in Kaliningrad are on sale. Only 3.0 CRDi 249 hp version with automatic transmission.

May 2009. The car is off the market in the U.S. due to weak demand. The model is still on sale in Canada.

November 2011. New 3.0 260/ 276 hp diesel engine with 8-speed automatic transmission introduced.

February 2016. Model update. Slightly updated design. Seriously redesigned interior and additional equipment, the car received new optics and active safety systems, including lane control and frontal collision warning systems.

March 2017. Assembly of the updated Mohave began at the plant in Kaliningrad.

Late 2020. Start of sales of the redesigned Mohave in Russia.

Exterior panels.

Looking for exterior corrosion on the Mohave is difficult. First of all, cars are expensive, so chips are usually painted over. Secondly, the exterior body holds up quite well. And thirdly, it is hard to inspect the body from above, it is very high.

The evident traces of corrosion are only on the rear door and on the edge of the hood. The rear door starts to rot from the license plate cover and all the seams and grooves. The problem is not only the weak paintwork, but also the high humidity inside the door, eating away at the galvanized metal. The edge attracts stones, and even a solid height cannot prevent the formation of craters. In addition, the upper part of the radiator grill is fixed here, and near the chips there is a zone with high humidity, which accelerates corrosion.

On closer inspection, you can find pitting damage to the paintwork at the edges of the door handles, on the rear fenders under the windows, under the plastic door and arch liners and on the front edge of the roof, especially if the car is 5+ years old.

Usually there is nothing to worry about, but the paintwork is quite thin and soft, so you need to pay attention to all protruding elements of the body and places where abrasion can accumulate. There are many of them – the plastic pads are not spared, they are on wings and doors. Thus the plastic fasteners are realized well, the clips are strong and do not twist, the corrosion on the edges of the fastening holes is not frequent. The problems are concentrated in the zone of contact of the edges of plastic linings with body metal. There are rare examples with multiple corrosion damages without repainting, but the cause is probably in the “human factor” – an accident or hard usage.

From below

First of all pay attention to the condition of the frame. It is painted very bad, and in cars from 2010-2011 the rust is already very noticeable. Especially all joints and welds are damaged. The thickness of metal is not enough, if not treated with anti-corrosion treatment.

The main longitudinal side members are rather strong, but the rust actively corrodes various brackets and amplifiers, and at the same time the main side members in the contact zone. Especially the rear crossmembers and front suspension brackets. And inside the longitudinal side members rot – with a lapse of time dirt is accumulated there. In cars with BSU the rear frame crossmember corrodes badly due to the loads and small backlash of joints.

The profile of frame longitudinal members is quite good, the dirt accumulates slowly, but it is still necessary to flush the inside cavities from time to time. For cars, often being on lack of roads, it is recommended to smother internal cavities with rust-preventive composition or hot mix of puszal, wax and bitumen mastic after flushing and drying.

Pay attention to the geometry of the frame. It is traditional here, one-piece, without crumple zone in front part, with very short outriggers, lowered profile, and very wide. It suffers a lot in side and frontal impacts. Pulling it on the slipway is an activity for the brave, and the slipway must be very strong. Almost any damage of longitudinal side member results in complete frame replacement.

Front bumper.

Theoretically there could be problems with frame number. The cars made in Kaliningrad are having it on the right longitudinal side member, under the middle post of the body, and not all inspectors are aware of it, that is why they often look for it behind the right rear wheel, where it is in American cars. The license plate is stuffed deep enough, but corrosion can easily eat it up if you don’t take care to protect it. Especially if this place has already been washed with washes and scrubbed and not protected afterwards. A readability check is a must when you buy it. And be sure to cover the plate area after cleaning with a preservative composition – the same puszal, for example. And if you have a Korean or American car, keep in mind: the place behind the rear right wheel is even worse in terms of the risk of corrosion damage.

The body itself is not badly covered from below. Sills and bottom are relatively high, and that is why they are hardly affected by corrosion, even the pipes of brake system are almost not corroded. Mainly the inner parts of the arches suffer, especially the bottom edge and the floors of the body under the trunk, where the moisture stays for the longest time.

Corrosion of the inner door seam appears after 5 years of operation, but it is difficult to notice anything externally – except for small rusty runs at the drain holes or inspection with an endoscope of the door interior will reveal the trouble at an early stage.

Rusty interior floors are easier to find by circumstantial signs. Pay attention to wet belts of front passengers and wet ceiling. It’s a typical problem if the mounting points of rails are leaking. It happens often. If you check the dampness of the floor carpet far in the front passenger’s feet, you can find the leak from the overhead niche into the cabin. If the carpets are just wet everywhere, it’s probably either wading trips or dry cleaning – hatch drains are rarely clogged here. Though the windshield can leak if not installed properly, and glass on the Mohave is often replaced due to scratches, cracks and chips, they are quite “soft”. In any case, the consequence of a leak would be corroded front floors. The paintwork on the inside is weak and doesn’t last long. If you see traces of corrosion on seats’ skid mounts, the process is already in a developed stage and cannot do without global interventions. It is better to avoid such cars, because the repair will be rather expensive, comparable to the cost of restoration after a serious road accident.

Cracks of rear door opening seams and corrosion around the bracket are more likely the consequence of intensive off-road operation with full load. It is worth checking, but the defects are very rare. As for the rest, the body holds together very well. Especially, if it was washed and anticorrected from below sometimes.

Body equipment

Surprisingly, the Koreans know how to make bumpers that can hold the impact. But for some reason only on the Mohave. The construction is surprisingly monumental, though not as cheap as on Rio.

Not only do the headlights quickly scuff up, but they also crack, and over time the cracks become through. Given that the headlight glass constantly requires polishing, it’s not such a terrible trouble, just do not fill with varnish, and glue a film and do not forget to drill the edges of the largest cracks. And better yet, instead of mechanical polishing, treat the polycarbonate with acetone vapor – it reduces the chances of cracks.

If it came to replacing, the original xenon – 800-1100 euros apiece, while there is no non-original, and the lenses burn out after 5 years of operation. Good thing that under halogen they cost relatively reasonable, about 280 euros, and almost all of the stuffing coincides.

About the windshield already mentioned above. The cost of original glass is not so low, the prices start from 220 euros for the simplest version with one lens, and the price of variants after the restyling with “assistants” and heating – above 300. But non-original is enough, and it is inexpensive.

Stoppers are weak for heavy doors, they are just like from Rio, and their service life is not pleasant. They are not able to hold heavy door in strong wind.

As it should be in case of Korean car, it is not expected more breakages. Wiper blade, locks, door handles and even hinges do not fail here and have not strongly worn out with mileage till 200. It is quite “imperial quality”, but from Korea.


Interior of Mohave after a restyling usually makes a strong impression. It is carefully made leather with perforation and even ventilation, the front panel “like leather” and even with stitching, a heap of options, heated steering wheel, electric adjustment of a steering column, the included “comfort entrance”, qualitative metallization, pleasant design and style. True, the impression is spoiled by cheap plastic of air deflectors/stained leather on door handles and scratches on varnish, appearing from careless handling.

The cars before the restyling are not so great: the materials are cheaper, the texture of the front panel is more like cheap plastic, the steering wheel is simpler, the design of the interior as a whole and the dashboard is grey in some places, and even garish in some places.

Resource of seats allows for good cleaning and ironing at runways of about 200 thousand, leather of cars before restyling was heavier, but it keeps well. Is except that in light-colored saloons, in the corner of backrest the leather cushion scratches against the plastic sidewall. The seat’s longitudinal adjustment motor has a limited life, with “comfort entry” activated, it begins to tire over time. If pushing the seat up helps, that’s it. If not, it could be the end drive sensors.

The wear and tear of the steering wheel leather in cars before the restyling, on the other hand, is very severe, and if it gets dirty and just wiped down with an alcohol wipe, the surface starts to velvety immediately. The material is very unfortunate. By 150-200 mileage the leather is worn out to shine at the bottom and in the grip places, losing the texture completely. Cars after restyling have not reached such mileages yet, but, at first glance, materials there are better both to the touch, and in terms of wear resistance.

Knocks and noises are not about these saloons, everything is made very seriously. Displays, buttons and levers are broken very seldom. Handles do not fly off, window elevators fail only with thick film toning.

The air conditioner also upsets rarely, even in versions with double a/c. However, the shutters do not like frosts and it is possible to break them while calibrating “on cold”. Just in case: after full warming up of the car, to switch off a climate and with the switch on button, to press the Mode button – you will receive the list of errors, including pressure on loops and flaps calibration.


The Mohave’s electrics are so problem-free that owners are mainly concerned about battery life and multimedia systems. A little trouble is the wiring under the bottom to the transfer case actuator and clutch, ABS sensors and body level sensors. At high mileage, sometimes the wiring in driver’s door and tailgate corrugations fails, and the main radiator fan wears out, the bearing and motor fails, that’s all. Even the alternators have more than enough service life.

Cars after restyling in ’16 have become noticeably more complex, and sometimes there are failures in the work of various assistants, but these are just failures, usually even a visit to the service does not do – just restart.

Intermediate result

If the car is not beaten and the mileage is less than 200 thousand kilometers, then you can be almost sure that there will be no problems with the body, interior and electrics. Mojave is well-balanced and comparatively well assembled. Whether the running gear, the transmission, and the engines will correct this impression, we will understand in the second part of the review.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *