Does Kia Telluride Deserve Motor Trend 2020 Car of the Year?

Only a few years ago one would have laughed to think that Kia would be the Motor Trend SUV of the Year. But the Korean auto industry has come a long way since first landing in the US in 1986. Does that mean the 2020 Kia Telluride now rivals vehicles in its class manufactured in Europe, Japan, and the US?

Maybe we should ask if it rivals vehicles made in other countries because the Kia Telluride is made here, in West Point, Georgia. That’s the whole thing with foreign versus domestic vehicles. The lines get even more blurred all the time. 

Telluride offers competitive prices well under the competition’s

With its size and three-row seating, you would think it was made by a domestic manufacturer. Until you see the price. Korean manufacturers are known for offering highly competitive vehicles in many segments that come in well under the competition on price. The base version is $32,785 list price. 

The Telluride Motor Trend tested was optioned out to $46,910, so it was no stripper. But for its size and features, it still comes in at less than similar SUVs. It was rocking 20-inch wheels, Harman Kardon surround-sound audio, dual sunroofs-and 12-way adjustable driver’s seat.

The base Telluride comes with a lot of standard features

But even the base models give you air conditioning, leather steering wheel, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment center, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Motor Trend suggests these three options; all-wheel drive, the towing package, and SX Prestige package which gives you a head-up display, heated and ventilated second-row seats, and leather upholstery. With that, you’re just above $47,000.

2020 Kia Telluride | Kia-00
2020 Kia Telluride | Kia

The large proportions hide the front-wheel-drive look inherent in short dash-to-axle platforms. Looks-wise even the base model looks more upscale. The styling is not overly sculptured as we see on many vehicles these days. The body need not be busy to be interesting or to look more up-to-date. 

Inside you’ll have to remind yourself this is not an $80,000 SUV. The third-row seats cheat on space just a bit, but overall there is plenty of legroom and headroom. Second and third-row occupants get individual USB ports which is one of those small features that add up. Fit and finish look to be first-class. The ride and noise levels make the Telluride feel like a more expensive SUV, too.

One engine is offered with front-wheel- or all-wheel-drive

Only one engine choice is to be had. It’s the 3.8-liter V6 with 291 hp. It is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and comes in both front-wheel- and all-wheel-drive. That will set you back $2,000.

The engine delivers average fuel economy numbers. With front-wheel-drive you get an estimated 23 mpg overall with 20 mpg City and 26 mpg Highway driving. All-wheel-drive drops those figures by one or two each. 

The Telluride can handle various road and weather conditions by adjusting suspension, throttle, transmission, and traction control with a single knob. Mounted on the console, you can choose Eco, Comfort, Sport, or Smart modes. The Smart mode also makes minute adjustments for low-traction snow and ice conditions. You can also go one step further by locking in the center differential with a button on the console. 

2020 Telluride | Kia

A slew of safety features are also standard

When it comes to safety features the Telluride offers a substantial amount across all lines. The list includes active cruise control, lane-keeping assist, forward collision alert system, rear cross-traffic alert, and torque vectoring. On the top trim SX model, a blind-spot monitor comes in handy for lane changes. When the turn signal is flipped an image appears on the instrument panel showing you the view from whichever way you are turning.

Putting the award to the test you should check out a Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator, and then slide over to Kia to test drive the Telluride. See if it compares as favorable as they say. If it does you’ll save yourself thousands of dollars and prove the award was duly deserved.