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2020 Kia Telluride: 10 Things Worth Knowing

While Hyundai trains its focus on luxury automobiling with the Genesis brand, sister company Kia continues to demonstrate how it has matured as a carmaker with some truly exceptional models. Not long ago it introduced the highly acclaimed Stinger sport sedan, and now we have the big Telluride utility model. The SXL version we recently test drove delivered 10 things we decided you really wanted to know.

#1 It’s drawn praise like a flame draws moths

Photo: Kia

The Stinger was no slouch in attracting praise and even awards, such as Car of the Year from the Automotive Journalists’ Association of Canada (AJAC). That same organization evidently has a soft spot for the Korean brand, because it named the Telluride Best Large Utility Vehicle of the Year for 2020.

Meanwhile, the folks at NACTOY (North American Car of the Year) named it Utility Vehicle of the Year, as did Motor Trend magazine. Kelley Blue Book went a step further, naming it best all-around vehicle for 2020. All of that makes for quite a resume! To top it off, the Telluride was also named Auto123's Full-Size SUV of the Year for 2020. So there.

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#2 It’s Kia’s second kick at the big-lug can

Kia Borrego
Photo: Kia
Kia Borrego

Once upon a time, Kia Motors made a first attempt at the big SUV category. Remember the Kia Borrego? We can’t blame you if you don’t, it only lasted in Canada from 2009 to 2011 – though it continued on in certain global markets under the Mohave name. In our market it was replaced by the Sorento, a smaller SUV that could nonetheless accommodate three rows of seats.

That did not prevent Kia from presenting a new concept in 2016, which would eventually turn into the Telluride – and the Palisade at Hyundai.

Read our Comparison of the 2020 Hyundai Palisade vs 2020 Kia Telluride.

#3 It’s facing some tough competition

Photo: Kia

The rivals lining up to punch the new Telluride’s lights out in its price range ($47,000-$55,000) have in common they can accommodate 7 or 8 occupants. I’m thinking of the Volkswagen Atlas, Subaru Ascent, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot and newly redesigned Toyota Highlander.

The question is how comfortable those occupants stuck in the third row are in each of those models. And they’re relatively well-off in the new Kia SUV.

#4 It’s got one quality those rivals don’t have

Photo: Kia

Quiz: what is the principal selling point for Kia since the Korean automaker set up shop in Canada? The answer, of course, is value. The Telluride respects this dictum to a t. The base model EX starts at $47,005 and includes standard goodies like a power panoramic sunroof (the other trims have two!), drive mode selector, 10.25-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, wireless smartphone charging, and I’ll stop there for brevity’s sake.

Then the SX ($52,005 and up, and a favourite choice of Canadian consumers) adds blind spot monitor, 360-degree cameras, harmon/kardon audio system and auto-leveling rear suspension, plus more.

Le SX Limited ($55,005) brings in a head-up display, while the same trim but Nappa leather-clad ($56,005) is ideal for those with sensitive skin (and for whom the EX’s leatherette surfaces just won’t do).

#5 It’s got a cavalry under the hood

Photo: Kia

The 3.6L Lambda II V6 engine the Telluride shares with its virtual twin the Palisade delivers 291 hp, which is more than Subaru Ascent (260) and Honda Pilot (280) drivers get to play with. It’s wedded to an 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive with 7 drive modes; altogether the powertrain allows users to pull up to 5,000 lb (2,268 kg).

For the more ecologically minded owners of this big three-row SUV, there’s Eco mode; drive thoughtfully in it like I did and you too can sneak your consumption figure under the 10L/100 km mark – driving on the highway, that is. The same level of thoughtfulness in the city should give you something along the lines of 12.0L/100 km, which is respectable given the dimensions of this pachyderm on wheels. As a bonus, you need only feed it Regular gasoline!

#6 It needs to win over minivan drivers

I remain convinced that for a decent-sized family, there’s no better way to get around on a daily basis than in one of the quintet of minivans currently available on the market: Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Pacifica and… Kia Sedona.

So say you’re a fan of Kia products and have a soapbox to make a case for why motorists should go for a Telluride instead of a Sedona. What’s your pitch? I’ll let Kia Canada’s director of marketing Micheal Kopke do it for you: “It all depends on the customer’s tastes and needs. Whatever those are, Kia has a vehicle to fit every lifestyle”.

#7 Its interior is (sort of) living room-like

Photo: Kia

One of the most appealing qualities of a minivan is how relatively easy it is for occupants to move around from seat to seat, even from row to row. The Telluride approaches that level of practicality, when you opt for the two captain’s chairs for the middle row. This actually comes standard in the more high-falutin’ SX versions of the SUV.

In this configuration, the flat floor between the two thrones makes it easier to access the back row. When you’re entering from outside the vehicle, just push a button to make the middle chair slide forward and fold down and voilà: a clear path! What’s more you hair won’t go grey while you wait for it to complete its manoeuvre – it works right quick, certainly faster than any electric-powered system. All that’s missing is the chair saying ‘Pardon me’ as it gets out of your way.

#8 It’s not a movie fan

Photo: Kia

The options list for the Telluride SXL is short, and one of the things that it unfortunately lacks is a DVD system with a screen coming down from the ceiling. Ask any parent, they will confirm to you how magical a potion this kind of thing is for ensuring quiet and peaceful road trips. At least, Kia did think of installing an intercom system so front-row occupants can communicate their displeasure with the back-row rough-housing, caused of course by the lack of a DVD system.

# 9 Its name is out of ssstep…

Photo: Kia

Did you notice? We did, because we’re sharp that way. Seltos, Sportage, Sorento, Soul, Stinger and Sedona populate the Kia lineup. You’d have thunk the newest model would have received a moniker starting with S. But no, the company’s marketing gurus moved one notch further in the alphabet.

Why? In fact, both the Telluride and Hyundai’s Palisade are named after towns in the beautiful state of Colorado. Not that the company was seeking in any way to cozy up to American consumers who gobble up big SUVs like turkey drumsticks at Thanksgiving…

# 10 It presents a dilemma – which twin’s the best?

OK, so should you go with the Kia Telluride or the Hyundai Palisade? To be honest, that debate has raged among experts as well – see our Comparison of the two models. In general, the nod tends to go, in a photo finish, to the Kia. There are two main reasons for this. One, its exterior design has been more positively received, and two, its interior finishing is more attractive.

Both of these are of course excellent utility models that merit close consideration and serious test drives. At the end of which you’ll resort to flipping a coin…