2020 Kia Telluride

2020 Kia Telluride Test Drive Review: Beautifully Executed Three-Row Crossover

by Ian Wright

The three-row family crossover is a difficult trick to pull off well. It has to be big, but make it too big and bulky, and you need a thirsty engine under the hood. Within that size constraint, there also has to be a balance in space for the seven or eight occupants and their cargo. It also has to have enough room for everyone to be reasonably comfortable on a long journey, and useful stashing places for their personal effects. For the longest time, Kia has offered the Sorento as its big family solution. However, when put up against competitors like the Honda Pilot and Subaru Ascent, it has fallen short in passenger and cargo space. With the all-new Telluride, Kia has gone back to the drawing board and delivered something special, and it's a lot less expensive than it looks.

The Telluride delivers a well thought out and premium experience while also addressing the Sorento's shortcomings, and cranking its size for a market that loves a big vehicle. The Telluride is stacked with utility, offers plenty of space along with a generous cargo area, family-focused features, bold styling, and it drives well. The Telluride isn't without its faults, but it's a compelling vehicle at a persuasive price and has already drummed up a dedicated fanbase of owners.

Read in this review:

2020 Kia Telluride Changes: What’s the difference vs 2019 Telluride?

The 2020 Kia Telluride is a brand new model and marks the start of Kia's foray into the true seven-seater midsize SUV market. The Telluride is Kia's largest SUV to date, seating seven to eight people, and as with so many of Kia's other offerings, it comes stacked with standard tech and safety features as well as a class-leading basic and drivetrain warranty. Comparable in size to the Honda Pilot, the Telluride was designed to offer more seating and cargo space than Kia's former heavyweight SUV, the Sorento.

Pros and Cons

  • Smooth V6 engine
  • Large families will love the space
  • Lots of standard features
  • Comfy seats and ride
  • Only one engine option
  • Not exactly fleet-footed
  • Adaptive cruise control can be overly sensitive

Telluride Exterior

Kia has a knack for designing inoffensive cars that look like an amalgamation of the competing cars in whatever class they're gunning for, and the Telluride is no different: The side profile looks like the offspring of a Toyota Landcruiser and Jeep Grand Cherokee while the rear looks like a Volvo ft. Range Rover collaboration. The only Kia-looking exterior feature is the tiger-nose front grille, which has by now become Kia's equivalent to the BMW kidney grille. Despite the harsh words, the Telluride isn't a bad looking car, not by a long shot, and should find favor with most. Perfectly Kia then. Exterior features on the brand new Korean SUV include standard alloy wheels ranging between 18 and 20-inches, body-colored and heated side mirrors, LED daytime running lights, and projector-beam headlights, as well as sound-absorbing windshield glass. A power liftgate, sunroof and LED headlights are available higher up in the range.

2020 Kia Telluride Front View CarBuzz
2020 Kia Telluride Rear View CarBuzz
2020 Kia Telluride Front Angle View CarBuzz
See All 2020 Kia Telluride Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The midsize Telluride slots in between the Honda Pilot and Hyundai Palisade in terms of overall size, but the differences are slight. The Telluride measures 196.9 inches in length and stands 69.3 inches tall with roof rails - 68.9 inches without, making it almost an inch shorter than the Pilot. Maximum width comes in at 78.3, and the whole deal rides on a 114.2-inch wheelbase. Seeing as Kia sells the Telluride's offroading aspirations, it should be important to note the eight inches of ground clearance; it's not a groundbreaking number, but should be enough to tackle some moderate trails. Curb weight comes in at 4,112 lbs in base FWD LX guise, with the figure swelling to 4,354 lbs on all-wheel-drive equipped trims at the top of the lineup.

Exterior Colors

Kia has hit the ball out of the park with the exterior color options for the 2020 Telluride. There are seven colors to choose from in total, with some only available on specific trim levels. Snow White Pearl, Everlasting Silver, Gravity Grey, and Ebony black are available across the range, while Sangria is only available on LX, S, and EX models. Black Copper is exclusively available on the range-topping SX. The most intriguing color by far is something Kia calls Dark Moss, a dark green that turns the mild-looking Telluride into a mysterious and broody looking thing. Dark Moss is only available on S, EX, and SX models, but is the most striking and our recommendation.

  • Sangria
  • Ebony Black
  • Snow White Pearl
  • Black Copper
  • Gravity Grey
  • Dark Moss
  • Everlasting Silver

Telluride Performance

A large displacement V6 has been tasked with hauling around the 4,112-pound Telluride, and it does a convincing job of it. Going against the small capacity turbo trend is becoming harder and harder to justify, but family orientated owners will appreciate the robustness and peace of mind a good naturally aspirated six brings to the table despite its thirsty nature and lack of low down torque when compared to its turbocharged counterparts. The V6 is capable of towing 5,000 pounds, an excellent number for its class and nearly 1,000 pounds more than the Honda is capable of hauling. Don't let its size and weight fool you: the Telluride will sprint to sixty in around 7.5 seconds and vanquish the quarter-mile in a surprisingly brisk 15.4 seconds at 93 mph. Like most offerings in the midsize segment, front-wheel-drive is the standard drivetrain offering with available all-wheel-drive offered across the range.

2020 Kia Telluride Side View Driving Kia
2020 Kia Telluride Side View Kia
2020 Kia Telluride Engine Kia

Engine and Transmission

There is only one engine and transmission option available for the 2020 Telluride lineup, but a smaller turbocharged unit would be a much-welcomed addition sometime in the near future. What new owners get is an all-aluminum 3.8-liter V6 unit that produces 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque at a high 5,200 rpm, typical of modern naturally aspirated six cylinders. The Hyundai Palisade shares the Telluride's engine, and the Honda Pilot's 3.5-liter V6 matches both for torque but makes 11 less horsepower. Power is directed to the wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.

There's no option other than the 3.8-liter V6, but it's a solid one. There's no excess of power, just as much as you need for a family hauler. The eight-speed transmission deals with the power smoothly, and there's nothing particularly exciting or mind-blowing in the powertrain but the confident competency required for the job. That could be taken as a slight, but when matched to the chassis, it turns the Telluride into an excellent all-rounder.

  • Engine
    3.8-liter V6 Gas
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The Telluride is a remarkably smooth drive, even getting off the pavement and onto a roughly hewn track. It's not an off-road specialist, but making your way down to a campsite shows off the sophistication in the suspension tuning by remaining comfortable to passengers. Out on the road, the chassis doesn't lean like a large SUV is expected to, but instead stays flat and keeps the Telluride in shape - even when you get your hustle on.

The steering is light, but Sport mode makes it heavier while tightening up the throttle response. But, Comfort mode is where the Telluride will spend the majority of its time and makes the SUV a pleasure to drive daily. We spent most of our time in Kia's Smart mode that automatically switches between Comfort and Sport depending on how you're driving and does a good enough job that you can simply set and forget. Overall, the Telluride stands out by feeling like an excellent two-row crossover bred to be fun to drive, but has the functionality of more size and a third row.

Telluride Gas Mileage

Despite its weight and more traditional engine and transmission configuration, the Telluride manages to offer decent gas mileage for the segment, besting the Hyundai Palisade and matching the Honda Pilot. Kia quotes EPA estimated figures of 20/26/23 mpg city/highway/combined on FWD models, dropping to 19/24/21 mpg for the AWD versions. The Hyundai Palisade will return 19/26/22 mpg, and the Honda Pilot will see 20/27/23 mpg. We found the EPA estimates to be reasonably accurate in the real world, and only found ourselves 2 mpg under combined through the week after spending more time in the city and exploring back roads than on the freeway.

The Telluride is fitted with an 18.8-gallon fuel tank needing only regular gasoline. Based on EPA claims, this should yield a range of approximately 433 miles, but in real-world conditions expect closer to 400 miles.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    18.8 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 20/26 mpg
* 2020 Kia Telluride LX FWD

Telluride Interior

The interior of the Telluride is a comfortable place to be, not only that, but the cabin is beautifully designed and executed. A floating infotainment display screen and straight flowing lines give the Telluride's interior a German quality almost reminiscent of the Mercedes C-Class. The Kia Telluride not only impresses with its good looking cabin, but offers a good list of standard features on the base model, which includes USB charging ports, push-button start, and smart key access. But it's not the exceptional design nor the outstanding list of features that carves the Telluride out as a favorite in this segment; it's the packaging of it all. Never before has Kia attempted a vehicle as big as this, and yet they've hit the nail on the head. Masses of space, comfortable seats, and even a usable third row. Kia has entered the three-row battle with some aplomb!

2020 Kia Telluride Steering Wheel CarBuzz
2020 Kia Telluride Central Console CarBuzz
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Seating and Interior Space

This is where the Telluride starts to truly excel. We need to be cautious with the term 'game-changer', but the Telluride raises the bar with its roomy and comfortable interior. There's plenty of space for passengers to stretch out, and the tricky third row is still a pleasant place to be on a long journey even if you don't put the shortest members of the party all the way back there. Third-row seating is also easy to access with a press of a button to slide the second row forwards whether it's configured as a seven or eight-seater.

The interior is cavernous, so opting for the second-row bench seat and fitting in eight people comfortably isn't a problem. If you don't need to seat eight, the captain's chairs option allows the second row to luxuriate with even more elbow room to go with their 42.4 inches of legroom. Legroom in the third row is more restricted, but still a respectable 31.5 inches.

  • Seating capacity
    8-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

The bar remains firmly raised when it comes to materials and comfort and, without the Kia badges, it wouldn't be hard to believe you were in something with a more premium price tag. Kia has been taking notes from Mazda's playbook of interiors, and while there are hard plastics, they're minimal and don't look or feel cheap. Like the Honda Pilot, you can tell the interior is built to last with heavy use while retaining its premium feel. Our test vehicle arrived in SX trim with a light Gray Nappa leather and simulated wood-grain trim that elevated the premium feeling experience even more. Whether we would recommend the gray interior for a busy family is another matter, though.

Of course, you have an abundance of choice, with Sofino simulated leather on LX and S models - Black the standard color but with Gray available on the S. Full leather becomes the standard for the EX and SX with a broad range of colors ranging from Black and Gray to Espresso and Butterscotch, although the latter pairing can only be equipped on the SX. Exclusive to the SX is the option of Nappa leather, available in Black, Gray, or Dune Brown as part of the Prestige Package.

Telluride Trunk and Cargo Space

A big part of the reason why Kia decided to bring out the Telluride is so they could offer family-orientated buyers who are looking for more space a credible option after they sold their Sorento. Compared to its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Palisade, it is interesting to note that the Telluride offers more trunk and cargo space despite sharing more or less the same dimensions. Behind the third row of seats, the Telluride offers up 21 cubic feet of space, an impressive number for a midsize SUV, and a number that trumps the Hyundai and Honda by a significant margin. Behind the second row, the standings change slightly; the Honda Pilot offers the same 46 cubic feet as the Telluride, while the Hyundai only manages 45.8. With all the back seats folded down, the Telluride again offers the most space with 87 cubic feet, nearly five cubic feet more than the Honda Pilot.

Small-item storage is average for the midsize class; two cupholders and a small storage bin in front of the shifter offer space for keys and phones, while a medium-sized center console and glove compartment offer more storage space. In the back, passengers can enjoy small side storage bins and seat pockets, with cupholders for each occupant.

2020 Kia Telluride Open Trunk Lid CarBuzz
2020 Kia Telluride Trunk Space CarBuzz
2020 Kia Telluride Rear Angle View CarBuzz

Telluride Infotainment and Features

Features

Kia has made a name for themselves by offering great value for money cars. How do they do this? By providing their cars with excellent standard features. The Telluride continues with this tradition, although the competition has caught up in a number of areas. The Telluride still comes jam-packed, however, with auto-leveling suspension, automatic headlights, and an acoustic glass windscreen. A power tilt-and-slide sunroof is standard for the EX and S models, while the SX gets a dual sunroof for maximum solar exposure. From an interior perspective, an auto-dimming rearview mirror is equipped from the EX, with HomeLink functionality on the S and SX. The SX also gets access to a 64-color LED mood lighting system and second-row sunshades. LX and S models get standard manual air conditioning - a bit of a letdown - while EX and SX models receive three-zone automatic climate control. The EX and SX also get wireless phone charging and the option of a heated steering wheel. Manual seat adjustment is standard on the base model, but all other trims get power adjustment, and heated front seats, the EX and SX models getting added ventilation. All trims get access to a broad spectrum of Kia Drive Wise assistance features, which equips blind spot monitoring, collision warning, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control on all. A rearview camera is standard, too, with a surround-view system incorporated on the SX.

Infotainment

Apple Carplay and Android Auto come standard, and that always makes us happy. There's also a healthy spread of USB ports throughout all three rows, but only one can transmit data to the infotainment screen. The optional wider screen - a 10.25-inch unit that replaces the standard eight-inch item - is sharp and reactive, along with Kia's UVO operating system and its functionality. Our SX trimmed tester also came with a clear and useful head-up display as well as an even more useful rear-seat intercom system. The upgraded ten-speaker Harman Kardon sound system is impressive, and sound quality is consistent through the vehicle. Not so remarkable is the turn-signal camera display in the gauge cluster. It's one of those things that impress initially, but having to look down like that each time you indicate and the low-res display turned us off of it quickly. Instead, we stuck to using the mirrors, looking over our shoulders, and having the blind spot monitoring system backing us up.

Telluride Problems and Reliability

Despite the Telluride being a brand new model for Kia, it has already faced one recall, albeit for a minor issue. A recall issued in August 2019 affected 30,168 Kia Telluride models and was caused by a faulty seatbelt mechanism that could fail to secure child restraint systems in the event of an accident. Other than this, the Telluride has enjoyed a trouble-free record. A major selling point for the Telluride has to be its fantastic warrant: Kia covers the Telluride with a basic five-year/60,000-mile warranty, which includes a five-year/100,000-mile corrosion warranty, a ten-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty, and a five-year roadside assistance plan.

Telluride Safety

The big Kia becomes even more attractive to large families when looking at its safety record: The IIHS gave the Telluride the title of 2019 Top Safety Pick. The only reason the Telluride missed out on the coveted TSP+ award was its poor showing in the headlight department, which is a shame considering that the rest of the car is packed with the latest in driver assistance tech and safety measures across the range. The NHTSA agreed with the IIHS's assessment, awarding the Telluride a full five stars overall.

Key Safety Features

It almost seems as if the Telluride was built with one purpose in mind: to keep large families as safe as possible on the road, and it comes close to achieving that goal, mostly thanks to an extensive list of safety features that include some class-leading systems only found on much more expensive cars. Rear occupant alert and safe exit assist are clearly designed to let parents know what the kids are getting up to in the back seats, or drunk work colleagues on that work trip to Philly. Kia's Drive Wise safety package comes standard across the range, with only a select few features being made exclusive for the more expensive trim levels. The package starts off with blind-spot monitoring, driver attention warning, forward collision warning, and pedestrian avoidance assist as well as highway driving assist and lane departure warning. The list continues with lane keep assist, front and rear parking distance warning, rear cross-traffic alert, semi-autonomous cruise control with lane following assistance, and dynamic parking assist. A surround-view camera system is reserved for SX models. Should all of that fail to prevent an accident, seven airbags including a driver knee airbag should keep occupants cushioned.

Verdict: Is the 2020 Kia Telluride a good SUV?

What we have here is the new segment leader, and it has stolen the Honda Pilot's crown in our eyes. It has minor flaws, but we stand by our words from our first drive, declaring it as one of the best three-row SUVs money can buy. To find something more luxurious, you have to spend a lot more money; and to find something more functional and family-friendly, spending more money won't help. It has small areas that could be improved upon, but absolutely nothing is a deal-breaker. Add Kia's Kia's 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, and you have the most compelling SUV on the market right now. We would encourage people looking for a three-row crossover to shop around, and then let us know when they've bought the Telluride.

What's the Price of the 2020 Kia Telluride?

Competitive pricing is the name of the game over at Kia, and it's clear to see that they have taken on a rather aggressive pricing strategy by placing the entry-level Telluride on par with the Honda Pilot, one of the most loved in the category. The entry-level LX starts off at $31,690, going up to $33,990 for the S. The more premium EX goes for $37,090, and it's the SX that breaks the $40k barrier with an MSRP of $41,490. The corporate focussed Hyundai Palisade asks a slight premium over the Telluride, but not by much; the top of the line Palisa is a mere $2,900 dearer. Prices exclude a destination fee of $1,095 and if you wish to add AWD to the mix, expect to pay an additional $2,000.

2020 Kia Telluride Models

Kia offers the 2020 Telluride in four trim levels: the LX, S, EX, and finally, the SX.

In base LX trim, the Telluride gets 18-inch alloy wheels, daytime LED running lights, a six-speaker sound system, an eight-inch infotainment display, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, manually adjustable seats and air conditioning, and a host of active driver assistance systems.

S models receive exterior upgrades in the form of 20-inch alloy wheels, dual chrome exhaust tips, and a power sunroof. Inside, the S is fitted with ten-way power-adjustable seats, seven-passenger seats with second-row captain's chairs, and heated front seats.

The EX comes standard with 18-inch wheels, power-folding side mirrors LED taillights on the exterior, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror, driver seat memory, dual-zone climate control, leather seats, and more.

The top-spec SX is packed with high tech features such as a head-up display, wireless phone charging but also offers premium comfort and entertainment in the form of optional Nappa leather upholstery and surround-view cameras.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
LX
3.8-liter V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$31,890
S
3.8-liter V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$34,290
EX
3.8-liter V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$37,290
SX
3.8-liter V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$41,790
See All 2020 Kia Telluride Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

The Telluride is well packaged, and each model's features list has been methodically planned, which means that besides the SX only Prestige Package and the towing package, there are no optional extra packages worth mentioning. The Prestige Package can only be equipped to the SX model, and only with AWD. It adds the aforementioned AWD system, Nappa leather upholstery, a head-up display, second-row heated and ventilated seats, a 110-volt power outlet, and a heated steering wheel for $2,000. The $795 towing package can only be equipped to the EX and SX models, equipping a tow hitch and self-leveling rear suspension.

What Kia Telluride Model Should I Buy?

Kia makes picking out and optioning a Telluride easy to do based on budget, needs, and wants. The SX trim brings an almost luxury experience, but it's far from necessary in a family hauler. The LX is an absolute bargain in price and features and makes for an excellent everyday driver for running family missions. We would step up to the S or EX if there are a couple of family trips coming around each year, and choose a seating layout purely dependent on needs.

The Telluride doesn't just work as a large family machine, though. In SX trim, with or without the prestige package, the Telluride becomes a roomy and upscale SUV for small families aiming for adventurous weekends or couples wanting to find outdoor thrills or romantic getaways.

2020 Kia Telluride Comparisons

Honda Pilot Honda
Hyundai Palisade

2020 Kia Telluride vs Honda Pilot

It's a tight battle between the Telluride and Pilot, as they go toe to toe in each category. The Honda Pilot starts at $31,550, $140 less than the Telluride, and is powered by a similar naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 that produces 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque, slightly down on power when compared to the Telluride. The Pilot matches the Tellurides 23 mpg combined gas mileage but has a slightly larger fuel tank. However, the Honda Pilot can't match the Telluride for interior space, with the Korean car outclassing it in almost every measurement, including the all-important trunk and cargo space category. The Kia offers more standard interior features and a better warranty, but the Honda Pilot matches it in terms of safety levels. If its space and comfort you're after, the new kid on the block is one of the best deals going.

See Honda Pilot Review

2020 Kia Telluride vs Hyundai Palisade

These cars share a platform, running gear, and engine, the only difference being the body design, some features, and the target market. Whereas the Telluride is aimed at large families who live active lifestyles, the Hyundai Palisade is aimed at the corporates, middle managers, and suit and ties you see parking in nondescript parking lots across our fair nation. The Palisade is a slightly heavier vehicle and suffers at the gas station with a combined cycle of 22 mpg. Where the Palisade comes into its own is its more premium features list as standard, although most of the same can be had on the Kia is you spec carefully. Ultimately, it's likely to come down to brand preference, but for similar money, the Telluride is more spacious, and in our opinion, better value for money.

See Hyundai Palisade Review

Kia Telluride Popular Comparisons

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