Driven: 2020 Kia Telluride review
  • Car Review

Driven: 2020 Kia Telluride review

By David Undercoffler | October 9, 2019

Autolist rating: 4/5
But would we buy it? Gladly
Price range: $33,180 - $42,980, including destination but before options

Key takeaways:

  • All-new model for 2020, sits atop the brand’s SUV lineup.
  • Packs an impressive amount of space, safety features, and daily liveability.
  • Offers a single V6 engine and your choice of front-wheel-drive or optional all-wheel-drive.
  • Though it’s new to the segment, it vaults to the top of the large family crossover segment.

15051 2020 Telluride

What is it?

The Telluride is an all-new full-size crossover that Kia introduced for the 2020 model year. It’s mechanically identical to the Hyundai Palisade since Hyundai and Kia are corporate cousins.

The Telluride is a three-row, seven- or eight-passenger family hauler.

There are four trim levels available: LX, S, EX, and SX.

All four come with the same powertrain: a 3.8-liter V6 engine that makes 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. This engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Telluride comes standard with front-wheel-drive; all-wheel-drive is a $2,000 option.

This Kia is rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds, regardless of whether it’s FWD or AWD.

15047 2020 Telluride

The Telluride seats eight people in its standard configuration: two up front, three in the middle row, and three in the rear row of seats. Higher-end trims have two captains chairs in the middle row of seats, creating seating for seven.

The Telluride competes in a big segment of family crossovers. Rivals include the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse, Volkswagen Atlas, the aforementioned Hyundai Palisade, and the Dodge Durango.

This model sits at the top of Kia’s SUV lineup; below it is the Sorento, Sportage, and Soul.

What’s good?

TLDR: Spacious, gracious, and well-tuned.
Space: Just because a family crossover has three rows of seats, it doesn’t necessarily mean that each row is spacious or that the cargo space out back is particularly useful. Many of the Telluride’s competitors suffer from this predicament. So it’s refreshing to find a full-size crossover that actually acts full-size on the inside. Every row of seats is spacious, even for adults, and the cargo area still holds what you need it to.

Upscale insides: Kudos to the designers and planners at Kia: The loaded SX model we tested had an interior packed with high-end materials that look like they were ripped right out of a recent Mercedes or Audi. Think matte-wood finishes, brushed metal trim, and high-end Nappa leather. Not only that, but the build and construction quality of the interior was also top-notch. Though our loaded tester was $47,775, it felt like the Kia was playing in a different league than most of its mainstream competitors.

15054 2020 Telluride

Better tuning: So this Kia Telluride and the Hyundai Palisade are mechanically identical, you say. What makes them different (other than obvious interior and exterior styling)? The biggest difference we noticed was that this Kia seemed more refined when it came to its suspension tuning and the powertrain. This means the Kia soaked up bumps in the road with more finesse than the Hyundai, and the transmission’s shifts and engine note were smoother. Not reasons to buy the Telluride over the Palisade entirely, but meaningful things to consider.

What’s bad?

TLDR: Narrow in the way-back, needs more power, why only black rims?
Tight third row: Yes, we previously praised the Telluride for its spaciousness throughout the cabin. So what gives? While the third row does indeed have enough leg and headroom for adults, it’s a narrow post that won’t fit three adults easily in terms of width. So plan accordingly.

15046 2020 Telluride

Down on power: Though 291 horsepower sounds like a healthy number, the Telluride often felt like it could use more, particularly on onramps and in passing situations. Many of this Kia’s peers offer optional engines that have more grunt, so it’d be nice to see the Telluride’s engineers give a boost next time the crossover gets updated.

Black rims only: The highest-trim Telluride -- the SX that we tested -- only comes with 20-inch alloy wheels, and they’re only offered in black. This is a minor gripe, but given what a great value this version offers, it’s a shame that buyers willing to spend serious coin only have a single wheel choice. If you must have the SX model and hate the black rims, talk to your salesperson... they may swap wheels for you to make a sale.

5 stars of execution

Safety Features? YES

  • All Telluride models come standard with a bevy of active safety tech, including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot detection, and collision avoidance assist, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist and lane-centering assist, and rear cross-traffic alert and assist.
  • The Telluride hasn’t been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration yet but the independent IIHS gave it a Top Safety Pick designation (its second-highest ranking).

Value? YES

  • The Telluride offers a great value on all four of its trim levels.
  • The base LX doesn’t look or feel like the base model, and for $32,785, including destination, represents a heck of a value.
  • Each subsequent trim adds plenty of content for the extra cost, so buyers at any price point in the Telluride family.

Efficiency? NO

  • The EPA rated the Telluride we tested at 19/24/21 MPG city/highway/combined.
  • Compared to many of its peers, that’s only middling fuel economy.
  • Rivals like the Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander offer hybrid variants too, something the Kia does not.

15023 2020 Telluride

Driving experience? YES

  • Our only gripe was the slight power deficit we already mentioned. But this wasn’t a big enough issue for us to avoid recommending the Telluride.

Execution? YES

  • The Telluride has quickly vaulted to the top of its (already competitive) segment; it’s clear Kia took this segment very seriously when it set out to create the crossover.
  • Safe, stylish, sized right, and packing a smart value, there aren’t any glaring flaws in the Telluride’s execution.
  • Any family looking for a large, non-luxury crossover that secretly packs plenty of luxury features should add the Telluride to their list.

Total Rating: 4 stars

What’s it gonna cost me?

As we mentioned, the base Telluride LX starts at $32,785, including destination. For that money, buyers get the 3.8-liter V6 with 291 horsepower, front-wheel-drive, 18-inch alloy wheels, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, the aforementioned active safety features, heated outside mirrors, five USB ports, a 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty, and one-touch slide-and-fold second-row seats.

The S model starts at $35,085 and adds a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, 20-inch alloy wheels, second-row captains chairs, body-colored door handles and bumpers, heated front seats, and a sunroof.

The EX starts at $38,185 and adds to the S things like a larger, 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system, leather seats, wood trim, ventilated front seats, unique 18-inch alloy wheels, an eight-way power front passenger seat, dual-zone climate control, power-folding exterior mirrors, power tailgate, and a wireless phone charger. Unlike the S, this EX does not come with second-row captain’s chairs.

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Finally, the top-end SX trim (seen above) starts at $42,585. It comes with a 12-way power driver’s seat, unique 20-inch alloy wheels, dual sunroofs, LED foglights, a 10-speaker Harman Kardon speaker system with subwoofer, and a seven-inch digital instrument panel screen.

All-wheel-drive is another $2,000 on all trims.

If it were our signature on the check, we’d opt for the S in AWD guise. With plenty of standard safety features plus goodies like leather seats, the captains chairs, and a sunroof, this version of the Telluride has everything you need in a family crossover plus some features to keep you comfy at a very reasonable price.

Also consider:

As we mentioned, the Telluride competes in a tough segment of family crossovers that’s chock full of compelling choices. Though the Telluride (and its cousin, the Hyundai Palisade) should be at the top of your list, here’s a look at some of our other favorites.

The Honda Pilot is starting to age, but it’s aging well. It’s handsome, safe, roomy, and reliable and should suit the needs of any family.

Ford’s Explorer is all-new for 2020, and it offers a variety of turbocharged engines plus an optional hybrid model. We liked it, but we’d probably choose the Telluride over the Ford.

VW’s Atlas is huge inside and out and offers a variety of practical features and comfort.

We’d skip the outgoing 2019 Toyota Highlander; a new generation will launch for 2020.

We’d also skip the Chevrolet Traverse (great size but lacks safety gear and is too expensive), the Nissan Pathfinder (very old), Dodge Durango (ditto).

More Photos

See more 2020 Kia Telluride Photos.