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When Kia announced a new larger SUV at the North American Auto Show in 2016, They let the world know that they are not following the pack on the SUV mountain, instead, carving their own trail when it comes to vehicles that families will love. Showing that indeed, customers want a family-friendly car that is more like a car, just with style and space. Something different but familiar.
Thus, Kia introduced and let it be known that the Telluride would be built right here in the USA in West Point, Georgia.
We took the 2020 Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD out for a week, finding that this is anything but a rehashed SUV family van makeover. A very refined well-sized AWD that provides a lot of the technology and safety features buyers want in a timely classic package with touches of luxury.
Consumers want space for people and cargo, Telluride has that! Consumers want a surefooted ride that is comfortable and easy to drive, Telluride has that! And while consumers know they need all the latest safety features, it is hard to get them to pay to order then as options. Kia just includes them in the reasonably priced option packages that buyers will order.
Kia has always been a price-focused high-value content provider and has interpreted the 3-row Telluride in a multitude of ways starting with the LX at $31,690 and going up to the $41,490 with the S and EX models priced in between. Our top of the line SX stickered at $46,680 with freight was impressive for an under $50K car that had a lot of things on it that you only find on higher-priced vehicles.
While you can get it in a basic economical front-wheel drive package, the Telluride comes with plenty of standard features.
- UVO link
- 8-inch Touch-Screen Display
- Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist-Rear (BCA-R)
- Driver Attention Warning (DAW)
- Forward Collision-Avoidance (FCA), w/ Pedestrian Detection
- Forward Collision Warning (FCW)
- Lane Departure Warning (LDW)
- Lane Following Assist (LFA)
- Lane Keeping Assist (LKA)
- Parking Distance Warning – Reverse (PDW-R)
- Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA)
- Rear View Monitor w/ Dynamic Parking Guidance
- Rear Occupant Alert (ROA)
- Safe Exit Assist (SEA)
- Smart Cruise Control w/ Stop and Go (SCC)
What Kia is doing, is interpreting what today’s buyer wants in an all-wheel-drive seven-passenger (8 is available) plus cargo-hauling capacity vehicle, well outfitted and nicely appointed at an affordable price.
This 2020 model year vehicle is already out on dealer showroom floors, and it is quite impressive. While it may not stunning in overall looks with its somewhat mundane breadbox shape, and some classic Kia styling cues, where it shines is where all Kia vehicles do, in the details. Those are the little ones that most manufacturers either do hurriedly or charge extra for or forgot about altogether.
Ones that stood out for us were:
- Upon engine shut down, the driver seat retracts allowing for more room to exit, a boon to many who have mobility issues, or for expectant Moms who need that extra room to maneuver.
- A safety visual, center video on the dashboard, of what is in the blind spot you have your turn signal activated for. While this imagery may be information overload on the highway, on a suburban street, the kid on the bike could be right there.
- In our three-row seat model, the fact that the 2nd row was two captains chairs instead of a spit bench, with the option of moving to the third row through the middle or folding up one of the seats was a nice touch, because how many times do you use your car as a bus?
Who is going to buy this 48K wagon?
Pretty much anyone who needs a versatile and dependable vehicle. Families, seniors, people who want a vehicle that handles and rides like a car but has the capabilities of an SUV without the perceived size. Or that person who is driving for a shared-ride service that wants to offer their passengers plenty of space and the opportunity to bring luggage or other items as well.
Families will like it with the USB power ports in the front seatbacks so kids can power their own devices in the 2nd row, as well as additional power ports in the 3rd row. We were surprised and pleased that the Telluride did not have built-in screens for the 2nd row, as those can become quickly outdated and add not only to price, but maintenance, especially as remotes and headphones get lost in the busy family life shuffle. The Telluride had HVAC controls for the rear passenger. On upper-trim models, those 2nd-row sears can be optioned for heated and ventilated seats. Something that all passengers in those rear seats will appreciate. The rear passenger compartment is as well detailed as the front, with nice door panel and seat materials, but most importantly plenty of legroom.
Let’s face it from the dawn of the station wagon era to that of the minivan and SUV, people are buying these vehicles for more than just to bring additional passengers with them, they want to carry stuff. Be it a shopping trip to the mall or big box store, the family dog, or luggage for a trip. Behind the 3rd row seats is actually useable space. And with power, 2nd-row seat releases from the cargo area for putting those seats down is easy when there is a need for a more extended cargo area.
Telluride runs a naturally aspirated Korean made 3.8L 6-cylinder direct-injection gasoline engine with an American made 8-speed automatic transmission with a real center console shift lever that offers a manual mode. The test model we had included the active on-demand all-wheel-drive, other models AWD is an option. This non-turbo model provided an average of 21 miles per gallon with 19 city and 24 highway on regular fuel. We found it to have enough power for urban and highway driving and found it to be responsive and well balanced.
Telluride Pros & Cons
Attention to detail for me is the biggest pro on the Telluride, those little added things that you can tell someone thought about things beyond just a design nicety. Real control buttons on the center console that are bigger to control features, not only touchscreen points. A sizeable wide center infotainment screen that is not overpowering providing all the information one might need. Regular readers know I am not a fan of those screens, this one was perfectly functional and nicely designed.
Safety is a BIG Pro on the Telluride; the sightlines are excellent and the added feature of the side camera becoming active when the turn signal is on so the driver can see what is down at the curb level and above in their blind spot. A bright easy to read heads up display that you can see even while wearing progressive sunglasses helps keep the driver’s attention to what is on the road, not what is on a screen. All the assists, from cross traffic to the adaptive cruise control, the Telluride knows what is going on and lets the driver know. And not with an annoying haptic vibration, but with one that is gentle and not distracting.
Intuitive technology, Kia may not always use the most recent generation tech in their vehicles, it is the best of the current generation. Kia does keep it simple and useful without a lot of fuss to figure out how to use it.
Cons are very few on the Telluride, in my opinion. Some of what makes it a pro makes it a disadvantage, only because it takes some getting used to how Kia interprets things; like the retracting driver’s seat, which I understood its use, but it took me a while to disable it. Fuel economy of lower 20’s is not impressive. Kia vehicles are adequately powered, are not known for high fuel efficiency. Overall exterior design is somewhat understated, but also timeless. If you are looking for a flashy car, this is not it, at least not in the dark moss green with black wheels that were on our test model.
This is an excellent car for anyone who needs a vehicle to haul both people and items. Someone who needs space and wants a comfortable car-like driving experience with the security of all-wheel drive. I would indeed buy this vehicle and will suggest others to do as well. Especially since Kia offers a ten year/100K mile limited power train warranty, a 5 year/60K mile limited basic warranty and five years 60K mile roadside assistance.
Word and images (unless otherwise noted) by William West Hopper
Mr. Hopper is a lifelong auto enthusiast. He is a current member and serves as the President of the Washington Automotive Press Association – WAPA and is a member of The International Automotive Press Association – IMPA.
All opinions are his own.