Stand out without paying big. In a class of vanilla styling, the 2021 Kia Telluride stands out with its bold design and sharp interior. In its second year, Kia keeps things mostly the same, except for adding the black-accented Nightfall Edition.
Despite a unique design and features bordering luxurious on higher trims, the Telluride’s MSRP range of $33,160 to $43,360 including destination is about average in the three-row midsize crossover SUV segment, allowing buyers to separate from the crowd without an astronomical price tag.
Unique looks, roomy cabin. The Kia Telluride not only has a unique name, it has a unique look in the three-row crossover space. Instead of the usual soft-lined look, the Telluride is almost a downsized Chevrolet Tahoe or Ford Expedition. It boasts an upright look with plenty of chunky styling to make it stand out in the crowd.
If that’s not enough, its squarish headlights with orange surrounds and bold tiger nose grille will surely get your attention.
The only problem is many crossover buyers aren’t seeking this bold SUV look. If they were, well, they’d buy an SUV. This leaves a portion of crossover customers turning a collective nose up at the Telluride’s design.
Buyers looking for something more on the traditional three-row crossover styling may prefer the Nissan Pathfinder, Honda Pilot, or Subaru Ascent. The only rival the Telluride has in unique styling is the Toyota Highlander.
Inside, the Telluride is as spacious as any competitor, but it pulls ahead with 21 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third row. This beats the Pilot (16.5 cubic feet), Ascent (18), Highlander (16), and Ford Explorer (18.2) easily. And with 87 cubes of space with both back rows lowered, the Telluride beats the Pilot by 7 cubic feet, the Ascent by 1, and the Highlander by 3. Only the Explorer at 87.7 cubic feet beats the Kia.
All the safety and advanced tech you need. The Telluride leaves very few stones unturned in the tech department, whether it’s for entertainment or safety. On the entertainment side, the Telluride comes standard with an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and more.
Buyers can upgrade to a 10.25-inch touchscreen, wireless smartphone charging, a Harmon Kardon audio system, a head-up display, and more.
The Telluride’s standard equipment is a perfect match with the Hyundai Palisade, Highlander, and Explorer, but other competitors lag in certain areas. For example, the Ascent has standard smartphone integration but only a 6.5-inch standard touchscreen. Pulling up the rear is the Pilot with its non-touch 5-inch standard infotainment system that also lacks Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The Telluride also has plenty of safety tech, including standard automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and lane keeping assist. This is pretty common among its competitors, but the Pilot lags again with blind-spot monitoring in EX and higher trims only.
The Telluride’s optional safety gear is equally impressive and includes front parking sensors, automatic high-beam headlights, and a surround-view camera system in the SX trim.
Smooth V6 power, but lacks turbo punch. While the three-row crossover class is migrating toward turbocharged engines, Kia chose to stick with a 291-horsepower, 3.8-liter V6. This larger-displacement engine delivers smooth performance, but it falls behind the Explorer’s 300-hp turbo-four, 365-hp turbo V6, and 400-hp ST model.
Despite a power advantage, the Telluride falls 500 pounds behind the 5,000-pound towing capacity of the Pilot and Ascent. It’s also 800 pounds behind the four-cylinder Explorer and 1,100 pounds behind all V6 Explorers in towing capacity.
Final thoughts. The 2021 Kia Telluride offers great value across all trim levels, making it an excellent choice for families on a budget who aren’t willing to sacrifice features. The Telluride proves its value when lined up against the Pilot LX, which costs $200 more than the Kia and has only the most basic standard tech features.
The biggest hurdle for the Telluride is convincing crossover shoppers to forgo the car-like designs that made the segment popular and moving to a more upright design. This could be a tough sell to more established crossover buyers who’ll prefer the familiar shape the Pilot, Ascent, or Mazda CX-9 offer.
The Telluride is superior in most cargo-hauling measurements, but the Explorer trumps it by 0.7 cubic feet with both back rows lowered.
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